MRR Review: "Frankenstein's Army"

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Richard Raaphorst makes his directorial debut with this horror-action extravaganza that's set in the waning days of World War II. A unit of Russian soldiers pushing through eastern Germany stumbles upon a secret Nazi lab contained within what appears to be an abandoned factory. Here they uncover evidence of a terrifying Nazi plan--one that involves resurrecting fallen soldiers as an army or "super-unit" of hideous, unstoppable creatures that have been patched together using the body parts of their deceased comrades.
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MRR Review: "Frankenstein's Army"

-- Rating: R (language, grisly images, and bloody violence)
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: April 18, 2013
Directed by: Richard Raaphorst
Genre: Horror/Action/Sci-Fi

Although Raaphorst has directed numerous short films, this is his first attempt at creating a full-length film. Taking full advantage of a small budget, he demonstrates his creativity and talent with "Frankenstein's Army." The movie is categorized as a found-footage film, meaning the movie is presented as discovered footage. This film was made in the 80s but didn't gain prominence until the late 90s after "The Blair Witch Project" was released. Since then, a few popular mainstream movies have been made in this format, such as "Paranormal Activity" and "Cloverfield." It's a genre that is difficult to present well, which may explain why it hasn't had much mainstream success despite being cheap to produce.

"Frankenstein's Army" is set during World War II, and the story is told from the perspective of a group of Russian soldiers in Eastern Germany. The bulk of the film is narrated by the cameraman, Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), who is a film school alumnus. The movie begins with the soldiers exploring Germany, searching for fellow soldiers. As they progress through their mission, they stumble upon the laboratory of the sinister villain of this film, Dr. Frankenstein.

The story primarily focuses on the group of exploring soldiers who come across an evil Nazi scientist. The monstrous Dr. Frankenstein creates exotic, frightening creatures that are a combination of man and machine. In several narrow escapes, the soldiers manage to avoid being eviscerated by mutant soldiers wielding large blades or claws for hands. When the soldiers aren't fighting Dr. Frankenstein's murderous Nazi creations, they are roaming the country and causing mayhem. The soldiers attack the innocent and use them for heinous experiments. One demonstration of the soldiers' calloused and twisted mindset is conveyed when they find a young child who has been badly tortured. The soldiers decide to throw him into an oven to be burned to death. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason to the soldiers' actions.

While this film doesn't have the most captivating story, it shines in another area—the creative creations of Dr. Frankenstein. The first-person viewpoint of the movie provides the audience with a personal and close-up view of a variety of unique hybrid monsters. Even with a small budget, "Frankenstein's Army" isn't repetitive. As the soldiers fight their way through a legion of creatures, the same type of creature is rarely seen twice.

This is not a film for a squeamish audience. While the movie is classified as a horror film, it primarily follows the script of an action or science fiction movie. The film isn't particularly scary, but the sudden emergence of a Nazi machine-human hybrid may make you jump.

This film doesn't really allow the actors to display the full range of their abilities. However, Karel Roden offers a great performance as Dr. Viktor Frankenstein, an evil genius. His appearance, energy, and line delivery give the convincing portrayal of a mad scientist who is in love with his work. The rapid pace of the film and the film's energy make it enjoyable. The action is constant, and new monsters appear frequently. As much as the plot is lacking, there's a particular appeal in a hybrid human-machine Nazi that has a propeller in lieu of a torso or in a creation with long sharp blades for hands. Seeing these odd creations lunging toward the screen as they attack the cameraman or watching the creatures attack the soldiers will keep viewers on the edges of their seats.

Due to the limited depth of the story and the outrageous plot, the movie must be enjoyed as mindless entertainment. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is fun to sit back and watch the new types of human-machine creations appearing on the screen. In-depth analysis of this movie only yields unanswerable questions.

Despite the small budget, Raaphorst manages to create a visually appealing, entertaining film. The viewers must disregard the vague plot and some inconsistencies in logic. For instance, a Russian soldier is easily carrying a color camera during WWII, and the cameraman doesn't stop the camera and run away when he has the opportunity. Just sit back and enjoy the film for what it is, and "Frankenstein's Army" becomes a short but captivating film.

Rating: 3 out of 5