Directed by Ryan Bellgardt
Starring Jordan Farris, Christian Bellgardt, John Ferguson and Rett Terrell
UK DVD release September 14th 2015 from High Fliers Films
In the aftermath of a savage beating by a street gang, Alan Jones ends up at the lab of a mad scientist, Dr. Tanner Finski, and his sidekick and all round child genius sidekick Igor. Within the lab Jones discovers that he is the key to an experiment that involves Frankenstein’s monster. After the experiment invariably goes wrong, Finski sends Igor back in time to the American Civil War where an inter dimensional portal has allowed a gang of monsters to converge.
In any new take on classic monsters the question will always remain, what can be done differently? How do we get a modern audience to engage with age old material that has been filmed until there’s no more life left in the material (pun intended). In Ryan Bellgardt’s (director of 2011’s Two Movie Guys’ Intergalactic Holiday Showdown) Army of Frankensteins, the director tries to a bit of everything from setting some of the scenes in modern day America to sending characters back to the past, in a time of war, when the USA was fighting itself. Rather than have one Frankenstein’s Monster, have a whole army. This works well and the make up effects hold up.
Bellgardt pays homage through the film to other genre directors and it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Take for example, the shot of Igor, shot from within a car boot, looking up ala any of Tarantinos films especially Reservoir Dogs. These little touches help the film along, feeling like a nod rather than a blatant rip off.
Another nice touch are the scenes with Frankenstein’s vision, I for one cannot remember the last time I saw a film with Frankenstein’s monster vision, think The Terminator without the digital displays. Also the film had some well made effects on the budget that was given ($65,000). Clearly they aren’t blockbuster quality but they have a certain charm.
The film also tries to take on the discrimination between white and black soldiers with one character decrying that the Frankenstein monsters are merely understood and discriminated against because they look different. Its an odd take on the character but a different and well played out take on the age old monster.
With the film set in the American Civil War, as other films have done recently, they brought in the most famous of Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. It was a nice touch to see how they bring the character into the plot and how they pay it off. I wont spoil anything in this here review but , the question is asked, would you change history if you could? What would happen if you could save someone who dies, how would this affect the rest of history? It’s an interesting question and very entertaining.
As the film closes the end titles appear and they are startling up turn in quality, where a low budget film of this nature may stump up for simple black on white, these titles are an explosion of cartoon almost Sin City style look.
I would applaud Bellgardt on his films ambition and his vision for someone so young, the scope of the film is grand with many locations, some with big sets and epic lighting. It is great fun with nice characters (Igor looks like a steam punk style genius) but this is where the film starts to lose its way a little. As the film becomes more epic in scope we lose the sense of storytelling and it turns into a genre mashup that the effects, cast and direction cant quite cope with. From pantomime style acting and almost joke-like false moustaches, the film does stumble and you feel it almost immediately.