Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

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We really wanna see those fingers!
We really wanna see those fingers!

Twitter Plot Summary: Russian soldiers find a lab where Nazis have been experimenting using the notebooks of Victor Frankenstein. You can guess what happens next.

Following the exploits of a Russian Dirty Half Dozen in East Germany towards the end of the war, Frankenstein’s Army takes a few elements of historical fact and twists them around in a corkscrew of pure fantasy. You see, Adolf Hitler reportedly had a thing about the occult and as part of his reign of terror over much of Europe. What Frankstein’s Army suggests is that the Nazis uncovered the works of Victor Frankenstein and have since commenced their own experiments around resurrecting dead flesh – albeit with some unique, Nazi-themed twists to the original idea. All well and good you might think for a bit of B-movie fun. In spurts it does have that, but there are a couple of major issues that hold it back.

Big problem number one: shooting this as if it is a found footage piece – I’ll come back to this point. Big problem number two: providing characters who we have absolutely no interest in supporting because they are self-centred, horrible people. When the inevitable happens – and you know immediately what fate awaits almost everyone in this little group – you have no sympathy for anybody. Provide an antihero by all means, someone you love to hate, but a group that have no redeeming qualities whatsoever? That makes things difficult to like and/or enjoy.

The creature designs are quite interesting though, so it’s not all bad. You can tell that some thought has been put into making these WW2 era Frankenstein’s monsters look good, even if their design does stretch the already thin fabric of disbelief that hovers over this project. Some go so far as to combine people with aircraft, which is absolutely bonkers but surprisingly doesn’t prove to be the idea that break’s the film’s back.

This is what the Nazis needed all along - a spidery soldier thing.
This is what the Nazis needed all along – a spidery soldier thing.

No, that lies solely with the aforementioned need to film this in a found footage manner, and in colour no less. Yes, they did have colour film at that time – I know my history, thank you – but there’s been no effort to make the footage look anything other than full widescreen and high definition. If you really want people to think this is a found footage piece, then don’t present it to us in immaculate 21st century digital quality. It’s an immersion breaker that is all the more disconcerting than some of the experiments ambling around the lab.

From a narrative perspective, the film might only run for around 85 minutes but there’s a nice build-up before the first creatures are revealed, however the story does seem to lose its way a little once everything starts going wrong. Perhaps a little more focus on providing a satisfying narrative conclusion would have been a better method of pulling things together. And while I’m not the biggest fan of the found footage genre, in this instance it does at least have the benefit of putting you front and centre into the action rather than being a casual observer. It’s a clear mixed bag of good and bad ideas, and your appreciation of the ideas presented will depend on how well you get along with the found footage genre.

Score: 2.5/5

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