You’ve seen found footage horror and Nazi zombies before, but Frankenstein’s Army mashes them together in a way that breathes new life into tired genre conventions. It’s based around the wonderfully absurd idea that Victor Frankenstein’s grandson (Karel Roden) was hard at work during WWII crafting biological/mechanical monstrosities for Hitler. A squad of Soviet soldiers stumble upon these abominations while on patrol, and soon find themselves deep in a German bunker besieged by a half-human, half-machine army of misbegotten medical experiments.
In terms of plot it really is that straightforward; there are a few twists and turns but nothing to trouble the cranium too much. That’s not to say Frankenstein’s Army is dumb – it just plays to its strengths. The fun is in the carnage and the sheer originality of the creatures: each zombot is distinctly different and wildly inventive, with drills for faces, propellers instead of heads and hands replaced with hooks. It’s like a mix of the cantina scene in Star Wars and the freakshow madness of Basket Case 2 (with some added Bad Taste-style gore).
This is the debut feature from director Richard Raaphorst and his background as a conceptual artist working on the films of Stuart Gordon (Dagon/Re-Animator) and Brain Yuzna (Faust/Beyond Re-Animator/Rottweiler) has paid off. He displays a fantastic grasp of the notion that visual creativity can provide great entertainment value; every penny of the small budget is visible on screen, with the vast majority spent on the wonderful special effects. To match the World War II setting the cine-camera footage is crackly and jerky, reminiscent of old Pathé newsreels rather than the digitally-captured found footage beloved of Paranormal Activity and its subsequent rip-offs.
Despite the energy and obvious knowing winks Raaphorst throws at the audience, a film like Frankenstein’s Army obviously won’t appeal to everyone – if you squirm at the thought of DIY brain surgery, piles of charred nuns and spilt entrails, you should steer clear. However it should go down a storm as part of the late night Night Moves strand at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.