Directed By: Richard Raaphorst
Starring: Robert Gwilym, Hon Ping Tang, Alexander Mercury
Line from this film: "My father said, men will be more efficient if they have hammers and screwdrivers instead of fingers"
Trivia: Most of the monster designs come from the creators' previous project, a film named "Worst Case Scenario" that started preproduction in the early 2000s as one of the first attempts to use the Internet to gather support from genre fans
Frankenstein’s Army, a sci-fi / horror film directed by Richard Raaphorst, is a wildly imaginative, blood-spattered monster movie. Set during the final days of World War II, this 2013 shockfest follows a small squad of Russian soldiers, under the command of Sgt. Novikov (Robert Gwilym), as they make their final push into Germany. Tagging along is Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), a filmmaker and loyal Party member who plans to turn the squad’s adventures into a propaganda movie. Soon after crossing into enemy territory, they receive a distress call from another Russian unit that claims to be pinned down by enemy fire. Hoping to offer assistance, Sgt. Novikov leads his men to the coordinates specified in the message, but instead of a war zone, they find themselves trapped in a house of horrors concocted by a German scientist named Frankenstein (Karel Roden), who, as a result of his experiments on human subjects, has fashioned an army of monsters that obey his every command.
Frankenstein’s Army gets off to a strong, if somewhat grisly start; along with its clever opening credits sequence, which is designed to resemble a Soviet propaganda flick, there are the gruesome discoveries the squad makes as they close in on their destination (including a pile of dead nuns whose bodies have been partially-burned). As for the film’s cast, it does a fine job (especially Andrei Zayats as the out-of-control Vassilli, a soldier who has no qualms about torturing his prisoners), yet the movie’s real strength lies in its creature designs. After wandering into Frankenstein’s lair (which is hidden in the bowels of a church), the soldiers encounter some of the good doctor’s handiwork: half-man / half-machine abominations equipped with a variety of weapons, all of which have been fused to their bodies. From the names alone, you get a sense of what each one’s specialty is; there’s Propellerhead (Tomas Tomas), Razor Teeth (played by both Martin David and Martin Basta), and my personal favorite, Mosquito Man (Klemens Ratijn), who walks around on stilts and has a large, serrated drill attached to his face.
Admittedly, there were times I wished Frankenstein’s Army hadn’t gone the found-footage route (there wasn’t a single moment in the film where I felt I was watching something that actually happened). But what I found particularly frustrating was the movie’s over reliance on the “shaky-cam”, which, along with being done to death, occasionally prevents us from getting a good look at the monsters. These issues aside, Frankenstein’s Army is an inspired Creature Feature with plenty of gore (one poor character’s intestinal tract ends up strewn all over the ground), and I had a great time watching its brutal insanity play out.