Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Just as the sorority house based horror was a requisite part of the early 80s, the last five years seem to have seen more than its fair share of Nazi-zombie orientated movies. After notable appearances in films like the excellent Shockwaves (1977) or Jean Rollin’s crazy Zombie Lake (1981) we had somewhat of a lull followed by a resurgence that has seen more good than bad. We had the superlative Norwegian horror Dead Snow (2009), and the worthy British contender Outpost (2007), although post 2010 we have been on a downward trend with the sub-genre populated by rather uninspired entries such as War Of The Dead (2011).

In Frankenstein’s Army we meet Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), a Russian soldier who is documenting on camera their journey across the snowy landscapes of Europe for eventual use in a propaganda film. It soon becomes apparent that this movie will be shot through Dimitri’s camera for the whole time – a bold move considering the declining originality of the found footage movie coupled with the general public’s growing indifference towards them.

Stumbling across the carnage of what seems to be a massacre of Nuns outside a church, the troops lead by Sergeant Nobikov (Robert Gwilym) decide to venture inside for further inspection. After cranking up the generator they become aware of a body that seems to have been reanimated by the flow of power to the building. It’s no ordinary body though, and appears to have been the subject of some kind of experiment. It’s not long before we find the orchestrator of this insanity – Viktor Frankenstein no less, a direct descendent of the *coughs* historical figure, played here brilliantly by Karel Roden (Hellboy), and the full extent of his horrific experiments come to light in the most dramatic way.

I approached this movie with a degree of cynicism, after all with too many entries into a sub-genre it can quickly outstay its welcome. However, with the expectancy of a by the numbers Nazi zombie film, my sneering pre-judgement was very short lived. After a fairly unexceptional first twenty minutes, this film bursts into life with staggering originality. The cosmopolitan filmmakers (Dutch, Czech and American) have created a gruesome comic book of a movie – in fact I frantically leafed through my notes just to assure myself this wasn’t ripped from the pages of a Dark Horse title.

The look of these insane Nazi spawned creatures is pure steampunk, a genius move as it not only injects freshness into the picture but also makes these creations pretty bloody frightening. The Czechoslovakian location they’ve used fits the bill to perfection, the gore-laden make-up is a joy to behold and the movie is lit and shot with aplomb. The director Richard Raaphorst must be very satisfied with his debut feature, and the knowledge that his early career was spent as a conceptual artist on such fine looking Brian Yuzna productions like Faust (2000), Dagon (2001) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) makes a lot of sense. Anyone with a desire for all things horror must surely pine to experience something original when they sit down to a gore flick, and after my initial concerns I can happily say Frankenstein’s Army delivers in spades… or mechanical body parts.

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