You Can’t Break The Haunted Swordsman at LAAPFF 2020

2 Oct

The Haunted Swordsman (2019) - IMDbBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available to viewers in Southern California (excluding San Diego County) from October 1, 2020 at 12pm PT to October 31, 2020 at 11:59pm PT. Click here to watch the film on Eventive.

If Studio Laika ever feels they’re stuck on what to make next, they should talk to Kevin McTurk and give him the chance to realize The Haunted Swordsman as a full length film. His work may not be mainstream, but the Japanese folklore about the spirit world he’s borrowing from certainly is! His Kickstarter page reveals how the spooky narrative would develop, and his use of Bunraku Puppet Theater must be seen to be believed. It’s nearly photo-realistic, and the puppeteers are hidden from view to move scale figures in alluring detail. The spook factor is something even The Addams Family would approve of.

Laika made a name for themselves with their equally haunting works, Coraline and Kubo & the Two Strings. Their ability to generate box office hits is very hit or miss. Certain groups will love puppet theatre, but for the masses, CGI has sadly tainted the spectrum. McTurk’s previous short won him accolades. The Mill at Calder’s End earned 14 awards and Guillermo del Toro purchased Grimshaw for his traveling museum exhibition At Home With Monsters.


McTurk’s masterpiece brings a touch of the Gothic to tapestry where many a Japanese folktale lie–from a watercolours to washes of grey, they convey a sense of despair going on in the soul of the titular hero. The nuances taken from Lone Wolf and Cub has more to do with an unlikely pairing between the ronin and a decaying head of a demon. With the cinematography, the shots are paying homage to how Kurosawa builds the tension in his films. Not only do we have top-notch talents to provide the voice of the beloved warrior (Jason Scott Lee), his side-kick (James Hong), an Onibaba (Franka Potente) and the black monk (Christopher Lloyd) but also we have Tab Murphy in charge of finishing the scripts. He’s best known for Disney’s Brother Bear and Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey.

Even the sculpts are a wonder. This lone soldier’s feelings are etched in his face so hard, he can’t make any other expression until he can deliver justice. We get a huge part of the hero’s journey compressed into this short, and just how deeper into the rabbit hole he goes is something we will never see. McTurk’s crowdfunding campaign earned him the budget to complete chapter one. As for the other parts of the tale, all we have are the headers to identify this warrior’s remaining tasks and it’s downright dangerous!

5 Stars out of 5

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