31 Days of Halloween — Day 25: Army of Frankensteins (2013) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - ARMY OF FRANKENSTEINS (2013)

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. 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.

Hold onto your seats, because I have absolutely no idea how this review is going to end!

Directed by Ryan Bellgardt (who co-wrote the script), 2013’s Army of Frankensteins (not to be confused with Frankenstein’s Army, also released in 2013) is not a good movie. It just isn’t. The performances are dreadful; the story is laughably complex; and the effects (CGI and otherwise) aren’t the least bit convincing. I might even go so far as to say Army of Frankensteins ranks as one of the worst movies, horror or otherwise, I’ve seen this year.

But there are moments within it that are so hilariously over-the-top — so jaw-droppingly unbelievable — that I can’t get them out of my head. Yes, Army of Frankenstein is a really bad film, but it is also a hell of a lot of fun, and given the chance, I would definitely watch it again.

Alan Jones (Jordan Farris) is in love with his girlfriend Ashley (Jami Harris Shine), and intends to ask her to marry him. His plan to propose to her at the supermarket where she works falls apart, however, when he spots Ashley kissing her boss Eugene (Gary Olinghouse) in the back room.

As if this wasn’t enough to ruin his evening, Alan is soon after kidnapped and taken to the lab of Dr. Tanner Finski (John Ferguson), who, like Dr. Frankenstein before him, is building a man out of spare body parts. To put the finishing touches on his creation, Dr. Finski, with the help of his pre-teen assistant Igor (Christian Bellgardty), removes Alan’s right eye and implants it in the creature’s head.

Something goes very wrong, however, when the monster (played by Eric Gesecus) is finally brought to life. An overload in the doctor’s equipment inadvertently opens a doorway into the multiverse, throwing Alan, Igor, Dr. Finski and his creature 150 years into the past, smack dab in the middle of the American Civil War!

What’s more, this rift created several copies of the monster, 100 to be exact, so that instead of contending with one ultra-powerful behemoth, the North and South find themselves besieged by an entire army of Frankensteins (I know that, technically, it should be Frankenstein’s monster, but in this movie they call the creature “Frankenstein”).

But that’s not all. In fact, the above synopsis barely scratches the surface.

Soon after arriving in 1865, Alan runs into a Union soldier named Solomon Jones (Rett Terrell), who, coincidentally, is his fourth great grandfather. Solomon is in love with Virginia (Raychnelle McDonald), a former slave who now works as a nurse for the Union Army, and as a result of Alan’s unplanned trip to the past, it’s quite possible that Solomon and Virginia won’t hook up, which means Alan might never be born (adding to the problem is the fact that Virginia has developed feelings for Alan).

Wait, there’s more!

During a melee between some Confederate soldiers and the Frankensteins, Igor accidentally drops a syringe containing a serum that can turn any living creature into a horrible monster. The syringe is retrieved by Lt. Swanson (Lucas Ross), who delivers it to his sadistic captain, Robert E. Walton, played by Thomas Cunningham (the first time we see him, Captain Walton is sitting in his tent petting a cat, looking a lot like Blofeld from the James Bond series).

After testing the serum on his cat (turning it into a bloodthirsty humanoid beast), Capt. Walton orders Lt. Swanson to inject himself with the serum, and within a few moments Lt. Swanson is a hulking, bad-tempered giant (portrayed by Billy Bean). Now that they have their own monster, Capt. Walton is convinced the Confederacy will win the war, but is one colossus really enough to defeat 100 Frankensteins?

Oh, and on top of everything else, both Abraham Lincoln (Donald Taylor) and John Wilkes Booth (Christoper Robinson) show up in the film’s final act.

So, obviously, Army of Frankensteins covers a lot of ground, and there are still more twists and turns that I haven’t even revealed. As mentioned above, this is one of the film’s biggest problems: It’s far too complex, and I had a hard time keeping track of its many subplots.

