Frankenstein’s Army (2013)


A group of Soviet military misfits become lost in Germany near the end of the second world war.  Tho they’ve lost communications with the Red Army, they pick up a distress call from another group of fellow Soviets, and track it to a small town.  Along the way they begin to find bodies that are not normal- German soldier’s with strange bone growths and other modifications.

When they get to the town, they discover that it is mostly deserted, but occupied by a madman and his hideous creations- men stitched with machinery to make war creatures for the final battle raging across Europe.

I liked this movie quite a bit, however there are two caveats to my joy in it (and one that might be a deal breaker to some people).  Let’s get the big one out of the way- this is a first person found footage type of film, and furthermore it’s supposed to take place in World War II, so if you don’t like the found footage style of filming, or cannot suspend your disbelief enough to accept that the means to make a found footage film in those days is possible, you probably won’t get into the movie.  Tho the found footage trend has become tiresome, there are enough good movies out there that use that format to not make me disregard completely every movie that is released in that style.  And tho I’d like to see Frankenstein’s Army filmed in a straight filmmaking style, this actually works pretty well.

The second caveat is that it starts out a bit underwhelming with a fairly slow build up and  characters that are (mostly) unlikable and hard to sympathize with, as well as trying to film war scenes on an obviously threadbare budget,

But all of that ceases to matter much when it gets good (about 35 minutes in).  After they reach the village and the shit starts hitting the fan, I found myself quite enjoying the steampunk-esque monsters (with great, unique designs and all practical FX) and mad scientist descendent of the original Dr. Frankenstein (played brilliantly by Karel Roden (who I only know from a few Guillermo del Toro movies)).
I’ve always liked stories where a group comes across the carnage left by  (or left of) a previous group, and has to piece together what happened to them.  This one has this in spades- not only do they have to figure out what happened to the Soviet group who sent out the distress call, they also have to figure out what happened to most of the townspeople, and the rest of their own group (once they get separated).  It’s cool seeing people who were previously friendly return as monsters.

I guess the only other quibble I’d have is that it turns very first person shooter video game looking near the end, when the cameraman is exploring the doctor’s base.  Running down hallways and around corners until he come across a monster, who inevitably throws it’s arms up and howls and starts chasing him.  But I still quite enjoyed this overall, and the make up and designs are outstanding.  I guess I’m just a sucker for a good monster and creepy set dressing (and practical/ non-CGI effects).

It just came out on DVD (I don’t think it ever went to any theaters), so it shouldn’t cost much to check out.  It’s definitely worth a look.