Gothic

June 16, 1816. The Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva. An illustrious gathering: Lord Byron and his biographer-physician Polidori play host to Shelley, his lover Mary Godwin, and her half-sister Claire. They're an unruly, incestuously entangled lot, as artistic types in Russell's films tend to be, given to imbibing laudanum, mauling each other, and tossing off gratuitous insults. Not surprisingly, matters get out of hand. As a storm gathers, the flamboyant fops and fantasists hold a séance, to test their propensity for wickedness by conjuring into life their innermost demons. With this fictionalised re-creation of the events leading to the writing of Frankenstein, Russell is in his element, revelling in the seething psychodramas, the fetid atmosphere of sexual abandon, the gloops of slime and decaying flesh. Unfortunately, Stephen Volk's script is so banal that the final eruption of absolute evil comes not as a nightmarish climax but as a nonsensical mish-mash of all we've seen before. Pretensions aside, it's an entertaining enough roller-coaster ride, but it's sad to see the darker, more fertile labyrinths of this particular literary funhouse ignored in favour of scatological silliness.

Release details

Duration: 87 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ken Russell
Screenwriter: Stephen Volk
Cast: Natasha Richardson
Gabriel Byrne
Julian Sands
Myriam Cyr
Alec Mango
Timothy Spall
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