Frankenstein meets Clone Wars in sci-fi thriller 'Closer to God'

Updated 7/2/2015 6:09 AM
  • Baby Elizabeth, with a medical valve in her forehead, is a cloning experiment in Billy Senese's sci-fi thriller "Closer to God."

    Baby Elizabeth, with a medical valve in her forehead, is a cloning experiment in Billy Senese's sci-fi thriller "Closer to God."

Critic's mini-review: 'Closer to God'

Mary Shelley's Dr. Victor Frankenstein morphs into brilliant geneticist Dr. Victor Reed in writer/director Billy Senese's modernized tale of the real clone wars, "Closer to God."

The torch-bearing townspeople swarming the Frankenstein castle are now political protesters camped outside Reed's fortresslike estate where he has taken refuge after someone on his staff leaked secrets from his research that he has cloned a baby girl named Elizabeth.

As the emotion-challenged scientist (Jeremy Childs, wonderfully transparent in a role that could have been tailor-made for Chicago actor Michael Shannon) ponders his next political move, he's unaware that his own family secret -- an earlier, botched mess of a young clone named Ethan (Isaac Disney) -- bides his time behind a locked door, shrieking in pain until he finds an opportunity to escape.

If "Closer to God" belongs on the serious, contemplative side of the Frankenstein-inspired movie spectrum, then Chicago director Stuart Gordon's sexy, gory reworking of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Re-Animator" belongs on the other. The former feels stuffy and academic. The latter is loads of sheer shock and fun.

Childs' portrait of the detached Reed is so spot-on perfect, we forgive him for being neglectful of his loving wife and two adorable daughters when he seems to finally care about someone other than himself: his baby clone, Elizabeth.

Senese dredges up some good ethical questions, not just about cloning, but about protests and the insatiable appetite of the never-ending news reports that warp, hound and hamper to fill time and inflate ratings.

In the end, "Closer to God" opts to drop all its ethical balls in the air in favor of a more traditional horror finale, one that sadly is neither shocking nor fun.

"Closer to God" opens at Facets Multimedia in Chicago. Not rated by the MPAA; contains violence. 81 minutes. ★ ★

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