Frankenstein's Army is a 2013 Dutch-American-Czech found footage horror film directed by Richard Raaphorst, written by Chris W. Mitchell and Miguel Tejada-Flores, and starring Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse and Robert Gwilym. In the film, Soviet troops invading Germany encounter undead mechanical soldiers created by a mad scientist descended from Victor Frankenstein.
During the final stages of World War II, a Soviet reconnaissance party receives a distress call that would lead them further into Germany. The message seems to repeat without any response to their queries, and at the same time that they begin to receive the message, they lose radio contact with their command. Although the others are dubious about the existence of other Soviet forces in the area, their commander Novikov orders them to investigate. Dmitri, a Soviet propagandist who is filming the mission, interviews the soldiers and documents the proceedings.
As they draw closer to the designated coordinates, Dmitri takes an interest in and films several odd occurrences, such as unexplained dead Nazis, a burnt convent full of massacred nuns, and strange machinery. When the soldiers arrive at their destination, they find an abandoned church where they accidentally activated a 'zombot' - an undead with metal implants. The zombot (named the "Burn Match Man") kills Novikov by drilling his stomach just as it perished from the team. Sergei now takes charge as the new commander, but the hotheaded Vassili challenges his authority, while the others agrees to Sergei.
When a caretaker enters the church, Dmitri interrogates him, but Vassili becomes impatient and tortures the man by cutting his finger for information. The caretaker leads them into a zombot trap which led Ivan to die from a punctured head by a "Razorteeth" and the others to escapes. Overwhelmed, the surviving soldiers flee deeper into the catacombs, along the way they encountering a few German survivors. When Vassili knocks Eva out cold for not saving Ivan, Alexei was later killed when a "Mosquito-Man" snuck behind him and drills the back of his head. the team escapes again from the midst of the carnage ambush, Sergei discovers that Dmitri has deceived them: the distress call was just a ruse by Dmitri, who was also responsible for jamming their signal. Dmitri demands the others join him on his secret mission to capture or kill the Nazi scientist who created the zombots. Furious that they were deceived and led unprepared into this mission, they threaten to kill Dmitri, but he takes command after threatening their families with retribution. As Dmitri leads them deeper into the catacombs and they encounter increasingly bizarre aberrations, they found a chute which goes deeper to the factory. Vassili forced the younger survivor Hans to check if there are any hostiles, this was later jinxed when the innocent child gets chopped up by a "Propeller Head" and the team to fight it. When they finally destroy it, the troops finally mutiny and abandon Dmitri after throwing him (along with the film equipment) down a chute.
Dmitri explores the main laboratory, only to be discovered and knocked unconscious by the zombot converted Ivan. When Dmitri awakes, he is a prisoner of the caretaker, who reveals himself to be Dr. Viktor Frankenstein, a deranged descendant of the original Victor Frankenstein, who went rogue and turned against his Nazi superiors. The insane doctor later gives him a tour and a demonstration on how he created the zombots, they later encountered the now dismembered Vassili, shouting at both of them with profanity which lead the doctor to inject him with morphine. Dmitri attempts to recruit Frankenstein, who seems noncommittal about defection. Instead, he proposes an experiment that he believes will end the war: by fusing together both a Soviet and a Nazi brain from the captured Sergei and a Nazi officer (which Dmitri met during his exploration) into one whole. Dmitri does nothing to save Sergei, who swears his revenge. Frankenstein later betrays and straps Dmitri to move on into experimenting on him, but Soviet aircraft began bombing the laboratory and the last surviving Soviet soldier, Sacha, shoots Frankenstein dead. Sacha takes the doctors head as a sign of victory and the camera from Dmitri and flees without him screaming for mercy, just as the composite being made of Sergei's body comes to life and kills Dmitri.
The "document" later ends with Sacha in a photo standing next to Stalin, indicating that he survived the mission and been promoted to a commanding officer.
- Karel Roden as Viktor Frankenstein
- Alexander Mercury as Dmitri
- Joshua Sasse as Sergei
- Andrei Zayats as Vassili
- Hon Ping Tang as Ivan, "Ivan Zombot"
- Mark Stevenson as Alexei
- Luke Newberry as Sacha
- Robert Gwilym as Novikov
- Cristina Catalina as Eva, "Nurse Zombot"
- Zdenek Barinka as Hans, "Pod Zombot"
- Jan de Lukowicz as Fritz
- Klaus Lucas as Dieter (the dying Nazi officer)
Stories of Frankenstein's monster disturbed director Richard Raaphorst as a child. When he was thinking of ideas for a monster film, he instantly went back to the Frankenstein mythology, which he extended to World War II. Raaphorst said he was drawn the idea of an army of Frankensteins in World War II specifically because the idea was "insane". Raaphorst had worked on a similar film titled Worst Case Scenario but Frankenstein's Army is unrelated to it.
Principal photography began in March 5, 2012 at Karlovy Vary in Czechia. Although the film used CGI, most of the effects were practical; for example, stuntmen were set on fire. The practical effects, inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, necessitated what Raaphorst described as long, complicated single takes. He said it was worth it in the end, though he experienced doubt during shooting when he became ill.
Frankenstein's Army premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam on January 26, 2013. It was released in the United States on July 26, 2013. MPI Media Group and Dark Sky released it on home video on September 10, 2013.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Frankenstein's Army holds an approval rating of 56% of 25 critics, and an average rating of 5.47/10. Metacritic, which assigns a normalized score, rated it 49 out of 100 based on nine reviews.
Scott Foundas of Variety wrote that the film is "short on plot and long on ingeniously gruesome creature designs and practical special effects that hark back to the industrious 1980s schlockfests churned out by the likes of Frank Henenlotter and Stuart Gordon." Foundas also compared the film's "junkyard chic" to the steampunk films of Shinya Tsukamoto. John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film's monsters and gory special effects will appeal to horror fans, but it should have focused more on black humor and satire to appeal to broader midnight movie audiences. Andy Webster of The New York Times described the monsters as steampunk cyborgs and wrote, "Narrative depth may be in short supply, but the energy, invention and humor are bracing."
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club rated it C− and called it "a ludicrous World War II horror flick bogged down by its found-footage gimmick" that only works near the end when the film plays up the "imaginatively grotesque monsters". Jason Jenkins of Dread Central rated it 3 out of 5 stars and called it "a fun, furious, goofy and gory good time" for forgiving horror fans. Lauren Taylor of Bloody Disgusting rated it 1.5 out of 5 stars and said that the visuals and effects did not make up for the lack of a plot and unnecessary "found footage" style. Bill Gibron of PopMatters called it "an amazing steampunk splatter fest" whose visual imagery makes up for its narrative faults.