Frankenstein’s Army is a new horror film from Richard Raaphorst, whose previous directing offerings are Zombi 1, Eigen Wereld, Worst Case Scenario, Popo, and The Rocketeer.
Watch the trailer:
In the dying days of WWII, a battalion of soviet soldiers find themselves lost in enemy territory. Stumbling upon a village decimated by an unseen terror, they’re lured into the secret lab of a deranged scientist and forced to face off against his army of horrific flesh-and-metal war machines.
I wasn’t expecting this to be filmed documentary-style. It’s not quite “found footage,” as it’s clear how the footage was obtained, by whom, and how it ends up where it ends up, but it’s different – especially for the time period. The filmmaker was commanded by Stalin himself to record the journey of the company of soldiers for Mother Russia. The movie is fast-paced and doesn’t have any glaring plot holes. The soldiers are also much smarter than your average horror movie victims – they aren’t making stupid mistakes every five minutes. The creatures they are up against are just really deadly, and they are not prepared for what they are encountering. The build-up to the first real horror scene is nice too; they find a weird skeleton, pick up an unsettling radio transmission, and come across a few other odd things before we see the first creature.
There is a scene, however, where the soldiers are in the middle of a firefight and they’re almost too concerned with where the camera is/preserving it – that was the only part that kind of took me out of the movie. If that situation was happening in real life, no one would care about the state of the camera. There’s also a Blair Witch-style confession to the camera which was a little meta – but it worked because it wasn’t a complete recreation of that famous shot. Overall, the documentary style adds a new twist to the “Nazis were doing crazy, supernatural experiments!” subgenre.
The cast is great – the personalities of the doomed soldiers all have distinct personalities, and I ended up learning their names (I don’t always in horror movies, because of how expendable everyone is). There is a Michael Fassbender-lookalike playing the radio operator; an asshole soldier who reminded me a little of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange; a very young soldier; an older soldier; a big Asian soldier who is the “bodyguard;” an almost mute, long-haired sniper, and the filmmaker, who is very clearly a non-combatant. They have a camaraderie at the beginning, but as the terror unfolds, communication and trust begin to break down.
I do have issue with how women are portrayed in this movie, but I will take the time period into consideration. There’s only one woman with a speaking part, and the asshole soldier in the company tries to sexually assault her, then smacks her around. He is stopped by another member of the company, however, but then she dies off-screen. The only other ladies in the movie are some nuns who met with an unfortunate monster-related accident and two of the doctor’s creations. Because it’s set in World War II, I understand the attitude of that soldier toward the woman, historically speaking – but it still annoyed me. It does go against the horror movie tradition of having a lone surviving woman, however.
Visuals and Music
Considering the style of filming and the time period it’s supposed to be set in, the soldier filmmaker must have some kind of awesome prototype camera. I reviewed the Blu-Ray version of the film, and everything was crisp and clear (minus the imperfections added in to make it look like older film). Colors were especially vivid. The zoom mechanism of the camera was also cool. The camera being used doesn’t have a smooth zoom – the lens has to change over in order to get closer, which adds some interesting visuals. I don’t know if this is because I’m a new Blu-Ray watcher or what, but everything looked awesome. I also liked that the movie wasn’t super dark like pretty much every horror film made lately – it’s easy to see what the soldiers are fighting.
Speaking of the creatures, they are SO COOL. The effects are all practical, as far as I could tell, and everything is really convincing. It can get gory, but it’s not at a level where I felt sick or anything; if you really hate blood though, you probably won’t like this one. Blood and gore doesn’t bother me as much as being scared does when it comes to horror movies. As you might guess from the title, the monsters are Frankensteined together – they’re awesome mixes of machines and people, and there’s some really creative designs (like Mosquito Man from the poster – he’s my favorite).
The sound quality is great too – all dialogue is audible, and I never got frustrated because I couldn’t hear dialogue. Music was sparse but sufficiently eerie when used, and there were no jump chords! Accents were well-done as well (most of the cast are not actually Russian).
There’s a thirty-minute Making Of documentary, a restricted preview, and five creature spots (commercial-length pieces that showcase a few of the creatures). I wasn’t expecting a making of, so that was a nice surprise – it’s a well-done, fairly in-depth piece that goes through aspects of designing and filming the movie.
To be honest, I was expecting a so-bad-it’s-good horror film, or a B-movie style film. I was pleasantly surprised by Frankenstein’s Army. It’s a fun horror film that isn’t too terrifying, but has awesome creature effects along with a surprisingly good plot and acting abilities from the cast. Definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of the genre and don’t have a weak stomach.
Scream Count: 3 [This is low for me!]
Watch for an upcoming interview from me with the co-story writer, creature designer, and director, Richard Raaphorst!
Check out the Dark Sky Films website and the Frankenstein’s Army website, follow DSF on Twitter, and like Frankenstein’s Army and Dark Sky Films on Facebook. You can also follow Richard Raaphorst on Twitter, check out his official website, and like him on Facebook.
Frankenstein’s Army is an hour and twenty-four minutes long and is rated R for bloody violence, grisly images, and language.
You can see the movie in select theaters and get it on demand, DVD, and Blu-Ray today.
[Disclaimer: A review BluRay was provided for me to review this film.]