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10 Best Frankenstein Riffs

When you can’t improve perfection, you might as well pervert it.
Frankenstein Riffs
By  · Published on October 5th, 2019

5. Depraved (2019)


Larry Fessenden has been working towards Depraved for his entire career. His first feature, No Telling, pulled great gobs of inspiration from Mary Shelley’s novel and he’s returned to the horrific pride of humanity over and over again in films like Wendigo and The Last Winter. But now it’s time to crack Shelley and her monster wide open and splay the beast in all his sorrowful glory upon a modern context. Adam (Alex Breaux) is a new man, murdered in the first few minutes of the movie only to be resurrected by one-time combat medic Henry (David Call). The fresh start is a nightmare of confusion with the manchild being poked and prodded in the name of science. Any manner of potential peace shatters when the good doctor’s dark intentions reveal themselves as the narrative’s true perversion. In pulling Shelley’s concepts from her era and plopping them into our own, Fessenden celebrates timeless mythology. Say “Hi” to the best Frankenstein riff of the 21st Century. (Brad Gullickson)

4. Frankenhooker (1990)

Frankenhooker Screenshot

Mary Shelley’s 19th-century novel Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus has inspired nearly as many stories and films as Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula; or the Victorian Nibbler, but while vampire movies have a lot of narrative wiggle room the Frankenstein tale really doesn’t. Mad scientist meets body parts and creates a monster. It’s pretty straightforward, but the wonderfully batty Frank Henenlotter still finds ways to play with the formula in his deliriously fun Frankenhooker (1990). James Lorinz’s crazy doctor is extremely funny, and Patty Mullen‘s titular (I won’t apologize) creation is an utter joy as she struts, wise-cracks, and murders her way through Manhattan. Wanna date night winner? Invite your special friend over for this flick then sit back and watch the fireworks. (Rob Hunter)

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Rocky Horror

Is it overkill to say that Jim Sharman’s Rocky Horror Picture Show is the best thing the Frankenstein narrative ever gave us? Sorry, Mary Shelley, but this one’s a sing-a-long, and it’s got Tim Curry in drag. The massive cult classic that spawned countless repertory screenings and an entire culture of re-enactment is a celebration of all things queer, loud, camp, and sexually liberated, and folks, it never wears out. Saucy alien visitor Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry) is the Dr. Frankenstein stand-in, but his idea of making a perfect human involves fewer bolts through the neck and more shiny gold undies. Hunky scientific creation Rocky (Peter Hinwood) is more eye candy than character, and things quickly devolve into a manic mess of overwrought plot points, but in the end, we always have the “Time Warp” encore to bring it all back together. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

2. The Monster Squad (1987)

The Monster Squad Screenshot

The only thing kids love more than nerding out with friends in a clubhouse is befriending Mary Shelley’s legendary monster. In Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad, our eponymous band of lovable pre-teen horror dorks are obsessed with Universal Monsters and eager for some ghoulish excitement in their own lives. The Squad gets more than they bargained for when they come into possession of an amulet that a very real Dracula (Duncan Regehr) is trying to steal in order to unleash darkness on the world. Frankenstein’s monster (Tom Noonan) is at his core peaceful and reluctant to join his fellow monsters, instead choosing to aid the Squad. The film captures the benevolent spirit of Frankenstein’s monster and imagines the character in a way that appeals to the film’s sincere themes of acceptance and resisting judgmental first impressions — certainly not bad lessons to take away from this cult classic pre-teen horror flick. (Anna Swanson)

1.  Young Frankenstein (1974)

Young Frankenstein Screenshot

Mary Shelley’s novel has been adapted countless times, but none have fared better than Mel Brooks‘ 1974 comedy classic. This parody acts as a pseudo-sequel with Gene Wilder starring as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of Victor. While Frederick follows in his grandfather’s footsteps and enters the world of science, the similarities end there as he’s greatly ashamed of his family’s past. The film not only works on a humorous level with many hysterical running gags — the pronunciation of “Fronkensteen” and horses reacting violently to the mere mention of the name Frau Blücher are particular special — but it nails the ’30s Universal horror aesthetic. It’s shot in black and white, features music, credits and transitions popularized in the era, and even uses some of the same props from James Whale’s 1931 classic. It’s a brilliant take on the character and Brooks’ greatest achievement. (Chris Coffel)

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)