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Frankenstein Unlimited


Rod Lott January 17th, 2011

For "Frankenstein Unlimited," Canadian maverick filmmaker Matthew Saliba gathered five fellow indie directors to helm stories based on the enduring man-makes-monster myth (as posited by Mary Shelley in her classic 1818 novel) for a feature-length anthology.

While mixed, the end results are recommended for the hardcore horror fan, and perhaps even more to microcinema enthusiasts who champion such ambitious projects.

Saliba himself is first at bat, with "Dark Lotus," a revenge tale told in black-and-white photos. Whether a decision that's budgetary or creative (or both), it works nonetheless. With a soundtrack that boasts Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage and Leonard Cohen, it packs a sly, kinky kick.

Matthew Forbes is next with "Victor." Despite a title card that reads, "and the people pursued the monster ... ," its connection to Frankenstein feels tenuous at best. Although someone (who looks like Rob Corddry) is indeed chased at the beginning by an angry mob bearing torches, the piece soon shifts into more of a tone poem than a narrative.

"Flesh for Kung Fu" contains an honest-to-God star in Gordon Liu, one of kung-fu cinema's all-time greats, more recently seen in "Kill Bill." In King-Wei Chu's segment, he's one of the last two standing marital-arts masters who meet atop a roof at high noon for a duel. What's that have to do with man-made creatures? We won't spoil it.

A facially deformed young woman who considers herself a "circus freak" is the focus of Maude Michaud's "Reflection." So she joins the circus, which is actually a bizarro cabaret full of beautiful women performing arty dance routines. She decides to undergo plastic surgery, but does it turn her from a monster or into one? It's an interesting question.

A couple of organ transplants lead to murder investigation in "Occam's Razor," directed by Peter James, who plays with both color and stark black-and-white. Not only is it the longest story in "Unlimited," but it's too long. The leads are good, but I would've liked it more if not for the criminal overacting on the part of the detective trying to extract a confession. He yells every line.

Saving not the best for last, but certainly the funniest, Martin Gauthier offers up "Mr. Fluffenstein." Leave it to dear ol' Dad to kill the family cat by accidentally starting up the dryer after the feline slinks in. His little girl doesn't seem too heartbroken, and why should she when she can just rebuild him? Her version, however, has a taste for blood. Played strictly for laughs it earns, "Fluffenstein" reminds one of the unholy love child of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" and Saturday Night Live's "Toonces" shorts.

"Frankenstein Unlimited" is a low-to-no-budget undertaking worth watching and celebrating. I love how it unpredictably jumps from genre to genre, including action, comedy and erotic thriller; while some stories obviously click more than others, the lineup allows — if not quite ensures — that there's something for everyone ... provided that everyone is a consenting adult.

Mostly stripped of pretension, these filmmakers comprise a talent pool to watch, especially the ringleader, Saliba. His newest short, "Amy's in the Attic," is a loopy, loving tribute to Italian exploitation films of the 1960s and '70s. It details what happens when a would-be swingers' party instead fizzles, until one of the attendees (Saliba) suggests playing a game, in which one present will be selected as their slave for the evening.

As you might assume from the title, Amy (the too-cute Kayden Rose, who appears in Saliba's "Unlimited" segment) is picked, and thus begins a series of humiliating and potentially offensive scenarios. I say "potentially" only because I predict most viewers would be unable to see the satire in its subtext. The ending — if you make it that far — makes that clear. For gritty, grimy grindhouse-style fun with another ace soundtrack (Vampires Sound Incorporation, Ennio Morricone, Zombi), check it out. —Rod Lott



 
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