Frankenstein's Army

Frankenstein's Army


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The weary conceit of 'found footage' gets yet another outing in Richard Raaphorst's schlocky, forgettable horror. This time around it's supposed to be a propoganda film shot by Russian soldiers in the last days of the Second World War as they hunt for a latter day German Dr Frankenstein (Karel Roden, who deserves much better than this), intent on creating a part-human, part-machine Nazi army.

Raaphorst is cheating from the start in that the footage here doesn't look remotely as though it was shot in the time period it purports to be from. He also shows little interest in exploring the sort of satirical ideas genre giants such as George A Romero usually expose concerning voyeurism and perspective. Instead, he uses the technique as little more than an excuse to whirl the camera round to stomach-churning effect - those with motion sickness, be warned.

The film's biggest strength lies in its steampunk aesthetic. Hana Rambova's costume designs are excellent, bringing a sense of menace to action which is, otherwise, so over the top as to be ridiculous. Production designer Jindrich KocĂ­ and art director Milena Koubkova also deserve praise for giving the scientist's laboratory a distinctive abbatoir-chic, with several of the good doctor's non-human creations proving far more interesting than the main cast.

Raaphorst and scriptwriter Chris W Mitchell seem so proud of the look that they completely forget that a film also needs to have a decent plot and characters lying beneath the costumes. Like the monster evoked by the film's title, everything feels tacked together. There is plenty of time in the early scenes to introduce us to the film's chief protagonists but only cameraman Dmitri (Alexander Mercury) makes any impression, with Raaphorst more concerned with having his monster fodder run about in the manner of video game avatars than with exploring what makes them tick. There is trouble in the ranks but the turbulent camera work makes it hard to concentrate on who we should be rooting for, resulting in unhelpful audience detachment when folk start to be dispatched.

Once the soldiers reach Frankenstein's lair the initially inventive violence injects some momentum but the lack of variety in terms of noise level - permanently set to screech - and disposable nature of the characters mean even this soon becomes tiresome.

A late attempt to apply a thimbleful of satire - who would have thought the far left and far right might have similar modus operandi? - has all the efficacy of a sticking plaster on a chainsaw wound. Monstrous? Certainly.

Reviewed on: 05 May 2013
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Russian soldiers try to track down an evil scientist who is working for the Nazis.

Director: Richard Raaphorst

Writer: Chris W Mitchell, Richard Raaphorst, Miguel Tejada-Flores

Starring: Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym, Alexander Mercury, Luke Newberry, Hon Ping Tang, Andrei Zayats, Mark Stevenson, Cristina Catalina, Jan de Lukowicz, Zdenek Barinka, Linda Balabanova, Valentine Berning, Ivana Lokajová, Klaus Lucas

Year: 2013

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Netherlands, US

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