And seeing as it is almost 110 minutes in length (way too long for a low-budget movie of this ilk), director Bellgardt could have easily cut at least 25 to 30 minutes without sacrificing anything important. As for the effects, some of the gore is done practically, but there are also plenty of CGI blood spatters (which never look good); and a scene toward the end of the film, set in an alley outside Ford’s Theater, features what may be the worst example of green screen technology I’ve ever experienced (the colors are constantly shifting, and from start to finish the entire set is phony as hell).

What helps Army of Frankensteins rise above its own mediocrity is its plethora of “WTF” moments. There are so many, in fact, that it’s tough to select a favorite, but if I had to choose one, I’d say it’s the touching sequence in which Virginia, cornered by the monster, serenades it with a song she learned while still a slave, a tune so heartfelt that it not only calms the creature’s savage heart, but also convinces it to fight on the side of the Union army! That a scene like this even exists is cool enough, but the fact it takes place hundreds of feet in the air, while Virginia and the monster are riding in a hot-air balloon, raises it to a whole new level of awesome. And this is just one of many outlandish scenes scattered throughout Army of Frankensteins, each as perplexingly brilliant as the last.

And now we come to the hard part: Do I recommend that you check out Army of Frankensteins, or avoid it entirely?

I honestly don’t know.

The movie is really quite awful (IMDb currently ranks it a 2.9 out of 10, and I guarantee there are those among you who, if you see the film, will think that’s a very generous rating), but it’s also an incredible amount of fun, with lines of dialogue so ridiculous that you can’t help but love them (“We’re from the future, and we’re here to kick some Frankenstein ass!”). A few scenes are so bad that they’re unintentionally hilarious (the big twist that occurs during the Ford’s theater sequence had me laughing out loud), yet some might argue this only adds to the film’s overall charm.

Ultimately, I’d say Army of Frankensteins is worth a rental, but only if you’re the kind of person who can overlook a film’s (many) shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is.

And under no circumstances should you buy this movie! I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

As for me, I’m glad I own Army of Frankensteins on Blu-ray, so I can watch this glorious train wreck any time I want!

—Dr. Shock

Dr. Shock’s links:
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2 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 25: Army of Frankensteins (2013) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 25 – Dracula: Prince of Darkness

    Dracula: Prince of Darkness begins with a recap of the ending to Horror of Dracula, Hammer’s first Dracula picture. Although not new footage, this is a welcome treat for a couple of reasons. Although I have seen Horror of Dracula a couple of times, it’s not so engrained in my memory that the ending is so crystal clear to me as it’s been a few years since I’ve last watched it. I know Dracula is killed by Van Helsing, but it gets foggy in terms of how it happened. So I can appreciate the quick refresher, especially since it doesn’t take up much time. The other positive thing to come out of the recap is since it didn’t show any footage from Brides of Dracula, the Van Helsing-based sequel to Horror of Dracula that didn’t actually feature Dracula, it lets the audience know that it’s not required to watch Brides of Dracula. This creates an unique distinction in the Hammer Dracula series. There’s two different timelines to watch the Dracula series. You can either watch just the Dracula based movies starting with Horror of Dracula and continuing one with Prince of Darkness and eventually ending with The Satanic Rites of Dracula or you can watch the Peter Cushing Van Helsing series (Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) The best part is that to my knowledge, unlike other horror series that features multiple timelines, all of these Dracula and Van Helsing movies takes place in the same world meaning even if you choose to skip over Brides of Dracula while watching the Dracula series, Brides of Dracula would have still happened. I kind of love that.

