by: S. Scott Stanikmas
Around the first week of October most entertainment stores begin to get their shipment of horror movies. I love looking at all the old favorites and new titles that I haven’t had the chance to see yet, hoping to pick out a gem from amidst the myriad of choices. On one such trip I saw Frankenstein’s Army for a reasonable price. Remembering some decent reviews that I’d read I thought I’d snag it and give it a shot. After having wasted the last hour and a half watching it I wish I’d left it on the shelf for some other poor sucker to buy.
The premise sounds good in theory: During World War II, a group of Russian soldiers on a recon mission receive a distress call that leads them to a seemingly deserted village. The soldiers, while convening at a burnt out church, are attacked by what appears to be a zombie/robot hybrid. After “killing” the undead cyborg the soldiers descend into the catacombs below the church with one of the last remaining living villagers. Soon they are under siege by the “Zombots” as they come face to face with their creator – a descendant of the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein.
I enjoy cheesy movies but there is a line in the sand that must be drawn. Everything about this movie is laughable and not in a good way. The script is incredibly hokey and the acting is some of the worst I’ve seen. A lot of the actors seemed to be phoning in their performance, either not committing enough or going too far into character that it seemed like a parody. And in the vein of going too far, Karl Roden (one of the main reasons I bought this movie) was so over the top it was unenjoyable. He turned it up to 11 eleven and broke the knob off. I understand he may have wanted to do schlocky and over-the-top as homage to the old-school, low-budget drive-in style of yesteryear, but this was just too much for me.
The costumes and effects were cheap and cartoony. The Zombots looked like something out a direct-to-video Puppet Master movie. The sets were okay. The catacombs beneath the church that lead to the lab and surgery of Dr. Frankenstein were creepy and would make a great haunted house maze but that was about the only thing I liked. Everything else gave off the feeling that they wanted it to look vast and expansive and very costly, but in the end I felt that maybe the “less is more” approach would have been the way to go. This is especially true when your story deals with a rogue mad scientist in the middle of nowhere. A sparse lab and a few flickering lights would have gone a long way into conveying the right mood for this film.
I don’t think found footage was the right style to go with for Frankenstein’s Army. The “film” looked new and shiny, too high definition for the time period. A grainy texture added in post would have at least made me believe that this was filmed before HD cameras were invented. And I find it wholly implausible that soldiers on SECRET recon missions would have been okay with someone with a large and loud camera following them, recording their every move and slowing them down to change film reels. Its things like this that take me out of a movie instead of pulling me in and connecting with me.
I’m generally a positive guy. I try to look for the good in most things, but it’s tough to do with a turkey of a movie like this. Thin on plot and heavy on the cheese, I recommend that you follow suit with the other villagers and take a torch to this one. I don’t think the original Dr. Frankenstein would object to seeing this monster go down for the count.