Karel Roden shows off one of his Nazi beasts in "Frankenstein's Army." Credit: MPI/Dark Sky Films Karel Roden shows off one of his Nazi beasts in "Frankenstein's Army."
Credit: MPI/Dark Sky Films

'Frankenstein's Army'
Director: Richard Raphoorst
Stars: Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

No one’s going to mistake the sights in the fake found footage film “Frankenstein’s Army” for actual found footage. Set amidst a Russian platoon pushing into the German front towards the end of WWII, it’s, for one thing, in English. And it’s in the wrong aspect ratio. (Old 16mm film, which this sort of mimics, is in a box shape, not formatted to fit your HD TV.) Apart from busting out some in-editing imperfections (scratches, the red that comes at the end of reels), the filmmakers did not care for strict verisimilitude. And so, in a sense, neither should you.

Luckily, there’s enough lurid distractions to, well, distract you. The film finds a motley crew happening upon a secret underground lair. There, they’re besieged by freaky (and not too convincing) steam-punk creations: Humanoids with giant metal claws; a dude with an overactive clamp on his face; cyborgs wielding swastikas. Eventually they discover the source (which is more or less spoiled by the title): Among the Nazis’ many horrific experimentations were evidently an attempt to create a legion of armed zombies from dead soldiers, using the journals of the real Dr. Frankenstein.

 

On one hand, like the Nazisploitation films of the ‘70s (such as “Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS”), this is tasteless: The Nazis underwent numerous, actual, sickening experimentations on its captives. Milking that for midnight movie fare, no matter how effective, will leave a gross taste in the mouth. On the other hand, this is effective, both as a what-happens-next thriller that keeps topping itself, and as a film with a definite goofy streak. Unlike the fellow mock-found footage opus “Troll Hunter,” which only periodically interrupts artless, boring footage to spy on giant, rampaging trolls, it’s quick to get to the lair, which is one of those cavernous places with endless secret hallways and rusty doors — a good place to get lost in. It vies for the thrills of “Aliens,” only here the Paul Reiser traitor is wielding the camera.

This is very much for the fanboys, and its endless scurrying about and dismemberments inevitably prove occasionally monotonous. But it delivers on a wide array of beasties. “Pacific Rim” is fine, but this has a better and more inventive array of monsters, most of them more silly than frightening, which only makes them scarier once they start tearing out someone’s guts. Sleazy Nazi genre films have made a comeback of late, with the likes of “Dead Snow” (zombies) and “Iron Sky” (sci-fi), but “Frankenstein’s Army” would (just barely) work even without the swastikas.

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