31 Days of Halloween — Day 5: Frankenstein’s Army (2013) — by Dr. Shock

 

HMP FrankensteinsArmyEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.


Frankenstein’s Army, a sci-fi / horror film directed by Richard Raaphorst, is a wildly imaginative, blood-spattered monster movie. Set during the final days of World War II, this 2013 found footage shockfest follows a small squad of Russian soldiers, under the command of Sgt. Novikov (Robert Gwilym), as they make their final push into Germany.

Tagging along is Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), a filmmaker and loyal Party member who plans to turn the squad’s adventures into a propaganda movie. Soon after crossing into enemy territory, they receive a distress call from another Russian unit that claims to be pinned down by enemy fire.

Hoping to offer assistance, Sgt. Novikov leads his men to the coordinates specified in the message, but instead of a war zone, they find themselves up against a house of horrors concocted by a German scientist named Frankenstein (Karel Roden), who, as a result of his experiments on human subjects, has fashioned an army of monsters that obey his every command.

Frankenstein’s Army gets off to a strong, if somewhat grisly start; along with its clever opening credits sequence, which is designed to look like a Soviet propaganda flick, there are the gruesome discoveries the squad makes as they close in on their destination (including a mound of dead nuns whose bodies have been partially-burned).

As for the film’s cast, everyone does a fine job (especially Andrei Zayats as the out-of-control Vassilli, a soldier who has no qualms about torturing his prisoners), yet the movie’s real strength lies in its creature designs. After wandering into Frankenstein’s lair (which is hidden in the bowels of a church), the soldiers encounter some of the good doctor’s handiwork: half-man / half-machine abominations equipped with a variety of weapons, all of which have been fused to their bodies. From the names alone, you get a sense of what each one’s specialty is; there’s Propellerhead (Tomas Tomas), Razor Teeth (played by both Martin David and Martin Basta), and my personal favorite, Mosquito Man (Klemens Ratijn), who walks around on stilts and has a large, serrated drill attached to his face.

Admittedly, there were times I wished Frankenstein’s Army hadn’t gone the found-footage route; never once did I believe that what I was watching had actually happened. Yet even more frustrating than its lack of believability was the movie’s over reliance on the “shaky-cam,” which, along with being done to death, occasionally prevents us from getting a good look at the monsters. These issues aside, Frankenstein’s Army is an inspired Creature Feature with plenty of gore, and I had a great time watching its brutal insanity play out.

—Dr. Shock


—Dave’s original post for today’s review over on DVD Infatuation

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7 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 5: Frankenstein’s Army (2013) — by Dr. Shock

  1. (Contains spoilers)

    Day 5 – The Faculty (1998)

    After Scream re-ignited the horror genre, there were a slew of imitators. Everyone wanted to cash in on the success and it seemed like an easy formula. You get a cast made up of the hottest current stars found on the popular teenage shows and come up with a simple slasher script. Yet, most of these films aren’t very good and none of them managed to be in Scream’s league for complete quality. With that being said, I believe The Faculty did something that even Scream’s own sequels didn’t do – they managed to successfully replicate Scream’s formula and it feels like the most true sequel to Scream.

    At this point, you might think I’m talking up a tree. How can a movie about alien parasites be more of a Scream sequel than a new pair of killers donning the ghostface mask and going after Sidney and company in the Scream sequels? It’s not a direct sequel though. The Faculty is to sci-fi body snatchers that Scream was to the slasher sub-genre. Everyone in this film were aware of sci-fi movies and just like in Scream, you had one character that was all knowledgeable and was depended on to teach the others the rules of the movie. Instead of the movie geek, Randy, it was the pseudo lesbian, Stokely. Stokely is even name dropping popular sci-fi movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and showing her knowledge by dropping some mad facts about how The Body Snatcher’s author, Jack Finney, had practically stolen the plot from Richard Heinlein and his book, The Puppet Masters. Wipe the dark make-up off of Stokely and slap a penis on her and you have Randy Meeks!

    On the surface of the film, it’s about six very cliche and one dimensional The Breakfast Club-like characters. You have the jock, the stoner, the princess, the geek, the outcast, and the new kid. Yet, as soon as we’re identified with these basic character traits, writer, Kevin Williamson, flips things around by revealing each of them has a different side to them. The stoner that seems to be going nowhere in life is actually wicked smart, he just chooses to use that intelligence in less than legal ways. The jock aspires to be known for his intellect and not be given such a free ride in life. The fun thing is that while these main six teens have those natural traits under the surface, every other character goes through a similar change only after the parasite gets inside of them and gains control. For example, a meek teacher who is unable to properly stand up for herself becomes a woman oozing of sex appeal and very upfront about her feelings. My favorite example of this are a couple of background characters. When we first see them, they’re a fighting couple that looks to be moments away from an all out brawl. Then when the boyfriend gets taken over, he no longer has any rage. His girlfriend is slapping him around, becoming increasingly frustrating that he isn’t reacting. Finally, she gets a parasite of her own and for the first time in the film, the couple becomes a loving and happy couple. It reminds me a little of Shaun of the Dead where it’s worth watching the background characters to notice the differences. There’s also this weird notion where maybe these parasites are actually a good thing. Sure, you lose your control of your own body, but everyone seems so much happier.

