Our own Phil Nobile Jr. reviewed Richard Raaphorst’s Frankenstein’s Army just last month. Here’s how his review opens:
You might be hearing about some glaring historical and technical inaccuracies in the new found-footage horror film Frankenstein’s Army. Depending on how literal-minded you are, these plausibility potholes might impede your ability to enjoy the film on its own terms.
I’d read Phil’s writeup before a Blu-ray review copy of Frankenstein’s Army showed up on my doorstep, but I opted not to heed his warning, largely because-- when it comes to the horror, fantasy, or sci-fi genres-- I’m usually not the type of viewer that gets caught up on “plausibility plotholes”. If I feel that overlooking a few glaring anachronisms will be rewarded with a compelling narrative or an entertaining spectacle, I’ll suspend my disbelief all day. In other words, I don’t consider myself excessively “literal-minded”.
Maybe I’ve been wrong in that assessment, though. Almost immediately, Frankenstein’s Army tested my resolve in the suspension-of-disbelief department, and thirty minutes or so later I realized that the film had broken me completely: the unconvincing creature effects, though creatively designed, appear cheap and entirely un-frightening; the Russian soldiers (who serve as the film’s main protagonists) inexplicably deliver almost all of their dialogue in accented English; the fact that the film asks you to believe that a camera operated by a WWII-era soldier could capture crystal-clear video and perfectly-synched audio (and that it calls attention to this disparity twenty minutes or so into the film, virtually ensuring that any suspension of disbelief being maintained by the audience would be shattered all over again)… it was all far, far too much for me. My brain loudly sizzled while watching this film.
In case it matters, here’s the setup: as WWII draws to a close, we meet a ragtag squad of Russian soldiers schlepping their way through some Germanic backwater. Soon enough, they come across a village that’s been brutally attacked and burned by someone…or something. Traveling on, they discover a dilapidated castle/estate/relatively cheap shooting location where sinister experiments are afoot: the rooms and tunnels inside this complex are overrun with the ferociously violent and wholly unconvincing man/machine/latex hybrids being created by a descendant of Victor Frankenstein.
Honestly, it feels like a chore to go on. It’s obvious that Raaphorst and company were really swinging for the fences on this one, and who wants to be the guy that shits all over an artist’s willingness to go for broke? It’s apparent that everyone involved understood what kind of film they were making, just as viewers must realize what they’re getting into by agreeing to watch a WWII-era found-footage horror film wherein Victor Frankenstein’s grandson and his abominable creations do battle with a group of Russian liberators. But our man Phil was right: this is one of those films where you’re totally onboard with what the filmmakers and cast were trying to do (and with a 75% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems safe to say that I’m in the minority on that front), or you’re not.
For me, Frankenstein’s Army offered up about fifteen too many “plausibility plotholes”, anachronisms, or half-baked SFX for me to give it a pass. I wanted to enjoy this film for the pulpy, balls-out weirdness it was offering. I respect the gumption that went into making it, and understand how some might appreciate it far more than I did. But in the end, Frankenstein’s Army taught me that my bullshit threshold is far lower than it was the last time I checked in on it, and as a result almost nothing about the film worked for me. It’s basically the same way that I feel about Family Guy (side note: I have discovered that Family Guy is far more tolerable while under the influence, and it’s possible that Frankenstein’s Army may “work” in the same fashion; unfortunately, I was stone sober during my viewing of the film).
The Blu-ray is as close to bare-bones as these things get: there’s a “Making-Of” (31 minutes long and pretty typical as far as those things go), a trailer, and something the Blu-ray case calls “Creature Spots”. There’s half a dozen or so of these “Creature Spots”, the longest of which runs at 16 seconds in length (shortest runs at 13 seconds, because sometimes you just wanna get in, get your “Creature Spot” fix, and get back to whatever you were doing without signing your whole day away). The audio’s solid and sounded just fine coming through my surround-sound system, while the video…well, it’s Blu-ray quality, to be sure, but I can’t help but imagine that what this release really needed was a really shitty VHS transfer.