Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Frankenstein's Army

If you follow this blog regularly you’ll know that I’ve covered a great deal of found footage films lately (Europa Report, GraveEncounters, Grave Encounters 2, V/H/S/2, [REC]³: Genesis) and have stated my opinions thoroughly as to what the difference is between a good one and a bad one.

If there was one I was actually looking forward to it was Frankenstein’s Army. It looked twisted and had a cool WWII twist that I thought was unique. Therefore once it was available on home video I made a serious effort to find a copy of it out there to watch.
During the last days of World War II, a squad of Russian soldiers and one documentarian are tasked with capturing images of their march into Germany on film. Instead they discover a secret lab where bizarre and ghoulish experiments have been performed on fallen soldiers to combine them with machines in a last ditch effort to win the war.

Maybe it was my high expectations that ultimately tainted my view of this flick, but I found Frankenstein’s Army to be one of the worst found footage movies I’ve ever seen. I’ll explain with some bullet points:
  • The film is obviously shot on HD video and a few filters were used in post-production to make it look like old timey film. They failed. The movie is crisp, clean and always in focus. There were even a few times where the color correction was so prominent that the barrels of guns had an ethereal glow from the heavy manipulation. And what’s worse is that even at the time that the movie takes place, handheld cameras such as the one being used here would not have filmed in color since it was insanely expensive and black and white was still in rampant use for propaganda in the early 1940s, Russian or otherwise. Plus it looks like the camera was on a steadycam the whole time. Weak sauce.
  • The movie feels like a video game. Actually it’s probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a Return to Castle Wolfenstein flick. During the action scenes the oddball creations always seem to  go after the cameraman first, lunging and swinging their bladed hands at him, and it feels like watching a first person shooter play out. The only difference is that the main character doesn’t have a gun. The whole movie is like this and after the third time it happens it begins to get old fast.
  • The script is absolutely putrid. Writers Chris W. Mitchell, Richard Raaphorst and Miguel Tejada-Flores, with a little inspiration from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, offer next to zero character development for any of the main players, just throw attack after attack at them in a lame effort to distract the audience from this fact and when the explanations do begin to show up they are extremely disappointing and horribly cheesy (the brain swapping scene is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen).
  • Director Richard Raaphorst has no idea how to direct actors, choreograph action in a way that makes sense or even capture it on film in a way that isn’t brain meltingly awful. Everything is in extreme close-up during the action scenes so you cannot see anything that is going on and the depth of field is all wrong because when the abominations of science are swinging at the cameraman they look like they are close enough to dice him into mincemeat, but they never seem to make contact with him at all. It’s confusing and took me out of the film entirely. Plus he paces the film so quickly that you never have the time to remember the character’s names, let alone adjust to all the weird crap going on.
  • The characters all speak English. Almost perfect English. If Raaphorst wanted to create the illusion of a genuine war documentary he should have had them all speak Russian and/or German. Illusion broken.
  • The acting is awful. Not even the usually reliable genre favorite Karel Roden (Hellboy, Blade II, Orphan, Running Scared) as Viktor, the mad scientist, seems to be able to do anything with his character outside of just making him a rambling insane person.
  • There is a score over the film that should not be there at all. If there’s one thing 99% of the found footage flicks out there always get right it’s that there should never, ever be music used anywhere except over the end credits. It’s incredibly distracting. 
There are a few positives. The designs for the man/machine hybrids are universally awesome looking and mildly disturbing (loved the one on stilts) and the gore is abundant and will satiate even the most jaded horror movie junkie.

Outside of those two aspects Frankenstein’s Army is an epic fail in nearly every aspect. It’s not the fun romp into the absurd that I thought it would be. It’s not even entertaining on a so bad it’s good level. It’s just plain bad. My advice is to skip it and just watch V/H/S/2 instead.

1 out of 5

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