James and I decided to watch a movie and on a whim, we chose “Frankenstein’s Army.” It really wasn’t too much of a whim, I wanted a Vampire movie, and we couldn’t find one, and this one came up.
Over all, I suppose it is a rather well made movie. The whole thing is shot from the perspective of a hand-held camera, but the “Blair Witch shakycam” is reserved for a few short sections of the movie, and the rest is filmed relatively smoothly. The premise is that the film follows a reconnaissance team for the Russian Army as it moves on the offensive against the Third Reich at the end of World War II. These soldiers are rife with Tropes, and the first few situations that are encountered are also. The film gets off to a rather slow start, and my impression of the first third of the movie is that the Russian soldiers are walking to the front lines through territory the Russian Army has already been through.
A strange event marks the ending of the first third of the movie in my mind, and this is the farmstead scene. I won’t ruin it for you, but it was the one set of scenes that didn’t fit with the rest of the movie in any way. While this disconnect wasn’t harmful for the movie, it also wasn’t necessary, other than to establish that these characters are all assholes.
After a short interlude of more walking, the horror part of tonight’s film began. Our troop of “walking dudes” walk past the corpse of a lone soldier. One of the soldiers idly acquires his gun, and another decides to roll him over and rifle his pockets. The corpse is surprisingly well done! For some reason my brain still hasn’t processed yet, the soldier rifling through its pockets seems to make the corpse explode. I am sure that the the explanation is that the purification process made the weird noise and the expulsion of gore, but the eye explodes and makes a gunshot sound. I thought it was gory and strange.
From that point, the movie proceeded to expand my horizons of “weird.” While this a really great thing, it also expanded my horizon of “horror” as well. I love Horror movies in general, and I grew up in the Eighties, the era of the Gorror Movie, and “Frankenstein’s Army” fits well in this genre. However, this was actually a little much for me. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and that can make writing this a little hard, but I think I will give one away…
The first time you meet one of the creatures, it is an odd mixture of androgyny and paratrooper combat boots. Much like a puppet (and very reminiscent of the old PuppetMaster movies) it comes to life and struggles to move around among the soldiers who have formed a loose ring around it. It suddenly attacks one of the soldiers, and he is disemboweled. The creature is killed, though not swiftly, and they see to their fallen comrade. This disemboweling scene stands out from all the others I have ever seen. The intestines are clearly distinguishable, they are a realistic approximation in color, size and differentiation. This attention to anatomy and physiology becomes a hallmark of this movie from that point on.
The monsters would make any Wayne Barlowe fan proud, and they are lavish; They are also a little disturbing, so the movie gets five stars for the creatures, though I found myself wondering where the Good Doctor got some of the truly weird parts he uses. Lobster claws were a reoccurring thing. No, really. I don’t know of any WWII era military vehicle or weapons that would use those, but there must have been a surplus of them.
By the end of the movie, I found myself experiencing something no horror movie has done in a very, very, long time. I was properly horrified.
Though I give the movie high marks for the special effects, and high marks for achieving horror in a horror movie veteran, I just didn’t Like the movie. When I figure out why, I’ll let you know.