    The movie opens up on the right foot by blasting The Offspring’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and I’m instantly taken back to the late 90’s. While the song may have just been chosen because it was a hit current single and the title is a nice pun with the plot of the movie, there’s a lot of unintended nostalgia affiliated with it when you watch it years later. I find that’s a mark of choosing the right song as it works beyond it’s original purpose. The film continues to feel very late 90’s with it’s cast. You have Josh Harnett back when he was on top of the world, singer Usher in a small role (Gotta make sure you have a rapper or R&B singer in all of your late 90’s movies…), a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart, and Robert Patrick doing his best to remind you of his time as the T-1000 in Terminator 2. If you watch The Faculty in 2015, the cast’s recognizability is going to really stand out.

    There’s a lot of nods towards other horror and sci-fi movies. The most obvious is Invasion of the body Snatchers with the general plot. There’s one scene that is a take on an iconic scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing. As I mentioned, there’s times when Patrick will remind you of Terminator 2. Of course the self referential style will remind you of Scream. While this naturally couldn’t have been it’s intention back in 1998, a recent movie, Cooties, feels like a reversal of The Faculty, with the kids being the infected ones while the teachers are trying to survive. In both cases, everyone’s favorite Hobbit, Elijah Wood, is the hero of both films. That poor guy should stay away from schools and dangerous places in general. Stick the Shire, Frodo!

    Overall, The Faculty is a movie that doesn’t receive much love or even attention these days. It’s a shame too because it’s one of the better horror films of the 90’s and should be praised nearly as much as Scream. Perhaps it’s because The Faculty never received a sequel that it didn’t stick in people’s minds? If you’ve seen Scream multiple times, I’d suggest trying something out. Watch Scream again, but instead of watching Scream 2, watch the Faculty next. See if there’s any credence to my belief that The Faculty works as a non-related sequel to Scream better than Scream’s own sequels. Other than everything turning out a little too well and it’s sappy ending, I can’t say I have any real issues with this film. Chances are, if you hate this movie, you likely have an alien parasite inside of you and your opinions can not be trusted.

    I’d give it a 9/10.

    • I think The Faculty has really started to reach cult status. I have always been a fan of the film. Josh Hartnett is sort of my only real problem with it. I thought the rest of the cast, both the kids and especially the adults, were quite good. I also have a big thing for Laura Harris (who was also in Dead Like Me) so this gains big points from me for her role.
      I actually believe John Stewart making fun of himself for his acting in the film has been a double edged sword. It has brought people to the film but has also made people automatically make fun of the movie as a whole and assume it is terrible.
      Good job Sal

  2. I usually don’t comment, but had to for this movie. This is an excellent example of a great low budget horror film that was practically ruined by the found footage conceit. It had so much working in its favor: decent monsters, good characters and even some decent plot twists, but the found footage framing was so unbelievable and distracting that it took me out of almost every scene. They had a unique reason for the “filming” but it was not believable after the midpoint of the film and, as you pointed out, it detracted from the suspense and novelty of the creatures. As it stands 4of10, avoid. If shot as a standard film, this could have been a 7 easily.

    Mr. V

  3. 31 days of Halloween: Day 4
    16. Kids vs Monsters (***) – Your kids may enjoy this. Not much there for adults. FFO Goosebumps, Saturday the 14th
    17. Things (1989) (***) – Canuxsploitation(?). Seriously one of the most horrible movies ever made. Right up there with Manos: The Hands of Fate. The three stars are for the novelty alone. Must be seen to be believed. This one is kind of notorious in Canada.

  4. Day 5…
    Z Nation…season 2…episodes 1-4
    I initaily gave up on Z Nation after the 3rd episode of season 1 when it first aired mostly because of my closed mind at the time it wasn’t The Walking Dead…Anyways my wife and son love the show so I decided revisit the show last week and today I got caught up with the series…I’m glad I gave it a second chance because it’s a really fun show…Being a die hard zombie fan I thought the show at first was trying to be a parody of zombie movies…Being from The Asylum it’s understandable with their track record…But I’ve realized that a zombie show doesn’t have to be doom and gloom the entire time…This show has heart…and yeah it’s cheesy and silly at times but when it counts it’s clever, smart, and pretty damn gory and cool when the “Tiffany” hits the fan…They do wonders with the budget they have…
    Rating…8.5
    Rating

  5. Day 5: The Houses October Built
    Some friends go in search of the most extreme haunted house attraction and find more than they anticipated. This movie is found footage with a really shaky camera. Lots of the footage is from real haunted houses and it has a very Halloweeny feel. It was fun to watch in October but overall it was a little lackluster.

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