With Frankenstein’s Army being released in the US on Blu-ray & DVD this week, director Richard Raaphorst is the subject of our latest Q&A session. Not only did he tell us about his work on Frankenstein’s Army and upcoming projects, but he also shared two early photos of his industrial monster creations:
You’ve been working on the story behind Frankenstein’s Army for a number of years now, but before that, we saw Nazi zombies from you in the Worst Case Scenario short. How did Frankenstein’s Army evolve from that original idea?
Richard Raaphorst: I didn’t want FA to be WCS Part 2. I wanted it to be its own dark world, but I had a very hard time getting the monsters from WCS out of my head. I worked with Oleg Bondarenko, one of my favorite artists, who developed some sketched of monsters. We kicked around some monster ideas and then I took over.
Was the plan always to go with a found footage-style movie? How did the movie change from your original concepts?
Richard Raaphorst: I wanted people watching the movie to feel completely immersed in it… like they were one of the characters getting chased around by my monsters. Found footage has a number of fans and a number of critics, but to me, it was the best way to put the audience in the film and create the mood I was going for. It adds tension and feels gritty.
I think horror fans are really going to love the different monsters that Frankenstein has created. They’re all so unique and they look great on screen. Can you tell us a little about the development process? What is your favorite monster and why?
Richard Raaphorst: I’ve been developing monsters since I was a teenager. My father worked for an oil company and he took me to work with him once. I was so impressed by the size of the equipment, the sounds, the smells, etc. I used to dress up as all kinds of industrial monsters. They were a blend of human and machine. I called them transers. I attached a few photos from the early days. I developed these myself, so please forgive the poor quality. I really like Propellerhead because his combination of machine and man is so over the top, that it’s almost, just almost impossible to visualize. That’s the reason I put him in the movie. When I made him, I knew I was getting crazy and it all worked out.
Can you tell us about the monster concepts that we didn’t get to see? What was a creature concept that you loved, but were not able to include in the movie?
Richard Raaphorst: Everything I wanted to add is already in the movie. At a certain point, we came up with even more extra zombots, like the hidden USA army bot in the background, the teddy bear, and some medics in the factory scene. I wish I could reveal something new for you, but they all ended up in the movie.
Karel Roden did a fantastic job as Viktor. Was he your first choice for the character? Can you tell us about your time on set with him?
Richard Raaphorst: As soon as I met Karel, I knew he was the perfect person to play Victor. As a director, it is hard to pick an actor to play the character you have envisioned in your mind because nobody will ever be 100% the character you envision. Actors bring their own experience and personality tot he role. But when I met Karel, I knew he would do a good job bringing the Victor in my head to life.
You’re working with a found footage style, these incredible monsters, and a lot of action. What was the most challenging part of filming Frankenstein’s Army and what was most memorable moment on set?
Richard Raaphorst: Because I prefer to use CGI very sparingly, pulling off the action scenes and the gore were done using physical effects. Like the found footage, I felt like this kept the audience in the movie by maintaining a gritty feeling, not the slick, over-produced look that CGI can have. I’m not totally against it and I did use some of it for the film, but I used it sparingly, only adding a flash or a bang here and there. Because of the physical effects, we had to do long, complicated takes with lots of actors and crew members doing different things to create all the effects. Getting this done while keeping the crew and equipment out of the frame was very challenging.
The most memorable moment on set was finding the right location. When I saw the location, I knew we could make this movie. Before that, I wasn’t really sure.
Are you interested in returning for a sequel? Do you know where you’d like to see the story go next? Can you give our readers a tease of what we can expect?
Richard Raaphorst: I’d love to see what happens to Victor next, but I also want to create a whole new world and a whole new set of characters. I’m working on a couple projects right now… one involving a contagious disease and the other based on a Dutch fairy tale about misbehaving children buried alive. I’m not getting away from the horror genre any time soon. It allows me to stretch the limits of my imagination and be as creative as I want to be.
I think fans of horror movies from the 70’s/80’s will especially enjoy the retro feel of this movie. What are some of the horror movies from that period that you enjoy and that may have served as an inspiration for Frankenstein’s Army?
Richard Raaphorst: One of the films that really inspired me was The Thing from John Carpenter. My dream is to amaze the audience the same way that movie amazed me.
“Hot off the heels of it’s critically acclaimed theatrical release, Richard Raaphorst’s highly buzzed-about debut film, FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY comes to Blu-ray and DVD from MPI/Dark Sky Films on September 10, 2013.
In the dying days of World War II, a battalion of Russian soldiers find themselves lost in enemy territory in eastern Germany. One soldier (Alexander Mercury, The Golden Compass) has been ordered to make a propaganda film as the squadron makes its way across the wintry landscape, and what follows is a thrilling mix of found-footage shocks and classic horror. Stumbling upon a village decimated by an unseen terror, the Russians are lured into the secret lab of deranged scientist Viktor (Hellboy’s Karel Roden). Viktor has unearthed the journals of the legendary Dr. Victor Frankenstein and has used them to assemble an army of supersoldiers stitched together from the body parts of fallen Germans – a desperate Hitler’s last ghastly ploy to escape defeat.
Leaderless and faced with dissension in their dwindling ranks, the Russians must find the courage to face down this fearsome new brigade of flesh-and-metal “zombots” – or die trying. A nightmarish fantasy thrill ride unlike any other, Richard Raaphorst’s FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, which was filmed at abandoned World War II sites in Prague and throughout Europe, is a delirious plunge into the darkest depths of insanity.”