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Frankenstein AND Nazis?: A Review of ‘Frankenstein’s Army’

Frankensteins_Army_Theatrical_PosterTitle: Frankenstein’s Army

Production: Dark Sky Films

Director: Richard Raaphorst

Writers: Richard Raaphorst, Chris W. Mitchell, and Miguel Tejas-Flores

Released: 2013

Rated: R for bloody violence, grisly images, and language

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 84 Minutes

Cast:

  • Karel Roden – Viktor
  • Robert Gwilym – Novikov
  • Joshua Sasse – Sergei
  • Luke Newberry – Sacha
  • Andrei Zayats – Vassili
  • Mark Stevenson – Alexei
  • Hon Ping Tang – Ivan
  • Cristina Catalina – Eva
  • Karel Roden – Viktor Frankenstein
  • Robert Gwilym – Novikov
  • Luke Newberry – Sacha
  • Hon Ping Tang – Ivan

frankensteins-army1Taking a mock-doc approach, Ricahrd Raaphorst views everything through the camera of Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), a fresh-faced Soviet recruit making propaganda films about soldiers doing recon on the German front. The picture invests ample scene-setting time at the start, not so much developing characters but more toward establishing a credible atmosphere of deprivation and exhaustion among the men.

Digital manipulation gives Bart Beekman’s cinematography an enjoyable antique flavor, though Raaphorst’s gestures toward authenticity don’t extend to the running time or the synch-sound limitations Dimitri’s little 16mm camera would have suffered. Dimitri captures as much of the action, as he would have with an always-on video camera, but few viewers are likely to balk at the anachronism.

Dimitri is alone noticing strange corpses in the woods, one of whom spurts briefly into life for the camera but soon it’s undeniable that something bizarrely wicked is taking place. A church has been retrofitted as a strange laboratory within which an grotesque, naked semi-human thing — covered in scars and attached to electrical wires — disembowels a sergeant.

I have to say, as a “B” movie fan I was finding Frankenstein’s Army right up my alley…

Led by a local into a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the church, the soldiers find themselves stalked by a menagerie of human/mechanical obscenities. Reanimated corpses with scythes jutting from their forearms, power drills mounted in menacing mouths, slice-and-dice airplane propellers where their heads once were and the list goes on. The beasts are slow-moving and seem nearly mindless but inflict a surprising amount of damage on our sentient heroes. I do have to ask, how exactly a beast with four-foot lobster does claws instead of hands open doors to chase its prey??? Obviously with a movie like this you have to put the old brain on autopilot.

Frankenstein's-army2The script provides barely enough backstory to justify its spook house structure as the soldiers, moving through numerous bogeymen instead of away from them, watch as each new creation of SFX supervisor Rogier Samuels (a vet of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films) lumbers around a corner with arms — or what used to be arms — flailing wildly. I know, it’s a monster movie set in WWII but still, I felt the film needed more blanks filled which simply remained blank.

Truthfully, most of the action will inspire bursts of giddy, incredulous laughter rather than jolts of fear — a mood that only intensifies when we meet the mad scientist himself, played with midnight-movie gusto by Karel Roden. “I can end the war by creating a new being!” he declares at one point, bisecting the brains of a Nazi and a communist then combining them crudely into a single corpse’s skull.

If the film had played up this type of satire-friendly theme and offered a bit more dark humor to balance its initial wartime realism, Frankenstein’s Army might have turned out to be sufficiently re-watchable. Not to say the film isn’t worth a rental for horror fans who dig top flight special effects and, who knows, maybe the good Doctor’s film could even end up with a touch of a cult following.

Even with its shortcomings, I honestly found this to be an enjoyable flick although I’ll admit the behind the scenes footage included with the screener added to my enjoyment. I would give Frankenstein’s army a strong recommendation to rent first. Even had I not received a screener, I’d lean toward buying it since I like these sorts of films and just the creatures alone would make it worth it for me.

TGG SCORE - 6.8

6.8

Even with its shortcomings, I honestly found this to be an enjoyable flick although I'll admit the behind the scenes footage included with the screener added to my enjoyment.

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Tony Manchen

Tony Manchen is an avid Console & PC gamer who has a passion for making sure the gaming public has the information he feels is necessary to make an informed decision.

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