Frankenstein's Army (2013)
Directed by: Richard Raaphorst
Written by: Chris W. Mitchell, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Richard Raaphorst
Starring: Alexander Mercury, Joshua Sasse, Karel Roden, Luke Newberry, Robert Gwilym
Frankenstein’s Army (2013)
(18) Running time: 84 minutes
Director: Richard Raaphorst
Writers: Chris W. Mitchell, Richard Raaphorst, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Cast: Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym, Alexander Mercury, Luke Newberry
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Ever since the first teaser trailers arrived over two years ago, I have been looking forward to Frankenstein’s Army. Directed by music video and commercials director Richard Raaphorst, the first black and white teaser trailers were released well before filming began, and they were truly a thing of imaginative and insane brilliance, and from that point on I had really hopes for the film. The idea of a mad scientist creating monsters out of dead soldiers for the Nazi’s was perfect for a horror film, and I will admit to behaving a little like a kid at Christmas when the FrightFest screening began.
I was a little worried that I had built up the film a little too much, but surely after seeing the full length trailer which showcased some of the monsters in the film, it was clear Frankenstein’s Army would deliver? Well let me tell you this: if you have seen the full length trailer and you have an idea of the sheer craziness of it all, and that gets you excited, then you will absolutely love this film. Frankenstein’s Army was a total blast, and delivered way above my expectations to become my favourite film of the entire Saturday’s line-up at FrightFest. Raaphorst spent years getting this film made, and the end results are astonishing, and so insane that you simply have to love it, and at the very least admire it.
From the opening montage of war scenes and thick, manly Russian (or may have been German) chanting, the film will have you hooked, and I was literally on the edge of my seat to see what Raaphorst had up his sleeve. Wasting no time, the film kicks right off with a group of Russian soldiers spending their last few days together as World War 2 comes to an end. One of the group is documenting their everyday lives, and this is how we see the soldiers, through the found footage style of shooting. The entire group are intriguing in their own way, and the costumes, dirt and surroundings are incredibly authentic. Raaphorst has put in an amazing amount of effort to make his film look good, and that’s before we get to the monsters!
The group pick up a distress call from another Russian group, and with the location nearby, head over to save their comrades. On the way they find a few bizarre creations like the bones of some sort of monster, and a strange dead person who comes alive before being shot dead again. Being war, the soldiers just shrug this off, but panic sets in when they find the compound where the distress call came from. With little or no music, the film falls deathly silent as the soldiers quietly explore the compound to find their comrades. What they find is much worse than they ever imagined, and their first sight of one of these super soldiers comes by way of a female monster lying on the floor with some sort of giant drill for hands. Raaphorst builds the suspense perfectly, and keeps things quiet until he needs to let rip, and let rip he does!
The first ‘attack’ see’s numerous monsters crawling out of the darkened passageways, and they are a joy to behold. Choosing to use practical effects over CGI was an incredibly wise decision, and thanks to this, the monsters look terrific, with the FrightFest crowd even asking for a line of toys of these monsters to be introduced. Creatures have propellers for heads, knives for fingers or massive crab-like claws. Others have long arms and legs, some have bombes attached to them, while anothers head appears to be made out of a mine bomb with spikes. The chaos of the first encounter is made all the more real by the handheld camera design, and once again this formula improves the film rather than hinders it. Seeing the monsters through glimpses and sudden camera movements mean they can sneak up on you better, or suddenly appear around a corner, and the film takes on a really nightmarish feel. The attack is so good you do not want it to end, but you know that the film will have to ease off so we can build once more to the finale.
We meet the mad Dr Viktor, and he is brilliantly portrayed with ferocious precision by the excellent Karel Roden. His bizarre creations are the stuff of nightmares, while he himself should really be locked up. Instead he is building an army of super powerful soldiers stitched together with dead (but more often alive) soldiers and machinery. He shows us round his laboratory, and it really is stunning to see. Everyone’s working together for him, all his monsters working round the clock to help him create his army for the Nazi’s. The audacity of it all even see’s him a stitch together a Nazi brain to a Russian Communist brain, his own cure for the war! Naturally the audience laughed along with this, but stitching those brains together is just the tip of the iceberg of the sheer bonkers setup this film has.
“It’s insane” says one Russian soldier, “no it’s brilliant” comes the response from the cameraman. The soldier responds strongly with “no, it is insane!” and we all simply have to agree. Frankenstein’s Army is insane, and that is why you will love it. You will also love the creatures and the impressive ideas on show, the characters are all perfectly played, the pacing is inch perfect and able to deliver one hell of an adrenalin rush when it needs to, and the music and haunting sounds all complement the proceedings wonderfully. Frankenstein’s Army is quite possibly the most bonkers film you will see all year, but it is absolutely brilliant. This was indeed well worth the wait, a stunning adventure into a truly nightmarish world of war, Nazi’s, mayhem and monsters, with a mad scientist at its core. And as a horror fan, what more could you want?