Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Movie Review: Frankenstein's Army (2013)

WARNING: This review contains graphic images.
“A man of vision is always misunderstood.”
It was nearly three years ago when I first heard the rumors. I wasn’t sure what to think. Then came the concept art:

Then, two disturbing short films:

Finally, promotional stills and an official trailer were released:

It was official: Frankenstein’s Army was on the march. It took it’s time to arrive at my doorstep, but it was worth the wait.

It is 1945. The Third Reich is crumbling, and the Nazis fleeing. A group of Russian soldiers, one of them armed with a camera to document the war effort, are pushing their way into Germany through Poland. Their mission is to aid any Russian squadrons in need of assistance. However, as in any horror film, nothing goes according to plan. They find a strange, mutated skeleton half-buried in the mud. There are strange shadows and noises in the woods. Finally, they stumble upon an abandoned church, with all the graves excavated, and the church itself turned into a strange sort of factory. From there on out, it’s a bombardment of blood-soaked horror as freakish machine-men begin a relentless assault, picking-off the soldiers one by one. Eventually, the truth comes to light: in a desperate, grisly ploy to escape defeat, Hitler has engaged the services of “The Doctor” (played by Karl Roden), the last living descendant of Victor Frankenstein, to build an unstoppable army of swastika-bedecked monstrosities out of the bodies of fallen German soldiers.

Directed by Dutch filmmaker Richard Raaphorst, Frankenstein’s Army is a visual assault of disturbing creatures and eye-poping, gore-drenched violence; I can guarantee you’ll need a strong stomach for this one. Looking back, it was ironic that I discovered the short films promoting the movie when I was doing a High School report on Nazi propaganda. The one thing I questioned about this film was the decision to go with the “found-footage” approach started by Cannibal Holocaust and made famous by The Blair Witch Project. However, I actually think the approached worked; I liked how Raapshorst went to the trouble of altering the footage to give it blips and scratches, as well as periods of blackness where the film was being changed in the camera. The film’s creep factor was certainly amped up by all this. And speaking of creep factor, I cannot say enough good things about the monsters (or “zom-bots” as Raapshorst calls them). Done entirely with practical effects, these creatures are truly the stuff nightmares are made of. I applaud Raapshorst’s decision to go with as little CGI as possible; it gives the film a more realistic look and feel. Each creature is unique, with the more memorable ones being Mosquito Man, Hammerhead, Propellerhead, and Kettle (trust me, you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em). The creatures (and the rest of the film, for that matter), reminded me very much of video games, in particular Bio-Shock and Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies.

Of course, this film is not perfect. The group of Russian soldiers, while well-played by the actors, are indeed stock-characters. And yes, it does seem a little odd a standard 1940’s field camera would have both sound and color, when actually battle field footage from that time period has neither. But then, Roden’s manic performance as The Doctor, the spectacular Zom-Bots, and the off-the-wall fright factor make up for these short-comings. In conclusion, I highly recommend Frankenstein’s Army, perhaps as a double-feature with Dead Snow.  

HalloweeNut’s Verdict:

3 out of 4 Skulls

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