My Fair Hunch­back

SFX - - Reviews - nick setchfield

re­leased OUT NOW! 12a | 110 min­utes Di­rec­tor Paul mcGuigan Cast James mcavoy, daniel rad­cliffe, an­drew scott, Jes­sica brown Findlay

Have we reached peak Franken­stein?

From Penny Dread­ful to The Franken­stein Chron­i­cles to Bernard Rose’s im­mi­nent con­tem­po­rary take – Frank3n5t31n, as the poster has it – it feels like there’s a sur­plus of re­an­i­mated body parts out there of late.

So the fact that Vic­tor Franken­stein opens with the words “You know this story – the crack of light­ning, a mad ge­nius, an un­holy cre­ation” feels like a clear provo­ca­tion, a prom­ise of some­thing fresh, just as the film’s ti­tle de­mands we shift our at­ten­tion from mon­ster to man (surely ev­ery half-de­cent Franken­stein movie is the story of the man?).

Max Lan­dis’s breath­less screen­play shunts the crea­ture to the fi­nal reel, making it the pay-off rather than the premise, fore­ground­ing the friend­ship be­tween its cre­ator and his lab as­sis­tant, Igor, a char­ac­ter the movie aims to re­claim from decades as a stock com­edy archetype. “You’re not a clown, you’re a physi­cian,” Vic­tor tells his curious new as­so­ciate, look­ing be­yond the chalk face and the Tim Bur­ton hair.

It’s Pyg­malion with stolen limbs, es­sen­tially, as James McAvoy – a swag­ger­ing, dev­il­ish Vic­tor, with just a pinch of With­nail – res­cues Daniel Rad­cliffe’s hunch­back from an Ele­phant Man-like ex­is­tence in the cir­cus, de­ter­mined to shape him into a gen­tle­man (“Cut­lery. Use it. Wipe your hands,” he com­mands, like Henry Hig­gins with a side­line in corpse-both­er­ing). It’s McAvoy who pow­ers the film, never less than mag­netic and pas­sion­ate. For all his goth boy melan­choly Rad­cliffe feels just a lit­tle eclipsed by him, though he brings a nice line in blank-faced in­no­cence, like a put-upon silent film star.

Di­rec­tor Paul McGuigan riffs on the in­ven­tive vis­ual tics he pi­o­neered on Sher­lock – Vic­tor’s gaze over­lays anatom­i­cal sketches on peo­ple’s bod­ies – and rel­ishes a good Grand Guig­nol shud­der (a pair of eye­balls sus­pended in jelly twitch open, while one of Vic­tor’s early ex­per­i­ments is an ef­fec­tively hideous col­li­sion be­tween road­kill

There’s noth­ing here that feels truly new

and Mec­cano). An­drew Scott’s turn as an evan­gel­i­cal po­lice in­spec­tor – flinty and un­der­stated, a world away from Mo­ri­arty – al­lows the film to ex­plore the rich the­o­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of mon­ster making.

There’s some pleas­ing de­sign work – Vic­tor’s lab is pure in­dus­trial gothic, full of steam and cog­wheels, while Vic­to­rian Lon­don has a model the­atre charm – and mo­ments of swash­buck­ling en­ergy and sar­donic hu­mour that lift the over­fa­mil­iar tale.

But just as the fi­nal re­veal of Vic­tor’s cre­ation echoes Dave Prowse’s scarred golem in Ham­mer’s The Hor­ror Of Franken­stein, there’s noth­ing here that feels truly new, that en­tirely per­suades you this tale needed to be told again.

The hunch­backed lab as­sis­tant in 1931’s Franken­stein was Fritz. The first with an Ygor was Son Of Franken­stein (1939).

Good old Grindr!

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