Frankenstein with a twist
They went up a mountain and came down with a movie.
Director Phillip Chadel filmed "Subject Two," a modern Frankenstein tale, at 12,000 feet on Aspen Mountain in Colorado. It was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival’s "Park City at Midnight" category.
The snow covered peaks provided a sunny backdrop to a dark movie.
"I wanted to play off the contrast," said Chadel, who took 16 days to film "Subject Two."
Christian Oliver plays Adam, a struggling medical student suffering from migraines. He answers a request for an assistant from the reclusive Dr. Vick, played by Dean Stapleton.
After taking the job, Adam enters an isolated world where immortality is possible, but not without consequences. As the movie’s tagline says, "Death has its side effects."
Dr. Vick brings a man back from the dead and refers to him as, "Subject Two," because experiments with Subject One went awry. The doctor becomes a father figure for his creation, nursing him back to good health with a dark green serum that Chadel reveals is actually Odwalla’s Super Food mixed with cocoa powder.
But in spite of his love for the creature, Dr. Vick is a driven scientist who puts his profession first. "Dr. Vick is somebody that believes in what he’s doing, right or wrong," Stapleton said.
Unlike the monster in Frankenstein, Subject Two shares his thoughts on being brought back from the dead. The film raises moral questions about playing god, while looking at the psyche of a living experiment.
"I’ve always been a fan of finding emotion in unexpected places," Chadel said.
During the filming a crew of nine people isolated themselves in a small hut on Aspen Mountain, only coming down on the weekend. Stapleton refers to the mountain as his backyard because his grandfather built a network of cabins there called the Alfred Braun Hut System, where much of the filming took place.
"I felt a huge sense of responsibility for everyone," Stapleton said, because the location is eight miles from civilization and only accessible by snowmobile.
Amid the snow and pine trees comes a film that is part horror film, part psychological drama with a dash of comedy.
Chadel says he likes creating films that, "challenge genre and expectation."
Along with Oliver and Stapleton, Chadel has created a production company called Cardiac Pictures which does just that. "Subject Two" is the first film to come from Cardiac Pictures but not the last.
Chadel is cooking up other projects, including a possible prequel to "Subject Two." Another idea he has is to film a zombie movie from the perspective of the living dead.
Chadel admits that Sundance wasn’t even on his radar until recently but says, "The whole experience was phenomenal."
Stapleton, who lives in New York, has enjoyed being part of the festival but feels Sundance is its own kind of chaos.
Chadel said that in spite of criticism about Sundance becoming too mainstream, the people are here for movies that have an independent vision.
"At their heart everyone is truly in love with independent film and the independent spirit," he said.
The final screening of "Subject Two" will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Holiday Village Cinema at 9:30 p.m.
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The Park City Ice Arena is expected to temporarily close later in 2021 to allow crews to replace the ice surface and perform other maintenance work, one of a series of projects City Hall plans to outline at an upcoming open house. It will be an in-person event.