FrightFest 2013: You’re Next, Hatchet 3, VHS 2 & More Reviewed

Frankenstein’s Army

Frankenstein's Army

[rating: 3]

Frankenstein’s Army certainly gets points for originality; this found footage flick stations itself in the twilight days of World War II, as a squadron of Russian soldiers end up lost in East Germany, where they stumble upon a secret nazi laboratory, discovering unthinkably disfigured undead soldiers, brought to life by the legacy of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

The film’s greatest virtue is without question the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it cling too eagerly to its stylistic gimmick, which is really just a means to an end (accompanied by a copper-green tinge, giving it that dated look).

In its kitschiness, it’s not bound to any particular notion of realism, hence the cheesy B-movie accents are not merely acceptable, but downright encouraged. Though it’s sullied by fairly standard genre tropes – everyone telling the cameraman to put the camera down, hopeless folks recording last testaments, and predictable jump scares – things get more interesting once director Richard Raaphorst gets to let loose Frankenstein’s gloriously demented experiments (including one poor soul who is electroshocked into performing a Nazi salute).

Though our ability to savour all of the action is sullied by the murky cinematography, poor lighting, shaky camerawork and cheap CGI bullet effects, the creature designs are superb, quite aptly reminding one of the Wolfenstein video game series, which given the movie’s repetitive narrative schematic of running through tunnels while shooting, seems somewhat apt.

There are some unexpectedly clever political gags, also; in one instance, a Nazi is shot in the head, and the very clear insinuating is that he has no brains inside his skull, while a grisly brain surgery sequence is nothing if not ludicrously, horrifically imaginative. It all heads towards a chaotically dark climax, one which to an extent defies the expectation of a film like this.

This thinly-premised WW2-set found footage flick just about succeeds by way of its excellent creature designs and unexpectedly clever political gags. Its repetitious nature suggests that it would, however, work better as a video game.


Hammer of the Gods

Hammer Of The Gods

[rating: 1.5]

Essentially a patchwork of many significantly better films – including 300, The Lord of the Rings and Centurion – Hammer of the Gods sees TV director Farren Blackburn (Doctor Who, Luther) tackling a Viking action flick, which has the dying King Bagsecg sending his son Steinar to locate the brutal warlord, Hakan the Ferocious, to help cut the Saxons down to size.

Though it clearly has some money behind it – the cinematography crackles on occasion, and the camp sets are extensive – it’s all sullied by poor fight scene coverage and editing, denying us from savouring all of that voluminous gore (and a misplaced dubstep score certainly doesn’t help).

Plotted with the mindfulness of a particularly undemanding video game, it’s strictly follow the breadcrumbs fetch quests, supported by risible, portentous dialogues and characters who make only the most idiotic choice possible. If it proves slightly more diverting with an oddball Apocalypse Now-inspired finale, Blackburn disappoints by pulling the 300 trick of cutting to the credits when another action scene is just about to begin.

This dull Viking actioner lifts liberally from films as diverse as 300 and Apocalypse Now yet suffers from awful dialogue and choppily edited action sequences. Though well-lensed, this is barely one step above a middling Game of Thrones fan-film, albeit executed with little of the passion that this would imply.