Joshua Kennedy (see "I saw Dracula AD 2015": Oct '15) has succeeded again, this time with a moody, black-and-white tribute to the science-gone-awry genre in Gooey Film Productions' "The Vesuvius Xperiment".
Written, directed and produced by Kennedy, "Vesuvius" makes use of plot devices from such Hammer classics as "The Quatermass Xperiment"; "Quatermass 2"; "Curse/Revenge of Frankenstein"; and "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell". The film also offers generous doses of "The Alligator People"; "First Man Into Space"; the original "Fly" series and the"Outer Limits" classic, "Architects of Fear".
Kennedy stars as Dr. Vesuvius, a cold, calculating genius with traces of Peter Cushing's Baron Frankenstein under his skin. He has resurrected former astronaut/cancer patient Richard Delambre (portrayed by the sympathetic Giancarlo Caccamo, whose character's surname will surely buzz among "Fly" fans). Vesuvius assures Delambre's wife, Nancy (the sensitive Tomi Heady) that her husband's despondence is but a fleeting consequence of an injection, but of course, there's a catch.
Vesuvius has implanted a crustacean component into the poor man, which gradually transforms him into a human/crab hybrid. Vesuvius' intent isn't spurred solely by sadistic whim, for he believes Earth’s geomorphic shifts require a new breed of human, and Delambre is its prototype. However, Delambre isn't content to wait around Vesuvius' sanitarium for his transformation to hit fruition and escapes into New York City, killing those he crosses.
Vesuvius reveals his experiment to the police, in hopes that the crab-man will be seized. However, Delambre still grasps enough of his human faculties to evade capture and along his trek, returns to his bewildered wife.
In homage to "Fly '58", Nancy learns the truth of her husband's condition through the typed notes he slips under a door. Their interaction is tense, poignant and perhaps more than any other sequence, symbolizes the tale's tragic core.
Kennedy, a fine actor who swings seamlessly between tongue-in-cheek and stark seriousness, is excellent as the lazy-eyed Vesuvius: a role that Brian Donlevy; J. Caroll Naish; or Vincent Price may have otherwise occupied.
The rest of the primary cast is (as with any Gooey Film Production) top-notch, with Cody Alvord; Allie Anschutz; Jonathan Danzinger; Nick McNeil; Brianna Gentiella; Cormac Hoffman; Bridget Johnson; Michael Rosenfeld; and Carmen Vienhage, each giving convincing performances. Jeremy Kreuzer, who portrays "Dracula '15'"s resident "Renfield", offers comic relief as an East European photographer, and pigeon-pal Traci Thomas is memorable in an unsettling Central Park interlude.
"Vesuvius" rekindles an effective, old-fashioned style that's missing from most current horror flicks. Its interior and exterior shots (a portion of the latter captured during a snow storm) are equally atmospheric. Also, those moments depicting Delambre's approach via a shadowed claw are reminiscent of F.W. Murnau and Orson Welles.
Once again, I must tip my hat to Kennedy and crew for getting it right. They've constructed a well crafted reminder of how science, despite its ambitions to advance humankind, can often devolve it into blood-curdling disaster.
(BTW: "Vesuvius" is available through Alpha New Cinema/oldies.com and includes insightful commentary by Kennedy, plus hilarious bloopers. The disc also contains Ryan Lengyel's stop-motion, battling-monsters short, "The Beast from 20 Zillion Years Ago": a fun segment worth viewing before or after the main feature.)