Director: Richard Raaphorst
Frankenstein’s Army is a chilling meditation on man’s inhumanity to man and the way war makes monsters out of us all….. Nah, just messing. It’s about stitched together undead Nazi abominations of death, killing people. And if that doesn’t make you want to watch it I don’t know what will. The problem with it though is that it’s a film of great ideas wrapped in a dodgy package (like a pop-tart) and here’s why.
Frankenstein’s Army starts with a squad of Russian soldiers deep behind enemy lines during World War 2. Each member of the squad has their own roughly sketched character – there’s the grizzled old vet, the handsome good guy, the asshole, and the guy filming it. Oh did I not mention it’s a found footage movie? It is, and that’s a large part of why it doesn’t totally work.
Dimitri (Alexander Mercury) is designated cameraman for the mission and it’s through his viewfinder that we see the action. The first half hour revolves around the crew fighting, arguing, and walking through the wilderness to respond to a distress beacon from their allies. They discoverer an old church that is revealed to be a Nazi mad scientist’s (a suitably insane Karl Roden) lab, and his creations don’t take kindly to visitors.
When the monsters are finally revealed a lot of you will instantly see the inspirations for their design – and its mostly videogames. The creatures (or Zombots as the credits name them) are a cross between Bioshock’s Big Daddies and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. Each one is as grotesque as it is beautifully designed. These are huge lumbering monstrosities made up of different parts of people and machines. The movie is essentially a live action version of Wolfenstein 3D, a concept that should be amazing.
There are two main problems with Frankenstein’s Army. Firstly the found footage style of it. Raaphorst has created some amazingly detailed and horrific sets and creatures but we never get a chance to experience them much. The narrow, shaky-cam view blusters through the environments relegating them to blink and you’ll miss it highlights. The second downfall of the movie is the tone. The idea of the film is inherently ridiculous and is what makes it so appealing but it doesn’t build on this. The film is just too serious when it should be tongue in cheek and have more jokes (unless you count the hilariously bad Russian accents).
So here we have a flick that is brilliantly designed with a great concept and cool Zombots which is let down by the shooting style and the po-faced script. A missed opportunity but still show’s potential for whatever insane idea the makers think up next. Just ditch the handheld camera guys.
The UK première of Frankenstein’s Army is on 28th June as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival