Thursday, August 15, 2013

Movie Review – Frankenstein’s Army

It usually isn’t a good idea to watch movies that Mrs. Troublemaker is excited about. It’s okay if it’s just something that she would like to see, but if she has actually talked about a movie multiple times and is visibly excited to be watching it the thing is almost guaranteed to be a turd.
           She was really excited about Frankenstein’s Army. So excited that she showed me the trailer and I have to say – I was excited, too. It featured a bunch of Nazi surgical experiments running around and attacking Soviet soldiers. Here, look:
That looks awesome, right? Kind of like Silent Hill crossed with Wolfenstein. And the setup was so obvious it just seemed like it couldn’t fail. Of course the Soviet Union would send a film crew out to record the final days of World War II. And of course they’d find a facility chock-full of Nazi nightmares.
Now, I’m not saying I was excited enough to find this in a theater and go see it, but I was definitely ready to order it OnDemand in the comfort of our own home. So that’s exactly what we did.
The movie opens following the aforementioned Soviet soldiers walking through the countryside. They’re getting used to being filmed and discussing their mission, which is… something. They’re supposed to be investigating or looking for Nazis or something. I’ll be honest – I had a little trouble paying attention because the first twenty minutes or so of the movie are really boring and the characters aren’t very interesting. They seem to be sort of trying to establish archetypes, but everybody just kind of comes off as “Grumpy Solider Dick”. The only standouts are “Grizzled Veteran Leader” and “Guy Who Screws Around Too Much”.
Things look like they’re about to pick up when the troops find a body face-down beside the trail they’re following. The camera operator sticks around and turns it over, only to discover that the corpse has some weird shit on its face – including a Frankenstein’s Monster-style bolt sticking out of its chin. Then it sort of burps and its eye explodes. The cameraman flips out a bit, but then just goes on about his business.
After some more stomping around in the woods the troops find a church that appears to be abandoned. After some haphazard investigating, they discover a pile of burned nuns. This is as disturbing as it is supposed to be, particularly when it turns out one of the nuns near the top of the stack is still alive. She’s all burned and suffering, so one of the soldiers – being merciful – shoves his knife in her neck and ends it. It’s a little weird that there’s no blood on the blade when he pulls it out. This is something that happens in a lot of movies and I just don’t get it. How can you overlook blood? I have never personally stabbed anybody, but I have a pretty good idea that if you stick an item into a human being’s body it is not going to come back out clean. Not even is it’s an existing orifice.
Also, what the heck is the timeframe here? We already know that the Soviets are about to stumble upon a laboratory full of monsters. You don’t set such things up in a day. So how long was the burned sister laying on top of that pile? A month? Or did the Nazis and nuns come to some kind of agreement about housing arrangements? Maybe they shared space until the Nazis just got fed up with the nuns’ self-righteous “You really shouldn’t be surgically replacing people’s heads with machine guns” nonsense and just set them all on fire. I dunno, but that would have been one crazy mismatched roommates sitcom.
Frankenstein’s Army is chock full of things like this that are glaring nonsense that were done for no reason other than they looked cool or sounded like good ideas when unencumbered by silly things like logic and continuity.
After a little more creeping around, the soldiers enter the church (or nunnery, I guess) and wander around until the Dumb One turns on the power. Right around the same time he does that, some of the fellas have discovered a nude, gender-neutral body on the floor. It’s covered with scars and stitches and is just generally freaky-looking and is also connected to wires descending from the ceiling (see where this is going?). Being morons, they start prodding it and it stands up and starts sort of stumbling around. The leader of the morons starts trying to talk to it, then decides it’s too gross to live and raises his pistol to deliver two shots to the dome. Sensing its impending demise, the neuter thing punches Moron Leader in the stomach. Unfortunately for Moron Leader, Neuter Thing has a drill for a hand.
Everybody goes all crazy and starts shooting and Neuter Thing jumps on Cameraman.
This is the first instance of Cameraman being thoroughly attacked by a monster and suffering no injuries whatsoever, much less dying. It happens again and again over the course of the movie and is done so that we can get a really good look at all of the freaky monsters. While I appreciate that – because the monsters are all pretty awesome – it is one of the main things that ruins the movie and earns it the “this is a stupid mess” rating. Now, I have to admit – I might have rested my eyes a good bit during the final twenty minutes of Frankenstein’s Army. There may well have been an explanation for why the Cameraman could continually be attacked by these monsters with scythes for hands and airplane propellers for heads and machine guns for penises or whatever and emerge entirely unscathed. But I kind of doubt it. I think the explanation was “because we needed him to survive the movie”.
As the movie goes on the monsters get crazier and crazier. There’s no point in discussing the plot any further, because that is the plot. Once the action moves inside the convent the movie basically turns into a haunted house walkthrough. It hit me after just a couple more encounters – the whole thing basically feels like a Netherworld attraction, except not as exciting because you’re not there and you don’t give a shit about the people that are. It’s really just encounter after escalating encounter with these fantastic surgical experiments, all done in the first person to attempt to create an element of viewer involvement. Except this fails because the whole time you’re like, “Why the fuck isn’t Cameraman getting sliced to ribbons?”
Eventually Cameraman finds the titular Dr. Frankenstein – the original Frankenstein’s son – and other stuff happens. It’s all silly pap and doesn’t matter. The best part of the last fifteen or so minutes is a monster that is basically a kettle with legs. It has lederhosen on and follows Dr. Frankenstein everywhere so he has a place to put stuff.
Frankenstein’s Army is shot competently enough and the actors are fine for what they’re doing. But the complete lack of effort put into the plotting and editing make it too stupid to enjoy. If somebody would just put up a cut that included nothing but the monster scenes I would watch it over and over again. But with the surrounding nonsense intact it’s just intolerable.
2 out of 5

I’d buy toys. I’d love to see costumes at Dragon Con. But if I never see this movie again it’ll be too soon. It’s all the worse for the fact that it could have been great with just one more competent person involved in the right capacity. Whoever designed and executed the monsters deserves a long and prosperous career in the industry. Whoever directed, edited, and produced should just stop now.



  1. I felt the same way about Iron Sky. Loved the trailer, loved the concept, loved the 1st 5 mins of the movie, and then meh for the rest.

    1. Me too. Iron Sky was a big disappointment. Serious tonal problems.

  2. awesome film................................ 4/5