Army of Frankensteins (2015)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: September 1, 2015)
"Army of Frankensteins" is so exceedingly earnest that one almost feels guilty having to criticize it. Never funny when it tries to be but frequently laughable when it wants to be taken seriously, the film is an overlong, 109-minute hodgepodge of dopey plotting and insipid delivery. Done in by a shoestring budget that isn't able to do justice to the script's ambitious scope, writer-director Ryan Bellgardt inadvertently paints himself into a corner and ends up looking like a far worse filmmaker than he likely is. His time-jumping storyset primarily in 1865 during the Civil War and bookended by a present-day wraparoundcalls for lavish art direction, period-specific costumes, copious makeup work, and top-notch special effects. Lacking all of that, he turns to tacky fake mustaches from Party City and bargain-basement CGI that looks like graphics from a mid-'90s PC video game.
Alan Jones (Jordan Farris) is having a bad week. His landlord, the flirtatious Mrs. Henderson (Laurie Cummings), is threatening eviction if he doesn't pay his three-months-overdue rent. He recently lost his job at the grocery store where girlfriend Ashley (Jami Harris) works, and finds his ex-boss all over her just as he shows up to propose. Worse yet, he has to borrow five bucks from her to pay for milk. When he is abducted by mad scientist Dr. Tanner Finski (John Ferguson) and his helper/adopted son Igor (Christian Bellgardt), Alan becomes the latest subject of the doctor's experiments to reanimate Frankenstein's monster (or, as he is inaccurately called here, Frankenstein). When Alan inadvertently ruptures the multiverse and releases dozens of Frankenstein clones, he and Igor follow them through a portal that sends them smack dab in the middle of the Civil War. Seeking the help of Alan's great-great-great-great grandparents, soldier Solomon Jones (Rett Terrell) and nurse Virginia (Raychelle McDonald), they must destroy the dangerous creatures and repair the dimensional rift.
The tangent-heavy narrative of "Army of Frankensteins" includes all of the above, plus battles to end slavery and an attempt to circumvent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by shooter John Wilkes Booth (this latter stab at revisionist history includes Booth smacking First Lady Mary Todd's backside as she runs screaming from Ford's Theatre, so there's that). The actors, bless them, perform as if they are reading from cue cards they are seeing for the first time. Toss in Frankenstein's monster locking arms and dancing around a campfire and a soldier getting beat with his own decapitated arm, and what we have is an inept, lead-footed slice of ridiculousness that only earns laughter when it's not supposed to. The film succeeds tenfold, however, at prompting audible groans and Liz Lemon-style eyerolls.
The 1080p transfer of "Army of Frankensteins" is certainly passable and occasionally quite pleasing, finding an unmistakable high-def level of detail and clarity in between the softer, muddier, noticeably less resolved computer-generated shots. It will be no secret by now that the visual effects are less than desirable and not even once believable, with fake dust and smoke, CG gore, and blatantly synthetic backgrounds leading the way. Beyond that, however, the digital photography is quite sharp, colors are strong and largely accurate, and black levels avoid most instances of crush. Additionally, banding, compression artifacts, shimmer, and other technical anomalies are kept to a minimum. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio won't be blowing minds, but it is better than one might be expecting from a film with such modest budgetary means. There is a fair amount of action on hand--battle scenes; gunfire; violent confrontations where the monsters rip heads and tear limbs from their victims--and the track does a nice job of filling out the soundfield and using the back speakers. Dialogue is well-recorded and always clear, if mostly kept to the front.
There will be a very specific audience for "Army of Frankensteins," those who delight in bad cinema and watching all the ways said movie can go wrong. It doesn't seem entirely right to pick on this one, if only because it was clearly made for very little money and the overall inexperience of its cast and crew shines through. Everyone appears to be very sincere about the project, so it gets points for that even as it fails time and time again. Credit Scream Factory for supporting such a film and giving it a boost of legitimacy with this Blu-ray release. For a particular kind of viewer ("Rifftrax" and "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fans, take note), "Army of Frankensteins" will be a dream. As for those in search of a genuinely good horror-comedy, one that earns laughs when it is actually striving for them, it's probably wise to keep walking.