Frankenstein’s Army Blu-ray Review
It’s towards the end of World War II and a platoon of Russian soldiers is on the march towards Germany. There is the occasional skirmish, and one of the men, Dimitri (Alexander Mercury, the short film MATERIAL DRIVE), has been put in charge of manning not a gun, but a camera to a record their final days for a propaganda movie. They’ve no doubt seen many horrors, but they’ve only just begun.
While on the move, the men come across a skeleton that seems to be sparking from the inside. But they keep on with their mission to find missing troops and come to a spot of land with nothing and no one in sight: no Germans, no Russians, not even goats. It’s not until they search deeper that the men—Sergei (Joshua Sasse, TV series ROGUE), Novikov (Robert Gwilym, TV series CASUALTY), Sacha (Luke Newberry, ANNA KARENINA), Vassili (Andrei Zayats, MADAME SOLARIO), Ivan (Hon Ping Tang, SHANGHAI), and Alexei (Mark Stevenson, SCREAMING BLUE MURDER)—come across a pile of dead nuns and open graves. They enter a nearby church, which one of the men notes “looks more like a factory.” Sure enough, there’s a laboratory in the basement, and, if you have the title of the movie in mind, you know just where it’s going.
A little more exploring brings the soldiers face-to-face with a seemingly endless army of creatures that are something between zombies and robots. They are the product of Viktor Frankenstein (Karel Roden, GUARD NO. 47), relative of none other than the famous mad scientist of the same name.
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY is shot in the found-footage style, a gimmick used to make the whole show feel realistic. But since this is now an all-too-frequent technique (especially in the horror genre), it does less to heighten the frights than it does to interfere with any potential scares.
The director, Richard Raaphorst, worked as a conceptual artist for over a decade before this, his debut, and created the monsters’ looks. And it’s not the action itself that will keep viewers watching, but the clever designs of the creatures. (Some of their names include Mosquito Man, Propellerhead and Razor Teeth, and you can just imagine what they’re capable of.) One of the issues with the movie is that it takes a bit too long (almost a third of the runtime) to get to the part the audience is waiting for, and there’s really only so long before they may be tempted to fast-forward to where the men encounter Frankenstein’s army. (Another possible title for FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY could have been RUSSIAN COMRADES VS. NAZI MONSTERS.)
But even when the battle begins, there are far too many breaks in the action. The structure allows for some combat (and all of the blood and guts that come with it), but then has Dimitri wander around the building, always with his eye through the lens. Shouldn’t he worry less about the camera than picking up a gun and giving himself a chance of survival? It’s dumb decisions like that that make us side with the Nazi monsters.
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. As FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY was shot as a found-footage movie, it has an intentionally rough look to it. Fittingly, the video transfer offers little to no crispness, which may come off as sloppy but stays faithful to the director’s vision
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The sound of the movie is very good and comes through surround sound speakers very nicely, which does a lot for the at-home experience but takes away from the movie’s atmosphere.
Making Of (32:13): Director Richard Raaphorst and some of the cast discuss the production of FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, touching on the plot, monsters, the style, and more. Also included is on-set footage that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the effects.
Creature Spots highlight some of the monsters in FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, including Burnt-Match Man, Mosquito Man and Teddy Bear Woman.