Recently, while spending some quality time on Twitter, I replied to @KreepyLady Kristin’s tweet about Richard Raaphorst‘s Frankenstein’s Army telling her (unsolicited, natch) that I had been meaning to watch it for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it. That interaction inspired me to watch… Wolfcop! (you thought I was going to say Frankenstein’s Army, did you?) Well, I DID end up watching Frankenstein’s Army and now you get to hear about it. I was planning on taking a break from reviewing (criticizing) found footage movies, but… what the hell? FA (my fingers are just too tired to type the whole thing!) is a period found footage film, so it’s kind of different.
Dateline: WWII (read this in an old-timey newsreel guy voice) – Russian soldiers are on the mooooove! (OK, thanks for being a sport) The Russian soldiers are making their way into a (presumably) waning German empire. They are being filmed by a soldier who claims to be making a documentary about brave Russian soldiers (I guess?). His anachronistic camera rig (oops, I’m starting the criticism a paragraph early!) shoots synch sound and he can apparently carry an infinite amount of film. So why not shoot every mundane thing? Sure. Fine. He follows his small band of brat’ya (brothers, get it?) as they pick their way along a trail of weird destruction and biomechanical corpses toward the last known coordinates of a missing Russian troop. (brigade? I have no idea) They’re all weirded out by this but push on nonetheless. When they get to the coordinates they find Viktor (Karel Roden), a weird groundskeeper/custodian of a large facility of mysterious purpose. Turns out he’s not a custodian, he’s a Frankenstein-type guy making biomechanical monsters!!
Obviously, I had some problems with the found footage approach of this film. There’s a reason found footage films are typically modern. We modern folk have access to cameras and video formats that lend themselves to filming the minutia of our lives because we can shoot a nearly infinite amount of footage without drawbacks. It doesn’t cost anything (practically) to fill hard drives up with your stupid friends talking until they’re finally attacked by zombies or whatever, making the effort worthwhile. Therefore, we accept that in our modern FF films. But, it costs a lot to buy/develop actual fucking film, and lugging around about an hour and a half worth of film (at the very least) along with your soldier stuff for miles would be unfeasible. And what magical tiny, super-sensitive omni-directional mic are they using on that 1930s Bolex? It’s just too much for my logical mind! I can suspend disbelief, but not when what I’m disbelieving is totally unnecessary. WHY is this film found footage?! It certainly should not have been. What about the actual story, you say? The concept is interesting – a modern day Frankenstein creating super-Nazis. The super-Nazi creatures were fairly cool, even if they were only a notch above the costume/creature effects at your local haunted house attraction. It just doesn’t gel. It feels like the concept drove the production so much that other little things (compelling characters, story depth, solid acting by anyone who is not Karel Roden, etc.) were neglected. Once we get to Frankenstein’s lair, there are some good scares, but not enough to salvage the whole mess.
THE FINAL CUT: Frankenstein’s Army is a found footage film to its own disadvantage. The viewer is left questioning the logic and feasibility of the device so much that it’s hard to get immersed in the (already pretty weak) story. The creature effects are mildly interesting, but they can’t carry the whole movie. (a Google image search will suffice.)
Bonus content: I would have liked this movie a lot more if it had more of a sense of humor. Maybe splatter comedy could have saved the biomechaNazis from my disappointment.