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John’s Horror Corner: The Bride (1985), an iteration of Frankenstein that is more romantic gothic fantasy than horror.

November 30, 2020

MY CALL: A lovely romantic fantasy about the curious and kind-hearted creations of Doctor Frankenstein. MOVIES LIKE The Bride: If it’s more horror you seek with your fantasy, then Crimson Peak (2015), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), Victor Frankenstein (2015) or Viy: Forbidden Empire (2014). For higher fantasy, then Willow (1988), Ladyhawke (1985), Legend (1985), Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) or The Brothers Grimm (2005).

The scale of this endeavor is impressive from its very outset as Doctor Frankenstein (Sting; Dune) prepares to bring life to a bride for his first creation (Clancy Brown; Highlander, Pet Sematary II). From the pulleys and fulcrums to formaldehyde specimen vessels and engine-like turbines, his vaulted laboratory is an impressive sight. And when the lightning strikes, his new creation, mummified in bandages, begins to twitch and moan.

Now denied his bride and recently exiled from castle Frankenstein by his possessive creator, Viktor (i.e., Frankenstein’s monster) befriends a diminutive man on his was to the circus of Budapest who teaches him his self-worth. Meanwhile, the Doctor tutors his latest creation Eva (Jennifer Beals; Flashdance, The Book of Eli, Swamp Thing, The Grudge 2) in the ways of speech, etiquette, and how to comprehend the world around her by which she is childishly bedazzled.

So as Eva is taught in the ways of elegant finery by the Doctor, Viktor hones his friendship and future with Renaldo. It seems that Viktor, in fact, was freed from his prison of castle Frankenstein, and Eva found herself its newest heavily judged tenant. And as Eva learns more about being human, she likewise finds more reasons to question her creator’s motives and her own true origins. Villainy is abundant as well in the form of controlling jealousy. Whether the Doctor’s lies to mask Eva’s past, or the circus owner’s intentions for his newest hires.

This film comes with much unexpected kindness to soften and humanize Viktor. His friendship and encouragement from Renaldo warmly prepares him for the world. He is so pure and warm, even the shady roadside vendor couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of such a well-intentioned man. As Viktor hopes to earn the means to win the hand of his created love, Eva is courted, coveted, sheltered and manipulated by would-be suitors.

The set design and wardrobe are bold for a 1985. Big laboratory designs, regal attire and explosions grace our eyes along with an impressive cast including Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Saw, Stranger Things), Timothy Spall (Gothic, Dream Demon, Wake Wood) and Guy Rolfe (Dolls, Puppet Master 3-5).

Director Franc Roddam’s take on the gothic Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is anything but horror. Rather this finds itself comfortably in the ranks of a rather grounded romantic fantasy. The film moves at a slow but pleasant pace with nothing more to prove than its own humanity. A very pleasant and recommended watch for fans of low fantasy.

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