Frankenstein's Army (Movie Review)
“Frankenstein’s Army” is a found footage film about a unit of Russian soldiers who are fighting Nazis during WWII and searching for other missing Russians. Instead of finding missing soldiers they are forced to fight an army of “steampunk” monsters that have been created by Dr. Frankenstein, who apparently has been attempting to end the war by combining equal halves of communists and fascists brains.
As bored of “found-footage” as I am, this movie takes a different approach to the sub-genre by having the cameraman being a war-time filmographer, which I felt was actually an idea that was clever enough to warrant the style, and in that regard I actually think the film worked pretty well. However the plot here is paper thin, there is no sense of tension, and on top of that there is little to no character development whatsoever. Throughout the film the only thing we really know about the Russian soldiers is that they hate the cameraman because in every scene during the first half of the movie someone is threatening him or making fun of him. This is the be all and end all of the characters. Some of them are more cruel than others, but that is really about it.
Aside from lousy characters my only really serious issue with the movie is that it looked and felt like an extended scene from a video game. The creatures all had the “steampunk” aesthetic of something you would find in a “Bioshock” game, which is honestly pretty great. However, the way the scenes were designed also felt right out of a video game as well, which unfortunately doesn't seem to transfer to a live-action movie very well. A lot of the moments in the movie were just the monsters swinging wildly at the camera. This may work pretty well in a first person shooter when you’re interacting with the game, but when you’re watching a movie and it’s just a person in a suit flinging their arms at the camera it isn't the least bit engaging.
Halfway through the movie the leader of the unit is killed by a monster and there is some arguing about who is in command, however it is revealed that the cameraman is secretly in command and they were all unknowingly on a secret mission to bring Dr. Frankenstein back for the Russian government. The cameraman informs the unit that he has lists of all the names of friends and families of the soldiers and they will all be killed if they don’t do as he says. None of this really makes sense in any way whatsoever, but it’s only a minor issue because if they movie had succeeded in the way it had wanted then no one would have cared about the nonsensical plot.
I was pretty interested in this film initially because the dvd artwork was plastered with really brilliant visuals from the movie itself. I've found that in recent years most lower budget movies tend to hide how cheaply made their movies are made by not including any actual pictures at all from the film. However, I knew I would be in for a rough ride after watching the trailer and it included a scene of the military unit in the middle of a battle where several of the soldiers were clearly shooting at nothing. This combination of impressive visuals and poor execution basically sum up the movie entirely. "Frankenstein's Army" is filled with incredibly impressive practical effects and monsters, but everything else is lacking. The attention to visual detail in this movie, whether it is in military uniforms, creature design, or gore, is so strong that is almost criminal that it was wasted in on this film.
Horror fans spend a lot of time complaining about lousy visual effects, especially CG effects, so I really wish this movie had been better.
When it comes to visual design, there was absolutely nothing lazy about this film. Unfortunately that is literally all “Frankenstein’s Army” has going for it. Everything else in this movie felt completely flat, and that is a shame because I think it could have been something horror fans might have really loved.