Review: Frankenstein's Army / Cert: 18 / Director: Richard Raaphorst / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym / Release Date: September (TBC)
For the last ten years or so, filmmakers and producers have tried to transfer the survival horror video game experience to our cinema and TV screens with mixed results. The Resident Evil films are no match for the game but Silent Hill is close. Well, now all of these people can give up, because Richard Raaphorst has made the best survival horror screen experience so far, coming as close as possible to replicating the experience of playing something like BioShock in the dark.
We pick up towards the end of World War 2 as a Russian reconnaissance unit pushes into Germany with someone with a cine-camera (of course) documenting their progress for some kind of propaganda film. As they head further into the countryside they start to discover evidence of Nazi atrocities but also dead soldiers with altered limbs and features. They head into a village and discover an underground network of tunnels with various freaky automatons stumbling around doing the bidding of one Dr Frankenstein, possibly a descendant of THAT Frankenstein. It turns out that Frankenstein is working for the Nazis and the man with the camera may actually be there for other purposes.
Frankenstein’s Army may be a found footage movie and a fairly unbelievable one at that, considering the quality of the period camera footage we see, but it’s done with such imagination and energy that it overcomes this and is more in line with the films rather than a boring Paranormal Activity clone. Every time you think that you are settling in for a conventional ride, the film throws some other weird freak at you, with wonderfully designed creations reminiscent of Del Toro or Clive Barker. Raaphorst doesn’t skimp on the gore effects either and the full horror of Frankenstein’s surgical experiments is witnessed and those automatons with circular saws for hands get to use those deadly limbs too.
Had this film not been found footage then it’s likely it would not have worked. There is a refreshing lack of CGI but the budget limitations on the practical creature work may have become obvious had the camera lingered in terms of a conventional film. One quibble is that we may never really get to know the stock characters that make up the Russian soldiers. The only character who really comes across is the one behind the camera whose point of view we are subjected to throughout the running time. It hardly matters though when the results are this good and such goofy fun. Frankenstein’s Army is the best found footage film for a while and some kind of rabid cult following is definitely in its future.