Horror has evolved in exciting ways over the past few decades, but there are still certain archetypes that remain evergreen. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is over 200 years old, but this creation myth is just as relevant today as it was in the 1800s. Many modern films, like 2023’s M3GAN, are fun retellings of this tale.
Horror stories about arrogant creators and unconventional experiments are still prevalent in the genre, but it’s fascinating to see how the traditional “modern Prometheus” narrative has evolved with the times. Some horror movies proudly showcase their connection to Shelley’s source material, while other post-modern retellings of Frankenstein are so subtle that audiences don’t even realize that they’re adaptations.
10 The Perfect Toy Builds Too Strong Of A Connection With Its Host
Blumhouse’s M3GAN has quickly become one of the biggest horror hits of 2023. There’s already an early buzz around a sequel and extended stories for this murderous state-of-the-art doll companion. M3GAN focuses on the latest prototype of a toy company’s roboticist, M3GAN, who becomes an invaluable friend for the recently-orphaned Cady.
M3GAN becomes a cautionary tale about an over-reliance on technology and absentee parenting, but it also properly explores Gemma’s guilt, and responsibility, in M3GAN’s creation. The final act even includes a clash for survival between two of Gemma’s robotic creations.
9 A Sorrowful Seamstress Fashions The Perfect Friend
Angela Bettis gives a harrowing performance as the titular character in May. Lucky McKee’s radical horror story is about loneliness, confidence, and the hopeless pursuit of perfection. May has faced insecurities her whole life over her lazy eye. Despite corrective contacts, she still views herself as flawed when she’s dumped by those she opens her heart to.
May’s thoughts drive her to murder, and she begins to cobble together the perfect partner through the random pieces of the people in her life. May is heartbreaking from beginning to end, and its conclusion is a testament to how far some people are willing to go to feel seen.
8 An Outlandish Take On Perfection That Sees The Humor In Its Pursuit
Frank Henenlotter is an underrated name in low-budget horror from the 1980s and ’90s, who properly captures the filthy grime of New York City. Henenlotter is best known for the Basket Case trilogy, but his sophomore film, Frankenhooker, is a clever subversion of Frankenstein’s Monster.
The endlessly tongue-in-cheek affair looks at a grieving doctor’s struggles to revive his fiancée, albeit with the body parts of Manhattan sex workers. Frankenhooker initially seems like lurid and exploitative schlock, but in reality, it critiques the male gaze and rampant misogyny.
7 A Definitive Take On The Classic Frankenstein Tale Features An All-Star Cast
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Released as a big prestige picture, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a Kenneth Branagh film that stars Branagh as Viktor Frankenstein and features Robert De Niro as his resurrected Monster. Frankenstein recounts his guilt-ridden tale as this period piece digs into Frankenstein’s relationship with his Monster and his bond with his betrothed, Helena Bonham Carter’s Elizabeth Lavenza.
The film’s name gives the impression that it’s an accurate adaptation of Shelley’s formative novel. However, Branagh’s film still takes a lot of creative license in how it warps the themes and subtlety of this story.
6 A Tough Tale Of Trauma Focuses On The Grim World That Its Prometheus Awakens In
Larry Fessenden has become a major name in independent horror and 2019’s Depraved is one of his strongest endeavors. Depraved repurposes the Frankenstein myth into an uncomfortable tale of PTSD. Henry, a former army medic, remains haunted by the deaths that he saw in the war. He tries to cope with this through the creation of new life.
Henry’s creation of Adam turns into a successful therapeutic exercise, but Adam’s cognizance becomes a growing concern. Henry worries if it’s right to bring new life into such a broken world. Depraved is a thought-provoking film that teases the idea that living may ultimately be more torture than death.
5 A Boy’s Love For His Pet Dog Transcends Life And Death
It’s always sweet when revered filmmakers return to their roots. Tim Burton’s 2012 black-and-white animated film, Frankenweenie, is actually a feature-length remake of the director’s scrappy 1984 short film of the same name. Frankenweenie feels like vintage Tim Burton and its story very clearly parodies Frankenstein‘s narrative.
A young boy, who is named Victor Frankenstein no less, uses radical experimental science to bring his dog Sparky back to life. Sparky’s resurrection is a success, but chaos ensues once the rest of the community tries to take advantage of this technology and also play God with their lost loved ones.
4 The Ultimate Creation Story Is Played For Heightened Laughs
Mel Brooks is one of the funniest writers and directors of all time. Most of his films operate as pitch-perfect parodies of extremely stylized genres, such as Westerns, silent movies, or Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. Young Frankenstein is Brooks’ takedown of not just Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but also Universal monster movies in general.
Filmed in black-and-white, Young Frankenstein looks at Dr. Frederick Frankenstein’s quest to live up to his grandfather’s legacy. The creation of Frankenstein’s Monster goes in a very unexpected direction. The film develops a strangely warm heart that helps balance out the ridiculous comedy.
3 Two Lovelorn Teens Craft The Perfect Match Through Regressive Research
John Hughes is responsible for some of the most celebrated high school movies and Weird Science allows the filmmaker to add wild science fiction to his repertoire. Weird Science follows Gary and Wallace, two teenage losers, who hack into a government computer program and use it to create and download the “perfect woman.”
What follows feels like a mix of Frankenstein, Bewitched, and Heathers, with some astute commentary on the high school experience. The hormonal heights of Weird Science also extended into a TV series that ran for five seasons and nearly 100 episodes.
2 Frankenstein’s Monster Emerges As An Awesome Action Hero
2014’s I, Frankenstein transforms Mary Shelley’s methodical character study into a flashy action film. In the movie, a reanimated man is the key to ending a centuries-long feud between gargoyles and demons. Aaron Eckhart stars as Adam, who does a commendable job in the role even if he’s not left with much to work with.
If nothing else, it’s exciting to see Frankenstein’s Monster become a cutthroat action hero who constantly checks in on his growing humanity. I, Frankenstein came and went with little fanfare, but there were bold plans for the film’s future that even included a crossover with Kate Beckinsale’s successful Underworld franchise.
1 Frankenstein Falls For His Own Creation And Attempts To Domesticate The Deceased
1985’s The Bride is an unusual interpretation of the Frankenstein myth that decides to transform this sci-fi story into a sordid love triangle. Dr. Frankenstein, who’s played by Sting, creates a reconstructed man and a woman, who’s designed to be his mate.
Viktor’s rampage leaves both Frankenstein and Eva to assume that the monster is dead, so they steadily head down the path of romance as Frankenstein attempts to teach Eva how to pass as a human. The Pygmalion-esque story from Frankenstein and Eva is a curious development, but Viktor also pursues a performance career in the circus.