As a general rule, I’m not into found footage films. It’s not that The Blair Witch Project hurt me as a child, or that Cannibal Holocaust murdered my cat or anything; when done well, it can prove to be a fascinating means of presenting a story in a unique way. Unfortunately, in both of those cases, it was something unique. It’s not unique now. Now, it usually feels lazy. Most found footage films I’ve seen do so to hide a lack of budget or crank something out solely for profit, so at best they feel cheap and lackluster. At worst, they’re shameless knock-offs with no good ideas and cinematography that could be described as nauseating.
Yet, knowing this, I still sat down with Frankenstein’s Army. Why? That’s really simple: it’s a deep dive into bad ass fucking monster designs! I don’t care that it’s cheap, I get to see a Nazi zombie robot with a freaking drill for a God damn nose! Do I look like I will ever see something better in my life? Hell no! Give me this weird ass monster shit on a spoon, and I will eat it like my morning oatmeal.
World War II is coming to a close. A squad of Soviet soldiers is deep into Germany, where they receive a distress signal calling out to them. Once they arrive, they discover a small town that’s been mostly abandoned, corpses that contain bizarre anatomy and machinery, and eventually a horrible secret deep below; an army is being built from dead flesh and the tools of war. That’s when the cameraman reveals his secret mission, to recruit a mad scientist. It ends about as well as you think.
Look, it’s not big on plot, but I’m used to seeing World War II horror movies (and WWII movies in general) solely from the perspective of the US and Western European allies, so even if Nazi zombie robots in a found footage film is about as fresh as its undead monstrosities, there is still something here I can appreciate. It’s a bleak movie too, exactly the kind of thing I expect to be taking place from the Soviet perspective, though the inspiration is more along the lines of John Carpenter’s The Thing with the flair and budget of Andreas Schnaas.
How gory is this film? Well, expect to see brains, dismembered limbs, corpses in various states of decay, intestines, and so on pretty much constantly. Blood sprays everywhere, so much so that after a while you don’t really notice it. Adding to the level of disgust is the sound of buzzing flies, which reinforces the idea of rot. I have no idea what Dr. Frankenstein’s lab smells like, but I guarantee it’s bad. And the doc’s got himself some sick ideas about how to end the war, so he’s not so all in on Nazi ideology, though his experimentation is pretty much on par with the worst that people like Dr. Josef Mengele or the members of Unit 731 were doing. As unbelievable as it is, it’s still sadly believable.
This is aided by most of the film being practical effects, which look both twisted and fascinating. One of my favorite monsters is a half-man half-airplane engine with a propeller for a face. Others include weird creatures with pincers or blades for hands and even one round robot thing with a boy’s legs. I don’t know how it puts on its shoes, but it did at least have on clean socks.
Ultimately that’s the movie. The problem with Frankenstein’s Army is that it uses monsters and gore for plot, and the found footage isn’t really necessary for most of the run time. It actually starts out well, as if the officer filming is making a propaganda picture, and the format returns for important effect at the end of the film. Between those two points, though, it just didn’t need to be a handheld camera.
Still…there’s a dude with a drill for a nose! That is so bad ass…