Friday, September 13, 2013

Medical Deviates: FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013)

Remember that very cool looking Dutch demo reel titled WORST CASE SCENARIO that got everyone excited back in 2008? Directed by Richard Raaphorst and presented by Brian Yuzna, it stemmed from a film that was to be a film about Germany invading the Netherlands with a zombie army. It began shooing in 2004 and after a variety of financial stumbling blocks and a few re-cut trailers, finally was buried in a shallow grave. After reworking the premise and securing funding, Raaphorst finished the much publicized FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY. Perhaps not as polar as the difference from the amazing demo reel to the shockingly misfired IRON SKY (2012), but definitely a contender for second place.

Set during WWII, a Russian squad behind enemy lines is sent on a mission to locate the source of a distress call that seems to be originating from another Russian squad that have been pinned down by the Germans. Upon reaching an abandoned factory (*groan*), they find that they are in some sort of experimental facility where someone has been Herbert Westing bizarre proto-cyborgs in an effort to create a super-soldiers. That someone is clearly a long way off. As it turns out, it's a top secret mission that must be filmed by the one guy who knows of their true goal: they have been sent to extract Viktor Frankenstein (Karel Roden) the grandson of... Viktor Frankenstein, so he can make his life-size PUPPET MASTER dudes for Mother Russia!

Told through the use of the gratingly irritating "found footage" gimmick, director Richard Raaphorst compounds that error by ensuring that only two shots in the movie would have any sort of stability. If you are a shakey-cam enthusiast, you will positively love this movie. If not, I suggest a strong dose of Dramamine before watching. In addition to the shakey-cam, Raaphost loves to shove things in the camera lens as if this was one of Count Floyd's 3D "House" movies. When it's not the annoyingly gleeful sadist Vasilli (Andrei Zayats) leering into the camera, it's fists, floors, severed body parts and lots of mechanical appendages coming from the videogame inspired creatures, that pop up out of nowhere like a local Halloween haunted house. This is primarily the bulk of the film, silly looking monsters that pop up, wave their arms in the camera which is running around in narrow corridors like a fan-made "Castle Wolfenstein" adaptation while the cast screams and runs off like a bunch of school girls. In order to provide exposition and, presumably, increase the body-count, the squad runs into a farmer who they torture to find the location of the doctor and a family of survivors from the local village that was raided to provide the Doctor with his parts. Mostly what these extra characters are there for is to provide some emotional conflict and to make some sort of half-assed metaphor that the Russians are no better than the Germans.

Honestly, it felt like it had reached the very end of its whisper-thin premise by the 50 minute mark. Then I realized we haven't even discovered Doc Stein yet! It annoying rips off CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and RE-ANIMATOR and then does nothing remotely interesting or even gory with the pilfered goods. Add a soundtrack that is nothing but screaming and machine noise and after it ended, I actually felt that same sense of relief that you get when the dentist stops drilling.

The movie is lit like midnight road construction (then made to look grey and hazy by the "filmlook" technique) so there's no atmosphere and the goofy monsters do not hold up well under the bright lights. Hell, they aren't even made with any sort of function in mind and they move so slowly that you can easily out run them. I can't imagine any military wanting these for any reason whatsoever. One of the creatures is a guy with an airplane propeller for a head. Since this has clearly no tactical advantage in the field, you think "well, this will be a good excuse to have him run into someone, making a huge chunky mess!" Nope. We get nothing of the sort. The cast just runs around him screaming until they figure out that if you turn off the electricity, you turn off the monsters. This seems like a bit of a design flaw. To fight a war with these things, you are going to need a shitload of extension cords and all it would take is one bomb on your generators and your army of ubersoldats would drop like a sack of messerschmidts. You'd think with all of these elaborate creature designs (that were hyped to the nth degree before the release), you'd have some really creative gore as the monsters kill off the cast. Matter of fact, not only is this not the case, but most of what little bloodletting there is happens off camera and occasionally the camera whips around to see the results.

The real pisser is that there is a solid metric ton of potential here. If it had been shot on film and had ditched the whole "found footage" crap, and the stupid CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST "homage"... and made the monsters scary... and delivered the gory goods... and skipped the stupid comedy and... oh, never mind, you get the idea.

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