Though the title suggests a silly, teen-oriented spook story, this handsome film is actually about the summer of 1816, when English literature's most notorious party of five convened at the Villa Deodato on Lake Geneva and gave birth to Frankenstein's monster. Or maybe it is a teen-oriented spook story: Two of the five were teenagers, the oldest member of the group was 28, and they spent the summer fooling around, taking drugs and telling campfire stories. The cast of characters: Aspiring novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Alice Krige), daughter of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and freethinker William Godwin; her husband-to-be, bisexual poet Percy Byshe Shelley (Eric Stoltz); his friend and mentor, "mad, bad and dangerous to know" poet Lord Byron (Philip Anglim); Byron's lover, the insecure and possessive Dr. John Polidori (Alex Winter); and Mary's high-strung, younger half-sister, Claire Claremont (Laura Dern), who later bore Byron's daughter, Allegra. Entangled in a volatile web of erotic and professional jealousy, attraction and competitiveness, the five tumbled in and out of each other's beds, smoked opium and played games, including one in which each had to come up with a scary story. Polidori concocted a tale about a blood-sucker (published in 1819 as The Vampyre, and considered English literature's first vampire story), but history accounts Mary the hands-down winner: She awoke from a vivid dream and turned it into Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. Based on the 1972 speculative novel by Anne Edwards, HAUNTED SUMMER had the misfortune to be released the year after Ken Russell's typically flamboyant GOTHIC, which chronicled the same events with the director's trademark luridness. Czech-born director Ivan Passer (who took on the project after John Huston withdrew because of illness) takes a more poetic approach to the material, photographing the sumptuous scenery in the style of contemporary paintings and using Christopher Young's deliberately anachronistic score as a bridge between the 19th century and the present. The results are mixed, but Krige and Dern's performances, the strongest in the film, are extraordinary; it's worth watching for them alone.
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- Released: 1988
- Rating: R
- Review: Though the title suggests a silly, teen-oriented spook story, this handsome film is actually about the summer of 1816, when English literature's most notorious party of five convened at the Villa Deodato on Lake Geneva and gave birth to Frankenstein's mons… (more)