Let’s not bullshit each other, readers. An independent movie called Frankenstein vs. The Mummy, with poster/cover art that looks like this, is probably not going attract mainstream audiences in droves. This is a movie that appeals to genre hounds who want to see two iconic monsters face off against one another. And it is at this fork in the road of expectations that director Damien Leone’s second feature can exist as both a success and a failure, doing more to win over viewers that will probably never get their eyes on it, rather than people who exist to watch things fight.
If that sounds a little confusing, it’s probably because I’m sitting here, waiting for the movie to introduce a bunch of annoying teenagers. Frankenstein vs. The Mummy isn’t an amazing film, but it’s also not often a dumb one, which is where my own confusion set in. It sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s a bald-faced one.
As the title suggests, there are two co-mingling worlds at play in Frankenstein vs. The Mummy. Naihla Khalil (Ashton Leigh) is on the side of anthropological curses, and her new love interest, one Victor Frankenstein (Max Rhyser), is on the side of weird science. Then there’s Professor Walton, played by Boomer Tibbs, whose performance couldn’t be more villainous if he stroked a small cat and strangled children while he talked. He’s on the side of EVIL.
Suffice it to say, there’s a mummy (Brandon deSpain) whose ambition to say dead is absent, and there’s eventually another monster (Constantin Tripes) with a deeper sense of why he wants to kill people. To say more would be to basically give away everything that happens, which is one of Frankenstein vs. The Mummy’s unavoidable faults. It’s very close to two hours long, and the story hits Point A, Point B, and Point C without really doing anything erratic to the structure. Some of the hammier scenes could have been lopped off to make this a leaner flick.
But again, even when things are going slow and predictable—and there are some solid moments of gore in here that look good despite the minimal budget—it isn’t just constant boneheaded storytelling. These characters make bad decisions, certainly, but they’re not informed by a screenwriter who’s never interacted with a human being before. This is January, a time when theaters are filled with Hollywood’s dreckiest fare, filled with characters who aren’t written as real people. While the performances in Frankenstein vs. The Mummy vary in quality, they’re still believable in this world of monsters and mayhem.
In the end, Frankenstein vs. The Mummy didn’t deliver its title as much as I would have wanted, but it also gave me a B-movie that didn’t rely on squealing vacationers who can’t understand why a run down cabin in the middle of nowhere might be a bad place to go. Although now I want to see Boomer Tibbs killing those vacationers.
Frankenstein vs. The Mummy will be released on DVD and VOD on February 10.