In the final days of World War II, a group of Russian soldiers find themselves stranded in a village that is beset by strange, Nazi creatures created by Dr. Frankenstein (Karel Roden).
An intriguing premise surrounds Frankenstein’s Army, another of the glut of low budget, found footage-type films. But, as is normally the case, the limitations of the budget undercut the premise and the film fails to live up to its potential. While the creature designs and special effects work are all top notch, the film manages to make itself difficult to follow, and, believe it or not, borders on the boring. Despite this, the effects work is fabulous and the film is worth watching for this alone.
In the dying days of World War II, a squad of Russian soldiers is wandering the countryside. They eventually stumble on a small village that is devoid of life. They are soon attacked by strange creatures that are a mixture of human and machinery. As the squad tries to survive the onslaughts of the creatures, the camera operator reveals he is a Russian captain tasked with returning the creator of these creatures to Moscow and has been filming as a record for his superiors.
The found footage genre of films has run it’s course. While I understand it can be a cheaper form of making creature films, the erratic nature of the style creates not a deeper sense of ‘being there’ as it does a headache and confusion while you try to figure out what is going on from the brief snippets of film you see before the camera turns away. In essence, it becomes a frustration while trying to watch a film you should wholeheartedly enjoy. Such is the curse of Frankenstein’s Army. I am starting to believe that the creation of a great found footage film is as difficult as creating a great exorcism film. They are so few and far between as to be almost non-existent.
What we are looking at here is a film that is, at the very least, competently made, with wonderful visual effects work, most of which appears to be practical versus CGI. There is always something to be said for practical effects versus CGI, and this film has the former in spades. The work is simply amazing to look at and is gorgeous in it’s gruesomeness.
The film also introduces a novel approach by having the camera operator changing film cartridges throughout the course of the film. Of course, that novel idea is wiped away by a 5.1 audio mix and hi-def visuals in 1080p. The camera they so wholeheartedly want you to believe that was being used in 1945 by swapping out film is also so pretty to look at on your 42″ HDTV that any suspension of disbelief is completely thrown out the window. Using a filter and giving the movie a film grain as well as making it black and white would have went a long way towards creating that illusion of found footage.
Frankenstein’s Army is not terrible film. Horror fans and fans of creature features will find a lot to love here, not the least of which is the promising premise and fantastic effects work. At under an hour and a half, though, the money shots come almost too late to save the film. I certainly didn’t hate the film, but didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. Frankenstein’s Army isn’t the saving grace for found footage films. It is just another in a long line of low budget attempts to use the format for something new and not quite succeeding.
** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- Karel Roden who plays the Doctor was also in Hellboy.
- I could not locate any box office numbers for this film, nor any fun facts . . .How disappointing . . .