If you exist on the right side of the tracks(internet), you’ve probably heard the title Frankenstein’s Army mentioned at least once. There have been promo videos floating around for a good while, both pre and post production. And, the film has actually played a few festivals. If you’ve heard absolutely nothing about the film, it is a found footage movie, that takes place during WWII. If you lack the ability to suspend disbelief, I’m sure you can find some technical errors within, such as the type of camera that’s being used, as well as the color film stock, or even the way it was filmed all together. This is not a documentary of the evolution of cameras and film, so if you’re looking to this movie to educate you on the subject, you’re doing it wrong. This is a monster movie, that exploits the old tale that Hitler was dabbling with the supernatural in order to build a super army. The star of the show here are the monsters, and the fabulous special effects. It is not a historically accurate representation of a world at war with an evil empire. I’ve started my review with this alert, because apparently, some people cannot suspend their disbelief when watching science fiction. So, if you lack this gift as well, you’ve been warned.
As mentioned above, this is a found footage movie. Trust me, I’m growing as tired of them as you are, but it would be foolish of me to abandon an entire genre of film simply because it has long surpassed its shelf life. It’s safe at this point, to state that the majority of found footage films that are being released at this point, teeter between mediocre, and barely watchable. But, is that so different from any other genre? Of all of the generic slasher films that are released, how many of them are above average? Not many, would be the answer, and the same is applicable to POV films that are presented as footage that has been found after the fact. Frankenstein’s Army is one of the good ones, thankfully. I’m sure you could poke plenty of holes in the story if you really felt the need to, but the story exists merely as an on-ramp to introduce these monstrous pieces of living art, constructed from various assembled body parts, as well as crude iron and mechanics. To give you a frame of reference, think Cenobites from Hellraiser, mixed with Silent Hill and Wolfenstein. Though these creatures aren’t technically powered by steam, they have a very steam punkish, almost Bioshock feel to them. The creatures themselves are controlled by the doctor that created them, and each of them serve a different purpose within his workshop of horrors.
The special effects, especially for the creatures themselves are outstanding, here. The production design is pretty solid all around, but those creatures are what nightmares are made of. For the most part, the creatures that we come in contact with have already been constructed and animated, but we do get to witness, later in the film, a few different experiments, and the animation of one of these mechanical ghouls. Frankenstein’s Army is a gory movie, but a lot of what that consists of are barrels of corpses and various discarded body parts. There are some brutal on-screen deaths, though, make no mistake. I’m just saying, don’t expect 84 minutes of torture porn, because that’s not what this movie is. It’s not exactly a slow burning film, but more action exists towards the end. The beginning of the film follows the group of Russian soldiers as they search for their missing comrades that have supposedly been taken hostage. It doesn’t take long for them to reach their destination though, and you’ll experience one of the creatures I mentioned above within the first twenty minutes of the film. From then, you explore, with the camera and crew, just what exactly is going on in this abandoned town, and where exactly all of its inhabitants have disappeared to.
So, no, Frankenstein’s Army doesn’t “break the mold”, so to speak, of the cliches and tropes that plague the found footage sub genre. But it is a highly effective example of that type of film. It’s dark and eerie, and it takes place during a real world event, but also feels like an alternate history due to the science fiction nature of the film. One thing worth noting, the color of the film is a bit off. This movie does look better on Blu Ray than it did when I rented it from iTunes, but something has been done to the video in post production to make some of the darker scenes brighter, and in doing so, it creates an appearance that is often times washed out, and a lot of the time you’ll get some bleeding colors, and some things that just look off. There is nothing wrong with your TV, or your Blu Ray, this is the way the film was intended to be seen. I know some of you that are a little new to Blu Ray expect every new release to look like this crystal clear Mexican soap opera(Because you probably haven’t calibrated your settings properly), but not all films look the same. There are some special features on the disc, not a great deal, but just enough to give you a little something extra if you enjoyed the feature. There is a making of featurette, as well as the creature spots, outlining some of the different monstrosities that you’ll witness within the film. Beyond that, the theatrical trailer is included, and that’s it. Considering that you can still pick the Blu Ray up on amazon for eleven bucks or under, I’d say that this is something you can live with blind buying, even if you end up liking it less than I did.
Frankenstein’s Army is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital from MPI Media Group, and Dark Sky Films. You can purchase your copy here.