Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Russia. World War II. A group of Russian soldiers respond to a distress call near a small, abandoned church. Taking their (surprisingly high-tech) video-camera along, the small squad head into the church expecting enemy resistance, but find a bizarre experimental laboratory with a strange woman strapped to wires and pistons.

The group quickly realize something seriously odd is happening in the small, abandoned town, and when they stumble into a German doctor of dubious intent he leads them into a living hell that is almost as unimaginable as it is ridiculous.

For those who haven’t seen the supporting material for Frankenstein’s Army, the main sell of this B movie-esque horror are the creations of “Viktor” (Karel Roden), which are – quite frankly – really fucking cool.

Frankenstein’s Army features some fantastically constructed abominations, which meld human corpses (and living people) with machinery. One has a giant serrated clamp for a face, one has stilts and swords-for-hands and another is basically a giant walking propeller. These steampunk cyborg beasts are wonderfully inventive and should have made the movie an instant cult classic…

Should have. But didn’t.

What could’ve been an utterly insane, explosive thrill-ride (Frankenstein’s Barmy?) tragically turned out to be a confusing, oddly boring found-footage mess with some superb creature-creations and some utterly forgettable characters.

Frankenstein’s Army is ridiculous, but mostly in a bad way. Having boldly shown its best and most-insane creations in its numerous marketing materials, the expectation of ridiculousness was high… but then I watched the film. The major problem is the Russian’s special video-camera, which manages to film some spectacular found-footage material in colour, with sound, on about fifteen reels of film. This in itself is so utterly f*cking ridiculous it’ll leave most audiences baffled… which leads me to the found footage element.

Why found / first-person footage? Why oh why oh why? In some films it works very well, but in Frankenstein’s Army it genuinely is pointless. The footage isn’t grainy or old or even found and – in fact – it’s brilliantly shot / directly by Richard Raaphorst throughout. This head-scratching decision will leave many viewers cold, as the ‘throw the camera around’ action scenes are utterly confusing and you never get a decent view of the ‘creatures’, which is a crying shame.

And if it is ‘found footage’ then why do all the Russians SPEAK ENGLISH?!


Unfortunately the found / first-person footage needlessness is not the only flaw in Frankenstein’s Army and this blundering mess of a movie fails on two more levels; plotting and characterisation.

Plot-wise Frankenstein’s Army begins slowly, gets immediately exciting… then slows down to a crawl, eventually collapsing in a boring heap whereby all the pretty, bloody, inventive ‘creatures’ can’t distract you from the utter lack of narrative interest.

Character-wise Frankenstein’s Army is utterly bereft of anything resembling character too. Saying that, there is a possibility that Frankenstein’s Army features some superb characterisations, but I was unfortunately distracted throughout by the AWFUL ACCENTS. Featuring some non-Russian actors, Frankenstein’s Army ends up having a bizarre collection of accents, including one poor American actor whose Russian accent is as convincing as Dick Van Dyke’s cocker-knee chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. Hilariously awful stuff.

Overall Frankenstein’s Army is hugely underwhelming. Having seen the bonkers red band trailer I was expecting a furious, blood-soaked ride into insanity. What I received was a confused, lacklustre, blood-soaked bumble into disappointment. Worth watching for the amazing steampunk cyborg creations… but otherwise there is little else to recommend.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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