It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Frankenstein's Army" is no perfect beast. This horror feature from director Richard Raaphorst and writer Chris Mitchell has all the hallmarks of what I call a "reel" film. By that I mean it's a feature length production demo reel with sets, characters and a story, kind of.
This movie about Russian soldiers battling Nazi-conjured Franken-beasts near the end of World War II is less interesting as a self-contained work than as a promise of things to come. It's a bravura if deeply silly demonstration of what clever moviemakers can do on meager resources. I wish it satisfied on its own terms, but its energy is engaging, provided you have a strong stomach for gore and are amused by old-fashioned analog monsters made of latex, rags, and diving helmets gutting Russian infantrymen as they shriek, "AieeeEEEEEEEE!"
You don't need to know much about the individual soldiers except that they conform to war-movie types: the young and decent and perpetually terrified newbies; the caring but beleaguered commander; the psycho who seems to want to rape and kill everyone and everything he comes across; the mostly faceless cameraman recording the nightmare and acting as audience surrogate.
That last character proves most important. This is a "found footage" picture, in the style of "The Blair Witch Project", "Cloverfield," "Rec" and the little-seen Vietnam War mockumentary "84 Charlie MoPic." "Frankenstein's Army" reminds me most of the latter, plus monsters. "MoPic" followed a long range patrol through a terrifying mission, and let scenes play for as it took for a reel of 16mm film to run out. In "Frankenstein's Army," as in "MoPic," we're theoretically seeing fragments of the filmed mission in sequential order, with rough splices, abrupt cuts-to-black, and color flares caused when a reel runs out.