Some praise must be given to Army of Frankensteins; I’m not talking about the story itself, because it’s pretty damn awful, but the fact that the production probably saved a desperate costume shop from going under by purchasing bulk quantities of joke mustaches and Frankenstein’s monster attire. And some lucky Redditor with amateur CGI skills might have gotten some monetary compensation for the special effects on display, so community outreach can also be something that Army of Frankensteins has achieved.
Other than that, though, the results of Ryan Bellgardt’s ill-titled film are grim, the kind of movie that most people wouldn’t wish upon their enemies. Army of Frankensteins is best served up with a round of beers and then shots of liquor among friends, because one will need to be nice and drunk – the “I don’t remember anything” kind of drunk – to appreciate the annoyingly-long running time and the jokes that continue to fall flat.
Army of Frankensteins is about an army of Frankenstein monsters, as the title almost suggests, except it also blends time travel into the mix. It follows Alan (Jordan Farris) after he’s kidnapped by Dr. Finski (John Ferguson), becomes linked to a monster because of the use of his eye, and then accidentally opens a time warp to the Civil War that also brings with him a number of Frankenstein monsters and Finski’s assistant, a kid named Igor (Christian Bellgardt).
Army of Frankensteins has an interesting premise, and perhaps if Bellgardt had a better script, better actors, and a better editor, the film might have had some promise. Unfortunately, lacking all of those basic elements of moviemaking means the film suffers from even the most rudimentary things, like a plot that makes sense for starters. The time travel aspect is never explained besides some info-dropping about nanobots being used to repair dead tissue that, when energized with lightning at the wrong moment, presents unanticipated consequences. Why our characters and their multiple Frankensteins from different universes (also, presumably, blamed on the “because science” explanation) make it back to the Civil War is just known only to the filmmakers.
Once back in the 19th century, Alan and Igor are forced to fight against Robert E. Walton (Thomas Cunningham) as he tries to create a different monster (Lucas Ross) and assassinate Lincoln (Donald Taylor). Bellgardt seems to genuinely enjoy war reenactments because there’s a legitimate attempt to recreate the battle scenes and setting of that time period. The problem is that none of it looks remotely believable, from the bad greenscreen blocking to the horrible CGI gore. Characters routinely step off of the ground; in a particularly egregious instance, a monster lives another person off the ground by his neck, and when he lets him drop, he’s slowly lowered down.
But one gets the feeling that Army of Frankensteins is meant to be bad. It’s like it wants to be that way, and sometimes, that works for low-budget flicks simply because it has heart. That’s not the case with Bellgardt’s film, however; at an hour and 49 minutes, this is one painful monster shuffle. At shorter length, the unintentional comedy and the forced jokes might have been charming, but when the viewer is subjected to it for an abusively endless time, it becomes an annoying endurance test.
Army of Frankensteins has very little that I can speak highly of, except maybe Rett Terrell – who could be a stand-in for Pornstache on Orange is the New Black if Pablo Schreiber ever gets sick of taking the beating – and Cunningham’s Robert E. Walton, playing the sinister bad guy up in one of the only roles that really warrants such hamfisted ribaldry. There’s also Bellgardt’s empowerment of blacks and their fight for equality in a pre-Emancipation Proclamation America, so good on you Army of Frankensteins.
But besides those few bright spots, this film is not the kind of tripe that Scream Factory usually puts out. The whole thing leaves me kind of confused. For one thing, despite what is clearly a low-budget affair, Army of Frankensteins looks really good on Blu-Ray and sounds great with a 5.1 DTS track which makes me wonder who financed this, and if they were happy with the end result. Also, Scream Factory does pick up lower-budget films to release on Blu-Ray but this has to be one of the worst ones I’ve seen. And with zero special features to boot, I have to give a Frankenstein’s monster’s grunt of disapproval at the whole package. This is definitely a release worthy of skipping, and if you do somehow happen to get possession of it, you’ll want alcohol and a good sense of humor, and most of all, patience.
If what I’ve said still hasn’t deterred you from purchasing this (God help you), you can buy it here.