February 25, 2016 Frances Stein (Movie Review)
“I am not a monster. I am a scientist.” This simple yet heavy declaration opens Big Biting Pig Production’s newest tale of mad science, Frances Stein. The two behind this relatively new production company, PJ Woodside and Steve Hudgins, worked together to create an original take on an age old Horror tale, their newest addition to the genre since 2014’s The Caretakers. Woodside was an amazing, one woman band for Frances Stein, handling the production, direction, and editing, while both writing and starring in the film. Although Hudgins’ acting part was smaller, he also wore producer and editor’s shoes for this film, a responsibility he took on seamlessly. Frances Stein also stars Big Biting Pig veteran Scott Cummings (Spirit Stalkers 2013, Lucid 2013), Cody Rogers (Nashville TV series, Fatal Encounters TV series), and Jessica Leonard in her film debut, along with a cameo from Gangstagrass’ T.O.N.E.-z, the creator of “Long Hard Times to Come,” the Emmy nominated theme song for the TV series Justified.
Frances Stein (Woodside), a notable and brilliant scientist who once found acclaim in her work in memory retrieval theory, is now a pariah in her community and dismissed as insane by her colleagues. Her faked experiment results, sequestration from society, and sudden onset insanity left her friendless in her research circle. Only her lab tech, Avery (Rogers), pines for her, even after she tells him to go play Igor for someone else. It is hinted that she not only had success in her experimentation and faked her fake answers, but that another research company is eager to get their hands on her notes.
The non-linear storyline switches between current times, with Avery being questioned about his involvement with Frances, to flashbacks of his actual memories concerning the night his boss committed some sort of crime. At a party hosted by Frances’ ex-husband, Patrick (Cummings), announcing the addition of his new wife, Jayne (Leonard), to the research facility’s family, Frances shows up and slaps her ex across the face in full view of everyone. Loyal Avery chases her down and sees her have some sort of fit in the driveway. His obsession for her grows as he follows her every move, trying to figure out what kind of results her experiments actually had and how she was affected by them.
Frances Stein is a unique, imaginative take on the story of the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein with a brand new look and feel that will have Horror lovers begging for more from PJ Woodside and Steve Hudgins. The nods to Mary Shelley’s classic story combined with current scientific hypothesis give audiences a conventional backbone to the blood-curdling concept of memory retrieval. The reason the original worked so well was because the idea of using electricity to revive a dead body was unheard of and only people thought of as mad scientists considered it a possibility.
Nowadays, there are defibrillators in every workplace and classroom, mini Frankenstein laboratories simple enough that even average office workers can control the power of electricity to restart a stopped heart. Taking a page from the book of today’s facility research, Woodside created her own brilliant, yet mad, scientist who meddled in things we as 21st centurions think of as pure Science Fiction – the retrieval and recording of memories from a person’s mind. How would the world change if everything a person’s every thought was available for the taking? What if entire personalities could be taken from one body and inserted into another?
Despite the newness of the actors and production company, Frances Stein is a tight, intense story told with cleverly hidden twists. Woodside and Hudgins avoided the trap of including unnecessary scenes to pad running time, keeping the story organized and steady at a neat ninety minute runtime. Just when the audience thinks they know where this movie is going, things spin out of control into a totally separate genre. What does Frances really want? What will she do to get it? This is a fantastic movie that every Horror and Sci-Fi fan should watch just to get a taste of what Big Biting Pig Productions can do with a superb, delicious, innovative script. CrypticRock gives Frances Stein 4.5 out of 5 stars.