Netherlands/US/Czech Republic | 2013 | Directed by Richard Raaphorst
Logline: Near the end of WWII Russian soldiers in Eastern Germany discover a secret Nazi lab that has been experimenting with the radical surgical procedures of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.
Utilising the “food footage” genre to tell the macabre tale of Hitler’s last-ditch attempt to win World War II, Richard Raaphorst’s absurd and campy horror pantomime is far more interesting in its concept than its execution. Adolf doesn’t make an appearance, but his bat-crazy notion of using the body parts of dead Ruskies to assemble super-soldiers, affectionately called “zombots” in the movie’s end credits, is put to graphic use.
The zombots are stitched together steampunk killing machines, part zombie, part robot, and it is up to the ragtag Russian soldiers to try and put an end to this madness, before all humanity is lost to Frankenstein’s monstrous army!
I really wanted to like this movie, but I was never engaged. The characters are dull, and the best action-horror set pieces come too late in the movie. The shaky-cam point of view perspective (inherent in any found footage flick) has very questionable in a period movie set in 1945; surely there were no 16mm cameras with built-in microphone. And certainly no such cameras could run by themselves (as the camera does in the movie’s final scene).
The special effects and the design of the zombots are the movie’s strongest elements. The gore effects are all practical prosthetic effects, and for the most part they are excellent; especially the finger dismemberment and cranial surgery sequences. The steampunk zombots, all corkscrews, stilts, rotary blades, and visors, are captivating whenever they’re on screen, but it was a shame the overall tone of the movie wasn’t darker still, and as such the zombots presence even more menacing, instead they seem more mischievous than terrifying.
Mary Shelley gets a character credit, but I’m not sure what she’d make of the bastardization of her beloved mad scientist. Frankenstein’s Army would probably make a great musical, in the vein of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Repo! The Genetic Opera, which would be even less my cup of tea, but probably garner more of a cult following in the long run.
Attention Frankenstein completists and steampunk enthusiasts.
Frankenstein’s Army is released in Australia by Madman Entertainment.