SUBJECT TWO
 

Directed by Philip Chidel. USA. 2006.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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It's difficult coming up with original names, isn't it?  Pets can be a strain and kids a nightmare.  Clearly, dreaming up a decent moniker for characters in your film can be a toughie, too. 

Philip Chidel, director of Subject Two has plumped for the heavily symbolic route, so his maverick doctor, hidden in his snowy fastness playing God, is called Dr Franklin while his subject/victim/creation is called Adam. 

And I'm not giving much away here, as we're hardly fifteen minutes into the film before “gifted but troubled” medical student Adam Schmidt (Christian Oliver) is invited by the mysterious Dr Franklin Vick (Dean Stapleton) to collaborate on a project similar to Adam's ethically-challenged university research.  Only moments after meeting Vick at his remote Colorado cabin, Adam has been garrotted and is Dr Frank's titular Subject Two.  Needs work on his bedside manner, I'd say. 

The film uses this unusual opening to pose questions regarding life and death; it's price and cost.  Vick has developed a serum that can resurrect the dead and bring them back to life.  But what sort of life is this that Adam now has? He can never leave the project and is still work in progress both morally and physically.  As the film progresses, the choices and consequences open to Adam and Vick become more agonising and tragedy ensues. 

Dean Stapleton plays Vick with toothy relish -- although it's hard not to think of Lovejoy-era Ian McShane doing a Jack Nicholson impression.  Christian Oliver also gives good value as the conflicted Adam and it's refreshing to see a Frankenstein's Monster represented as a vigorous young man as opposed to the cobbled together cadaver more familiar in cinema. 

Rich Confalone uses the dramatic Rockies scenery to good effect for his photography - the frozen Aspen location (apparently eight miles from civilization with no running water or electricity) provides a distinctively chilly and chilling backdrop to Vick and Adam's shocking discoveries. 

Although Chidel must be congratulated on creating an intelligent film in a genre more accustomed to reach for cheap shocks than the thoughtful fare we're offered here, Subject Two fails to really grip as a horror yarn.  The action is a little too repetitive too excite and the sheer number of ethical dilemmas raised by such subject manner can only be touched on. 

A decent sophomore effort from the director but unlikely to get the villagers, lighted torches in hand, descending on their local cinemas.

Simon Melville
 
 
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