The premise is that this film is made from found-footage documenting a Soviet battalion uncovering Frankenstein’s army. See, doesn’t that sound like it could be great? Like Roger-Corman-cheese-meets-“The-Blair-Witch-Project”-with-a-touch-of-Nazis kind of great? Don’t you want to go to a midnight screening (as many did at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival) or wait to see it on VOD (while stuffing your face with popcorn in the privacy of your home)? Don’t. There are so many things wrong with this movie. Some may think those things pieced together could become an intriguing creature a la Frankenstein’s monster himself, unfortunately “Frankenstein’s Army” lacks the depth of Wollstonecraft, the 1930s iconography of Whale and Karloff, the humor of “Young Frankenstein” and nostalgia of “Frankenweenie,” leaving a limp and lifeless picture that should be left at peace.
Even the characters’ motives seem tired and explained too much in words rather than actions or emotions. For the cameraman to bring everyone to Frankenstein’s lair, it can’t be just because he’s following orders or is a real SOB, instead his motivation is the now-cliché threat “We’ll kill your relatives” from the Soviet higher-ups and is treated as though it is some revelation that Communist Russia would go to such extremes – this has been referenced a countless number of times for decades (check out “Comrade X” starring Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr). Even the squabble between the Polish and Russian squadron members over seniority within the ranks feels like the actors are merely reading lines as the screenwriters were thinking, “See, look, Polish and Russian soldiers didn’t get along. We’re commenting on national identity issues in WWII army life.” If you want great Communist satire and/or commentary (though you wouldn’t particularly if you wanted to see this film, which shows exactly how convoluted the “plot” is), rent “Children of the Revolution” and “Goodbye Lenin!”
The whole thing is made all the more farcical when we are finally properly introduced to the film’s Dr. Frankenstein, again by the soldiers stumbling in. His workspace includes a painting of his illustrious grandfather and a woman’s head sewed to a teddy bear’s body that the credits reveal to be that of Frankenstein’s mother. Frankenstein goes on to regale us with his perverse experiments, sounding like a mash-up of Wikipedia entries on various early 20th-century European serial killers – experimenting on animals and some pedestrian Freudian psychology. Although, it is never fully explained why his monsters look mostly like demented Tin Man/Jason Voorhees hybrids, but that’s where the “found footage” comes in handy as an excuse. This combined with the vague anti-Stalinist sentiments makes the whole film feel like a 12 year-old boy falling asleep during history and psychology class and later trying to make up for it in filmmaking and “arts and crafts.” The gore was laughable and the script was blood curdling, shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Without going into too much more detail, suffice it to say that the film was a disappointment to a horror geek who stumbled in for what looked like it could have been a nice, bloody midnight treat. [D]
"Frankenstein's Army" screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.