Every once in a while, a film comes along that revolutionizes a genre, turning every convention, every trope, on its head, creating something new unto itself. Richard Raaphorst’s 2013 creature feature Frankenstein’s Army is not one of those films. While it may seem like just another forgettable grindhouse flick, however, the movie does offer a refreshing change of pace from the more mainstream horror fair.
Upon a cursory glance, Frankenstein’s Army seems to be another imitator of the found-footage genre, first popularized by The Blair Witch Project. To be perfectly honest, it’s not great in these regards. Or other regards for that matter. The pacing drags in the beginning, none of the characters are likeable or developed, and the plot features some of the most absurd pseudo-science this writer has ever seen. Worse, the only person whose name I remembered after watching this movie was Dr. Frankenstein (for obvious reasons) and he only appears in the third act. Major gripes aside though, this movie excels in one vein: its monsters.
The popular trend in Hollywood horror these days is ghosts, possessions, unseen demons, etc., as shown by popular films such as Insidious, Paranormal Activity and most recently, Oculus. While there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on that kind of fright, variety is the spice of life, and variety is what Frankenstein’s Army has in spades. The monster designs in this movie are wildly original, and even more impressive, abstain from CGI. Every creature in the film (and there are a lot) are a combination of classic Frankenstein-style and circa WWII machinery. Furthermore, each one is totally unique, ranging from a mosquito-esque soldier with a drill for a mouth, to something that can only be described as a Soviet R2-D2. The unique abominations are different than the routine demons we often see, and help draw you further into the movie, if only to marvel at these mechanical monstrosities.
So is Frankenstein’s Army a good movie? You won’t be seeing it released in the Criterion Collection anytime soon, that’s for sure. But anyone who’s down for an old-school, mindless gore-fest or fans of straight monster movies, will certainly get a kick out of it.