    Due to the fact that Dracula is dead at the start of Dracula: Prince of Darkness, it easily allows the movie to be broken down into two parts. The first half without Dracula and the second half with Dracula. The first half is actually the half I prefer. It’s all about building up the tension and a feeling of coming dread. The audience knows that Dracula will be back, you just don’t know when. The plot of a group of friends, or in this case two brothers and their wives, heading off on vacation and traveling to a strange castle is a classic story. It’s been done a million times before and millions since. Yet, it’s still effective particularly how there seems to be something guiding the group to the castle. After ignoring all of the warnings of staying away from the castle, the couples are still interested to go, allowing for a horse drawn carriage, without anyone driving to show up and to bring them to the castle. Without seeing anyone around, all of their luggage gets brought upstairs and placed in bedrooms. There’s even a nice hot meal on the table waiting for them. There’s even a nice fake-out with a man showing up in the shadows and as the camera rushes into him to reveal his identity, it’s revealed to not be Dracula, but apparently Dracula’s faithful butler, Klove, there to carry on the good name of Dracula, always willing to open the doors of the castles to guests, even long after the death of Dracula. It’s as if this half of the film is less Dracula based and more of a The Old Dark House remake. It’s great.

    The second half kicks off as Klove reveals the inevitable as he stabs Alan to death at night, and performs a Hellraiser-like ritual to mix Alan’s blood with the ashes of Dracula to bring Dracula back to life. Dracula then quickly feasts on Alan’s wife, Helen, transforming her into Dracula’s newest bride. With that, the second half can properly begin and it’s a far more traditional Dracula story. The remaining castle guests, Charles and Diana (An English married couple named Charles and Diana? Sounds vaguely familiar), are joined by Father Sandor (I wonder if he’s named after Sandor from Universal’s Dracula’s Daughter), the replacement for Van Helsing, as they battle Dracula, Klove, and the new vampire Helen. In an interesting touch, despite being absent in Horror of Dracula, Reinfeld popped up as a resident at Father Sandor’s abbey, who becomes re-entranced by Dracula, helping Dracula get into the abbey to continue his attempts at making Diana his bride. The odd thing about Reinfeld in Prince of Darkness is that even though it’s clearly Reinfeld, based on his fondness for flies, he’s actually known as Ludwig.

    Unfortunately, as fantastic as Christopher Lee is in everything, the character of Dracula is a grave disappointment here. Supposedly, Lee hated the script for the film and refused to speak any of his lines. The result is an entirely mute Dracula where the only times he uttered any sort of noise is at the end of the film as he screams while being killed. It’s disappointing considering Lee’s vocals can be such an addition. With that being said, I can see it as a result of Dracula just being brought back to life. Although he’s “Alive” and kicking again, he hasn’t quite recovered enough to speak again. There’s also the disappointment in how Dracula is killed in this film. Since he was already killed by fire in the previous film (That’s Horror of Dracula, not Brides of Dracula, mind you) it’s decided to give him a new means of being killed – running water. On paper, it doesn’t sound good, but it’s worse in execution as it’s such an uneventful death. Dracula isn’t bursting into flames, blood coming out of him, or breaking down into dust, but rather falling into water.

    Overall, this second attempt at a sequel to Horror of Dracula is a mixed film. There’s elements that I loved such as the Old Dark House like plot of the first half and the great soundtrack, but it falls short of being a must watch due to how underwhelming the writing of Dracula was, even though Christopher Lee still put in his full effort. Ideally, if Brides of Dracula convinced Hammer that their Dracula movies should have Dracula in it, Prince of Darkness taught Hammer that their Dracula films should fully showcase a proper Dracula. Dracula: Prince of Darkness certainly has some good things going for it, but considering its director, Terence Fisher, is legitimately responsible for some of the best horror films of the mid century, this film falls a bit short of average.

    Rating: 6.5/10

  2. Day 25: Satan’s Little Helper (2004)

    I’ve passed over this film many times but for some reason I decided to watch it this year and was pleasantly surprised! This is a very low budget film that successfully executes a light Halloween story. Dougie is a 9 year old kid who plays a video game called Satan’s Little Helper. Halloween is coming up and he plans to go trick or treating as Satan’s Little Helper. He innocently befriends a someone in a satan costume who never speaks. Dougie slowly realizes that they’re not playing pretend and satan becomes a threat to his family. There is a lot of comedy that works, a couple of good scares, and a lot of halloween imagery in this film. It drags a little in the middle and at 100 minutes I think it could be tightened up a little but overall it was an enjoyable watch. 6/10

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