Frankenstein's Army Reviews
During World War II the Germans are pushing into Russia. A Russian battalion assigned to push into a section of the invasion stumble into a laboratory where a unique scientist is developing super soldiers. The Russians hold off the soldiers as they try and capture the scientist.
"Go down there and see if you can find a light switch!"
"Because we need more light."
Richard Raaphorst delivers Frankenstein's Army. The storyline for this picture had some potential and was okay to watch unfold. I enjoyed the monsters but not the concept behind them so much. The cast delivers fairly good performances.
"Do you think it's worth it?"
I recently came across this on Netflix and thought the concept sounded cool so I added it to the queue to watch this Halloween season. This was pretty good in a mindless kind of way. From an "entertainment value" standpoint it feels like Deep Blue Sea. I only recommend this to die hard horror/action movie fans.
"Well, that was fucking useless."
And, yes, it does have a few things going for it. The concept idea is interesting, even fascinating. What with the nazis performing all kinds of atrocious genetic experiments, and Hitler and his occult beliefs. The sets are awesome, the costumes are very good - very authentic. The lighting is perfectly creepy. There's definitely some nightmarish stuff here. The monsters are even pretty cool. But the film squanders all this. The story seems like something that started out with a great idea, begins well, and then just turns into incoherence covered with gratuitious gore and torture porn. I never understood torture porn and don't watch it. Gore, when used appropriately doesn't really bother me, but just to throw it around - just for the sake of throwing it around always seems immature and juvenile to me. The characters are pretty much all two-dimensional assholes, and you know they're all pretty much monster bait, so you don't care much what happens to them. They come and go without much sense - especially the peripheral characters - The German nurse Eva is a perfect example. In one scene in a creepy old church, we vaguely see her hiding from the attacking monsters. The next time we see her, see has been turned into some experiment in the Doc's lab. I wasn't even sure that was her, but she is pretty much the only female in the movie. The camerawork ranges from POV good to just plain amateurish. The editing is pretty pathetic - I've seen much better student work. The directing - if that's what you call it - is amazingly bad.
The DVD was short on extras, but it did have a small "making of" feature, which is quite interesting. The "director", Richard Raaphorst, designed the creatures. And these are amazing. But I get the sense he was unsure of what he really wanted in the final film. He looks kind of clueless during the production. He really should have hired someone who actually knew how to direct, and stuck to producing. The special effects are actually pretty good, as is the lighting. Most of the monsters are creepy - some a bit silly. But the bio-mechanoid, steam-punk thing is a fascinating idea. Too bad they wasted the idea here. The acting ranges from good to adequate to downright awful. Karl Roden is absolutely awful as Dr. Frankenstein. No nuance, nothing - as one-dimensional as you can get. He yells a lot. Wow. What a disappointment. It's like he had one day to shoot all his scenes, so he made it fast. He's terrible. Really.
Finally, I'll write this. During the "making of" featurette, they showed a couple of the Teaser Trailers made during pre-production. They're in black and white, and look very reminescent of the original 30's Universal Horror movies - only with nazis digging up graves instead of Colin Clive and Dwight Frye. They're genuinely creepy, and give us a taste of how good this movie could have been. Instead it's just a nicely-lit turd. See it for the sets and the monsters. Fast forward through the rest.
First in "Frankenstein's Army" , the story is a simple and allows only for testosterone grandeur, devoid of emotion or care for personality. The characters on both sides of this brutal opera are despicable in nature. You want to see the Russians die because essentially they are portrayed as war-mongering, heartless thugs- with no visible humanity. So that puts the uncomfortable light of heroics on seeing the Nazi monsters slaughter these a-holes. Yet Nazis are inherently disgusting reflections of man, so I never allowed myself to entertain that concept of pleasure in watching the creatures kill the soldiers. However something about the way the story was directed lead me to believe the writers and director wanted me to see the Nazis as some antihero, because the Russian soldiers where put in an obviously bad light in the film. That was conflicting for me. Plus the actors kept slipping in and out of their characters accents. Half the time the hinted toward American or British accents before returning to Russian or German twangs.
There is the opposite side to the film though- The gore and action was killer. The intense, constant atmosphere held my attention the entire film. The monsters where some of the most creative designs I have seen in cinema in a long while, and the special effects pretty much rocked it from start to finish. In the end pretty much every one dies so that was pleasurable to watch-because they all really needed to so I could walk away from the film without feeling dirty for watching something that seemed to glorify the whole Nazi science-occult theme, under the guise of sci-fi-fantasy. I have to note that this is my issue I deal with when watching pretty much any of the Nazi themed sci-fi-horror stuff that has been coming out. I am always focusing on the story's intent, fearing that the film will over romanticize Nazi fetishism. In a superficial sense I enjoyed the film based on the gore and monsters, but on a deeper level I never connected with the story or the characters, so I didn't enjoy the film as much as I was hoping to. I am 50/50 with "Frankenstein's Army".
Set in late World War II, on the front between Germany and Russia. There is a lot of 'found footage' style shaky camera, shot by a young soldier on the Russian side.
They come upon a village where the population is mostly missing, but there are plenty of corpses. In a nearby factory, they find a stitched together something that is connected by cables to the main electrical lines. When the squad's flunky starts the generator, the thing animates and kills the squad's commanding officer.
They find some rabbits, which looked good for food, but they also found more constructed monsters. These have more impressive armament, and the squad loses a couple of more men. They find some German civilians who try to be helpful, but the whole situation is close to irredeemable. More armed monsters show up and do more killing.
Dmitri's underlings (Dmitri is a captain, and has always outranked everyone in the squad) find out about his treason that kept them in the factory to die. He led them indirectly to the place, and jammed their radio once they were there. Dmitri claims it's orders, and had a document to back him up. Anyway, they are expected to figure out what the Nazi scientists have been up to. Dmitri's squad mates are upset with him, and they shove him down a chute so he can find out better. He does find out quite a bit more, but it is not clear how he will get out. Then he meets Victor, whose last name comes from the title.
Does anyone get out of this alive? Are all the constructed Nazi warriors put down?
Cinematography: 0/10 Hand held cameras. Bad everything.
Sound: 5/10 So-so. What would one expect from hand helds?
Acting: 1/10 There was acting? Well, Karel Roden did a bit.
Screenplay: 5/10 The steampunk Frankenstein monsters were often cleverly constructed. The ideas were fairly well realised visually, but the story did not make all that much sense.