If you’re making a horror film today, you owe it to yourself to be as ambitious with your story concepts as you can. There’s a glut of horror films on the marketplace and fans can be pretty demanding so piling on the wild concepts and story hooks is a good way to assure you stand apart from the pack.
This was definitely the mandate behind Army Of Frankensteins, a sci-fi/horror mashup that throws in everything plus the kitchen sink. Its protagonist is Alan (Jordan Farriss), a young man whose problems at home and with his girlfriend become minor concerns when he’s kidnapped by Dr. Finski (John Ferguson) and his little kid assistant Igor (Christian Bellgardt). He winds up involuntarily donating an eye to a Frankenstein-style experiment, only for it to go wrong and accidentally warp them all back in time.
The trio finds themselves in the Civil War, where the army of Frankensteins that have been created become paws in the battle between the North and the South as Alan tries to figure out how to get back to his own time. If that’s not enough, the Lincoln assassination is also thrown into the mix as well as a romantic triangle involving Alan, freed slave Virginia (Raychelle McDonald) and Northern soldier Solomon (Rett Terrell).
As the above synopsis should indicate, Army Of Frankenstein isn’t lacking for plot hooks. Unfortunately, the filmmakers never figure out how to thread the needle and line up all these concepts in a coherent, satisfying manner. The script relies almost entirely on contrivance, resulting in a series of frustrating scenes where characters make dumb choices to fulfill the plot’s contortions. The tone also veers all over the map, lurching from slapstick-y splatter to mawkish romance to heartfelt but muddled attempts to use the Frankenstein monsters as a metaphor for slavery.
The lack of balance in the Army Of Frankensteins script spills over to the filmmaking. Director Ryan Bellgardt and his collaborators give the film a slick, Cinemascope look and there are some well-done practical makeup effects. Unfortunately, they also have a lot of CGI of variable quality (there’s a lot distractingly obvious greenscreen work in the final half-hour). One of the most inexplicable slipups: amidst all the attention to effects, the filmmakers let the makeup crew choose some of the worst, least convincing facial hair for several characters that you’ll see in a modern film.
On a more important level, the film also suffers from a mediocre overall level of acting: McDonald fares the best but most everyone else overacts in that earnest but amateurish community theater style. Farriss tries his best but is undone by the script’s tonal inconsistency and the fact that its attempts to make him constantly be a “funny” character, reducing him to constant bumbling and fumbling instead of allowing him to grow into a hero.
In short, Army Of Frankensteins shows a likeable amount of the ambition that a modern genre pic needs but the results also show that they need to work on their screenwriting and sense of balance.
Blu-Ray Notes: This film just made its blu-ray debut via Scream Factory. The transfer does well by the digital cinematography, giving it plenty of color and detail. Both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes are included: the 5.1 was used for this review and it’s a basic but solid effort that gets the job done. The only extra included is a trailer.