January 15th 2014- Frankenstein’s Army (2013).
I really had high hopes for this one from watching the promo, and it is true that the film has attracted plenty of positive reviews. Having getting hyped up into a frenzy of overexcitement that this one might actually be my’ film of the year’ I found myself feeling slightly let down and disappointed once I had watched it.
My main gripe with Richard Raaphorst’s feature was the choice, (or was it a choice? I am not sure if this was down to aesthetic or budget constraints), to shoot the entire piece in found footage style. The movie follows a group of Russian soldiers who are on a mission to find a doctor who is performing outrageous experiments by meshing people and machines, in the process building his own army (hence the title), and is filmed in a first person POV for most of the running time. I had a few issues with this, but my first one was so serious that it partly ruined my enjoyment of the film, and that was the shaky camerawork. I am one of those people who cannot play first person video games, they make me feel sick and give me vertigo, and therefore watching a film shot in this style has the same effect. Only half an hour into Frankenstein’s Army and I was debating whether to turn it off, as the vomit had already started to rise up and I felt like I had spent my time spinning round and round in circles to make myself dizzy.
Not only was it filmed like a game, it also resembled one when the mid action kicked off, it was like being trapped watching someone else play a strange hybrid of Bioshock and Resident Evil (with a smidgen of Silent Hill plopped in for good measure). However that said the hideous and fascinating steampunk style creature effects kept me watching, and there certainly were some nice set pieces to behold when the camera was not wobbling around all over the place. My other issue with this footage style was that fact that if they were going for authenticity, this was set in World War II, why was it filmed in colour? I am pretty sure they did not have this sort of handheld technology around in those days, and to add to this someone else pointed out to me today they did not have 16mm cameras which could capture sound then either. The makers had put some sort of sepia filter and scratchy editing effects on the print to try and make it look vintage, but it was still an annoyance all the same. I really wish they had just shot this as a normal film it could have been so much better.
For the acting team the only stand out role was Viktor Frankenstein played by Karel Roden, he was fantastic as the maniacal doctor in the short time he was on screen ( I would have loved to have seen more of him), the rest of the cast were fairly forgettable and generic.
On the plus side there were the aforementioned creature effects which were outstanding, I loved the aesthetic and the twisted nature of them, no two being alike (women’s head on what looks like an animated teddy bear’s body, now that’s not something you see every day, neither is a drum with a big swastika on it that has sprouted legs and can work as a surgery assistant). Then there was the gore, which was top notch, especially in some of the surgery scenes, the FX and makeup were a feast, making it even more of a shame it had such shoddy production values. So personally let down but if you like found footage, or are not one of those people who get sick watching shaky camerawork this could be for you. I would love to see a prequel to this maybe, shot in the traditional way, which focuses on the work of Frankenstein, now that really would be something. However as it is because of the flaws I cannot see I will be revisiting this one again in a hurry, at least not without a major dose of travel sickness medication.