By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Frank & Zed is one of those perfect Halloween styled movies as it gets into the darker aspects for gorehounds to appreciate. The bloodshed is incredible, and despite the adult styled destruction, there’s love for the two characters who get caught up in this massacre. And thankfully, there is more story to tell according to creator Jesse Blanchard of Puppetcore Studios. He’s still writing it and preparing for his next film.
Parts of this graphic novel can be found online, on Instagram, and the talent pool involved behind it are vast! He said, “There’ll be three different stories about Frank. And I’m exploring some other monsters that are in the same universe.”
This filmmaker even offered a finished page for a taste of how this product will look. Those people anxious for this book will be in for a wait, much like how Zed often has to for his daily meal from his monster friend.
But as for this zombie companion came to be, Blanchard said he was once a villager who lived nearby the old castle where the royal family lived. He had a happy life with his wife. But when the Morai threatened the kingdom and were making their rounds, she was taken away. Zed went to try to rescue her, and of course failed. Just how he got reanimated wasn’t revealed, but it’s safe to say this story needs to be told since the creature owes a huge debt of gratitude and stayed with the golem.
Blanchard revealed that he wanted a character that’s different from other zombies. Zed is what he eats. That is, all those squirrel brains he ate had an effect on him. When he gets a taste for the human brain, the affect is even more terrifying!
The reason why this team love making puppet movies because it’s easier to control. It’s not so much about the hurdles of a live production, but it’s also in getting those nuances right, to which this film is riddled with many. And for the ringleader, he said, “I’m gonna make my best version of Lord of the Rings. That’s honestly what I was going for in Frank and Zed.”
Some observers could say Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles and Jim Hensen’s The Dark Crystal was a major influence in this work’s style. Conveniently enough, Jesse did routinely see the former when he was younger, and noted how the idea was was firmly baked into his mind.
“One of the biggest inspirations for the film is how it draws from traditional Romanian folklore. We looked at a lot of the stuff [in pre production]. And there’s the music in the film which is directly inspired by it. The Moroi is a vampire from that region.
In terms of the Brothers Grimm, I was making parts of the fairytale not all nice. There’s some edge to it and it’s scary. In terms of honouring Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is to have the monster, Frank, be real–somebody who does these awful things, and yet somebody that you hopefully still like.
There’s two tales in our film. The story of Frank and Zed was something that came to me. There’s lots of stuff in the ethos that I was definitely pulling from–including having more than one God which was a very direct reference to the Dark Crystal–but a lot of it finding its way out of the story.”
Much of this film is designed to show what a storyteller can do with nothing but puppets. In what’s lovingly presented is a true love for the craft, and the team–puppeteers Jason Ropp And Steve Overton, and sculptor Erin DeBray–is not limited to just them. The film took about eight years to produce, and they hired an additional staff of about 100 other people to help build the sets, create the miniatures and manage the day to day operations of a garage studio production. They have a goal to rent out a proper space so they can all work under one roof for their next film, but as for when that’ll be, no time line has been established.
“There’s a lot of things we can do with puppets,” said Blanchard and he agrees the sky’s the limit for what imagineers can do since the creators don’t have to restrict themselves to specific shapes or forms. That is, we can have a movie with a spider in the leading role, or even a jellyfish.
Within the world of horror cinema, one of the best films is The Thing. Stan Winston and John Carpenter’s imagination went on overdrive because an alien shapeshifter can become anything it wants, and viewers get to see the transformation. This was brought to life with a mix of animatronics and puppetry.
“Chucky, for instance, if you want a scary little doll, you can have a scary little doll, or Gremlins, so that’s one of the things that those puppets can do. You can develop a lot of fun, imaginative ways to kill off a puppet, as our film has done. But I think you can build more different compelling worlds and characters too.”
As for what this universe maker has in mind for the graphic novel and the bloodshed that’ll be featured, that’ll depend on demand. He said the big hurdle is to get Frank and Zed further noticed in this independent movie scene. He hopes more fans can write in to their local art house theatres and outlets to bring this work in. All it requires is spreading the word.