Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Frankenstein's Army" (2013) d/ Richard Raaphorst

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Just a glance at the admittedly very tits poster art for this indie riff on the Frankenstein mythos, the pioneer full-length feature from director Richard Raaphorst, and my mind was delirious with the potential for chaotic, full-on gore-goods as sadistically served up by shambling swastika-emblazoned freaks-of-nature, negatively charged for battle in the hidden laboratory of a mad genius under oath to the axis war machine (even the most knee-jerk liberal could appreciate the novelty of such a premise, even if only to themselves, I'd wager). After all, this is/was the guy responsible for the incredible trailer for Woensdag Gehaktdag aka/ Worst Case Scenario(2008), that utilizes a few of the memorable creature designs one will encounter in this film. So, does Army live up to my nosebleed-inducing expectations in the end? Pull up ein sessel, throw some Wagner on your stereo, and read on to find out...Mach schnell!
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"Nobody squashes an accordion like I do! You heah me?? No-freakin'-buddy!"
As a small recon unit of Russkie grunts slip into East Germany's countryside (much like they slip in and out of accent) towards a final Allied victory near the end of World War II, with a soldier named Sergei (Joshua Sasse) given the undaunted task of documenting their historic march on camera for the greater glory of Mother Russia, all made possible by the handy hi-def video camera with integrated microphone-provided sync sound that they'd been developing since the Tsarist Revolution of 1917 or so (Nadia Comaneci couldn't make this kind of stretch in her disco-era prime, just sayin'...), at least until they receive a distress signal from some of their comrades and follow it up...What's the worst that could happen? It's not like they're gonna stumble across a top secret nazi laboratory fulla mechanized zombie soldiers or anything. Right?

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"Whattaya mean I looked different in my profile picture..."
Eventually, the soldiers start encountering some odd-looking sieg heilers along the way, that look to be a mash up of mechanical parts and enemy troops, and when they infiltrate a large warehouse nearby, they discover the horrible truth: Viktor Frankenstein (Karel Roden) himself is under the employment of the Reich, commissioned by the Fuhrer to resurrect his dead soldiers and rescue the Fatherland from the imminent jaws of defeat. That Adolf 's new shock troops are corpses haphazardly stitched together and equipped with knife-fingers, drill-faces, Stuka propeller-heads, and various other diabolical weapons of gore-spurting destruction, is, of course, an added bonus for Germany. Frankenstein's lurid experiments don't even stop there, folks, as he proudly shows off a 'half nazi / half communist' brain he's been tinkering on. What the fuck's next? Dr.Jekyll's Trompeter-reiten (Trumpet Riders) ??

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""Make a small tin box", you said. "Shop class is easy", you said..."
Raaphorst himself designed the unique steampunk-esque "zombots" on display, and each new mad creation is more impressive and intricately insane than the last, and the film's splatter-flow is reminiscent of Brian Yuzna on a Re-Animator-y tear through a haunted house ride at a state fair, ironically enough, since Raaphorst cut his teeth as a conceptual artist for Yuzna and Stuart Gordon on films like Dagon (2001) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). Overall, it's a pretty good time to be had, despite momentary lapses in CG and an overworked Deodato-style "found footage" framework that's more annoying than anything, by now. A straightforward approach (sans that shaky hand-held camerawork that just gives my bitter, middle-aged ass a bacon double cheeseburger of a headache...I thought "Whopper" would have been too obvious there, don't you?) would have netted this a three spot (had they'd rolled with the original 'Worst Case Scenario' idea, it would have been four), but an impressive debut just the same, from a director whose name we'll be hearing a lot more from in the future, I predict. On the scale, Army stitches together and shocks a pair of Wops 'fulla voltage. Give it a look.

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"If I can just remoof zis baseball uuund ze funny bone, my zister vill stop calling me 'Butterfingers'!"
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