An international collaboration between the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and the United States, Frankenstein’s Army was originally released in 2013. Although a found-footage film, Frankenstein’s Army does not rely on this conceit overtly, thus making it a little more tolerable than other films of its ilk.
Frankenstein’s Army is set during the twilight of World War II. A battalion of Russian soldiers is steadily making their way toward the eastern part of Germany. Hounding the soldiers is a Russian filmmaker (played by Alexander Mercury), who has been tasked with filming a propaganda film that showcases Soviet supremacy. Unbeknownst to the battalion, there is also an agent whose secret role is to bring back one Dr. Frankenstein to Russia, where he can work his magic for Joseph Stalin.
The bulk of the film has the battalion raiding a small village, where they discover an underground lair in which Dr. Frankenstein (Karel Roden)—the great-grandson of the man who built the original monster—is working on what amounts to Borg from Star Trek—creatures that are human at their core but have been melded with all manner of machines recovered from the war. Consequently, creatures are made up of old airplane parts, military vehicle gear, and old-school weaponry, including machetes, blades, and other horrible implements design to brutally kill.
Before Dr. Frankenstein can explain why he is building these machines, the machines mercilessly attack the battalion, cutting it down man by bloody man in some horrifying ways. As the survivors make their way deeper into the maze that is the good doctor’s underground lair, they find more and more of the machines, until there are only a few soldiers left to contend with the mastermind himself.
So, why is Dr. Frankenstein making these creatures? At the beginning, he was tasked to create invincible soldiers for none other than Adolf Hitler. However, the doctor along the way began to experiment with the human brain and its capacity for violence. Dr. Frankenstein since went rogue, hiding in his underground laboratory and now not only creating cyborgs (man and machine) but also brain-melded cyborgs. That is, creatures with mixed ideologies—say, a Soviet part of a brain mixed with that of a German and perhaps even that of British or American soldiers. The end result, the good doctor surmises, is a creature with an ideology that is all human, and thus war can finally come to an end.
But the creatures are insane, and soon there is nothing left to control and contend with them. As all hell breaks loose, even the filmmaker finds that violence will never cease, despite Dr. Frankenstein’s lofty goals and penchant for butchery.
Directed by Richard Raaphorst, Frankenstein’s Army has little plot to it. The found-footage structure bogs the film down, although Raaphorst is quick to abandon the conceit to focus—perhaps even showcase—the wonderful creatures that are the true gem of the film. Raaphorst himself spearheaded the many designs of the cyborgs, which are little more than Borg-like zombies designed to kill anything in their path.
Although Frankenstein’s Army has little to recommend it, Raaphorst’s creatures, achieved using hands-on and practical effects and little if any CGI, are a joy to behold. There are creatures like Razorteeth, whose “head” is made up of metal mandibles that look like a Venus Fly Trap; Propellerhead, who has been made from old aircraft parts and who uses the propeller to tear soldiers apart; and Mosquito Man, who walks with stilt-like appendages and looks like a Gestapo agent on steroids.
Bottom line: Frankenstein’s Army has little characterization, a basic if convoluted plot, and lackluster if not straightforward direction. However, the imagination, black humor, and special effects make this movie a definite watch for those looking for something strange, twisted, and darkly humorous. Frankenstein’s Army is not meant to be taken seriously, so by all means, enjoy the cheese!