Creatures of Whitechapel
A twisted new take on the Frankenstein legend - and the madness that surrounds it.
But how about this? What if Jack the Ripper were actually Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Igor – out doing Frankenstein’s bidding to find suitable body parts on the streets of London – thus allowing the good doctor to create his ultimate new life? And what if Igor was a sexy woman with really bad teeth and one helluva case of laryngitis?
Well then you might have the short film and festival darling; Creatures of Whitechapel.
As Igor/Jack the Ripper, Carlee Baker (of Lucky McKee’s The Woman) has wonderful sensuality – not something which is easy to do – considering how grotesque the character’s hygiene is. Igor’s dirty fingers (particularly in a love scene which is Baker’s performance highlight) illustrate a hard-working monster – who has never known real love. It’s impressive that Baker lets us feel slight tinges of sympathy for such a filthy and violent character. You can see the longing in her eyes. And the explosion we see from the character’s deep repression – in the aforementioned love scene – is really kind of lovely and true (if also quite bloody and sad). And the choice to give Igor a deep, gravelly voice, hints at the idea that Frankenstein perhaps experimented on her as well. That’s just a guess, but I like the choice – it makes you wonder.
In his supporting role as Dr. Pretorious, Rick Macy brings a perfect amount of high society pretension – mixed beautifully with an almost fey queerness to the part. He’s so deliciously dramatic in his line delivery, you can’t help but laugh out loud (in a good way) at this performance which fits exactly into the film’s overall tone.
My only big complaint about the film was the performance from Barrett Ogden as Dr. Frankenstein. He’s not particularly bad, but he never finds the absolute mania you’d expect from an honest-to-goodness mad scientist character. In a film which embraces its high melodrama and never shies away from going completely over-the-top, a lackluster performance sticks out like a sore thumb… or in this case, an amputated one. We can use that body part somewhere, can’t we?
The pacing and editing are wonderfully crisp – with the re-animation scene being an easy highlight. The swift camera movements and jump-cuts here make for a very exciting sequence.
I adored the Star Wars-esque swipes/transitions between scenes. At first I wasn’t sure about that choice, but once I got into the story and understood what siblings Jonathan and Rebecca Martin (co-writers/directors) were going for – I became enamored and there were no further distractions. You’ll fall into the world quite easily and enjoy the wonderfully perverse and fast-paced ride.
The filmmakers seemed to know exactly what they wanted. The bold color choices and terrific score from Gerrit Wunder make for a nice throwback to the Hammer films of yesteryear.
Be aware: there is an additional sequence in the film – following the first big chunk of the closing credits. While I liked the set-up for sequel potential, it sort of softened the impact of the endearing final moments between Igor and Frankenstein’s creation. I think adding this scene was a misstep, but not one to ruin the overall experience.
And I feel this is worth mentioning, since so many short films are never meant to go beyond that. But with Creatures of Whitechapel, I feel like there’s a feature-length version in here. The hinted at relationship (or longing for one) between Igor (her obvious jealousy) and Frankenstein was appealing – and I certainly wanted more of that. But of course, in a 25-minute short film, you can’t have it all. There’s certainly room to expand on this world and these characters. Just make sure you hire a stronger actor for the Doctor – otherwise, more of the same, please!
Always leave ‘em wanting more!
Creatures of Whitechapel is currently doing quite well on the festival circuit, so keep a dead (perhaps re-animated?) eye peeled (literally?) for any showings in your neighborhood.