Leigh Whannel’s The Invisible Man due
in 2020, and with Paul Feig’s monster mash film, as well as whatever Dexter
Fletcher is doing with, of all characters, Renfield,
it appears that Universal studios is working hard to get their monster films
back on track. With the assistance of the modern House of Horror, Blumhouse
Studios, maybe this time the monster flicks will finally work.
it will be interesting to see what Whannell will do with a story like The Invisible Man, or to see what the
often great Paul Feig will conjure with the Dark
Army film, there’s a glaring issue that has plagued both the Universal
Monsters series, Blumhouse Studios, and one of the biggest horror icon
characters around: there’s barely been any women directors within their horror
barely because at least Blumhouse is making a start by hiring Sophia Takai to
direct the Black Christmas remake.)
all of the Frankenstein films in
existence, precisely none have been directed by women. It’s a little bit mad
when you consider that Mary Shelley’s book is one of the great novels written
by a woman.
why I’m proposing that when Universal studios comes to remake Frankenstein, they do so with a woman in
the directors chair. Who should they get? Well, here’s ten names who I think
would suit the material perfectly.
start off with the most obvious choice to direct a film about Frankenstein:
Jennifer Kent. Now, The Nightingale
is one heck of a difficult watch, working as a battering about the brutality of
colonialism, but it’s with The Babadook
that Kent works that gothic muscle brilliantly. In that film, Kent explores the
insidious nature of grief and depression, and it’s that foundation that hints
at what kind of film she could make with the narrative of Victor Frankenstein
and his ‘monster’. The way Kent empathises with the monster in The Babadook is one of the most enduring
aspects of that film, and it’s that notion that would make empathising with the
Frankenstein’s creation possible.
Nyoni’s powerful film I Am Not a Witch
explores the lives of women who have been deliberately and cruelly outcast from
society. The way mysticism is deconstructed in I Am Not a Witch provides a powerful foundation for exploring
long-held beliefs about society, and that same foundation could be applied to
the story of Frankenstein. In modern takes on the Frankenstein narrative, the
monster has become a cartoonish creation, excessive and over the top in ways
that belittle the humanity within the creature. Nyoni’s assured direction would
help reinstate that humanity, to help ground the science and bring a realism to
the oft-mysticised tale.
Kusama’s work has often brought new perspectives to horror. Jennifer’s Body delivered a darkly
comedic look at body envy and sexuality. The
Invitation subverted the dinner party genre by imbuing it with a growing
sense of unease. And, with one of the best films of the decade, Destroyer explored the effects of trauma
and the growing weight of violence and pain on ones soul. Kusama’s direction
has always been one full of deep curiosity, ever probing the narrative she’s
working with. This kind of curiosity would be put to great use with the growing
interest with the world that Frankenstein’s creation has. Kusama would do
wonders with the scene where the monster meets a young girl by the lake, where
its curiosity and fear overwhelm it to a devastating effect.
that Céline Sciamma helps Karidje Toure grow and evolve in Girlhood is such an impressive achievement that I cannot help but
applaud her work. I haven’t seen Portrait
of a Lady on Fire yet, but I hear it is just as towering an achievement of
direction. As a feminist director, Sciamma would help bring the voice of Mary
Shelley to life with a Frankenstein
film, and ideally would reflect the authors tragic life through her most iconic
text. The way that loss, guilt, and overcoming the boundaries of nature itself
are presented in Frankenstein reflect
Shelley’s life, and it’s Sciamma’s observant direction that would help bring
those themes to life.
that Coralie Fargeat reworked the rape-revenge genre with Revenge made it feel like a full stop to the often male directed
subgenre. Its brutal violence lead by a defiant victim felt like the most
extreme takeover of the genre, as if it wasn’t just women’s bodies being taken
back, but ownership of the trauma that men so often inflict on them. It’s with
this recontextualisation of a staple in the horror genre that would make
Fargeat an ideal director to bring a modern Frankenstein
story to life. In many ways, Fargeat would be a better fit for a Bride of Frankenstein film, but
arguably, what’s the issue with swapping the gender of the creature and making
it a woman to begin with? Fargeat’s direction would be frank and open, laying
the thematic brutality of creating life from deathout in the open.
Biller’s style is possibly the most distinct and expressive out of all the
directors on the list. The Love Witch
was a bright, melodramatic pastel soaked film about sexuality, love, and the
desire of a woman. It’s such a transformative modern horror film, one that
applies modern feminist ideology with a seventies Jess Franco-esque aesthetic.
In a way, as per Biller’s own words, The
Love Witchis her Frankenstein, presenting a world where
Elaine, the titular love witch, is someone who is crafted by men. Given Biller
is a classic movie fan, and one who intimately understands film history, her
version of Frankenstein would be not
too dissimilar to The Love Witch –
bringing modern ideologies to a classic film format.
all the directors on this list, Floria Sigismondi is the one I’m less familiar
with. But, that doesn’t mean she’s any less suitable for the task of directing
a Frankenstein film. If you throw
your mind back to the music video for Marilyn
Manson’s “The Beautiful People”, you’ll
remember it being an aesthetically driven, visually overwhelming slice of pop
culture. Her work has mostly been in music videos, but lately she has carved a
career with directing TV shows like The
Handmaid’s Tale and Hemlock Grove,
with her upcoming feature, The Turning,
being her horror feature debut. It’s Sigismondi’s visual style that would suit
the mish-mash surgically slapped together body of Frankenstein’s monster, and
given her ability to turn The Turn of the
Screw into a horror feature, it stands to reason that she could do the same
Soska Sisters have essentially already made a modern Frankenstein film with American Mary, a gore soaked, surgical
horror film like no other. It’s a genuinely unsettling film that doubles down
on its core idea and then doubles down on that double down. It’s impressive.
The Soska’s were a perfect choice to then subsume the body horror mantle that
David Cronenberg once held high, and so with him being long gone from
filmmaking, it makes sense that the Canadian sister duo would be a great fit
for exploring every aspect of body horror that could thrive within a modern Frankenstein retelling.
the Soska Sisters are busy, then you get Julia Ducournau who dove head first
into the body horror realm with her squeam inducing flick Raw. That film already had a fascinating basis in science, taking a
look at the life of a veterinary student who discovers a taste for flesh. It’s
easy to see Ducournau take the forbidden concept of cannibalism and apply a
simply exploration of the taboo of bringing the dead back to life with Frankenstein. Part of the reason Raw worked so well was the way Ducournau
explored femininity in a masculine world, and it’s easy to see how she could
bring that sensibility to Mary Shelley’s story.
Finally, we have someone who is just as obvious a choice as Jennifer Kent would be: Lynne Ramsay. Ramsay has created a filmography that explores the complexities of masculinity, diving deep into the affectations and intricacies that make men the paradox that they are. Her eye always gives these characters an empathetic look, proposing the notion that in every flawed or damaged person is someone looking for an outlet to exist. In We Need to Talk About Kevin, that outlet was anger, a toxicity that created a quagmire of hate within a young boy. In You Were Never Really Here, it was a man living with PTSD, forging a path through a world that he struggles to exist within. My mind races with the possibilities of what Ramsay would do with a character like Victor Frankenstein, and then, what she could do with his creation.
There are countless more women who would deliver a fascinating take on the Frankenstein story (Nia DaCosta, Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, Cate Shortland, and more), but these are the ten that I think would turn in something truly fascinating and special. I’m doubtful that Universal will consider a woman director for any of their Universal Monsters films, but I’m hopeful that if they do, it’s with the eventual Frankenstein film that they do. Mary Shelley deserves the respect and honour at least.
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