McTurk’s masterpiece brings a touch of the European 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.
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.
The trailer for the movie, Suffering of Ninko, is deceptively wonderful. We are presented with what appears to be a comedy about Ninko (Masato Tsujioka), a novice Buddhist monk, whom many a woman wants to cuddle up with. There’s even two male members of his order who show interest, and to see how he struggles to stay celibate is at the heart of this rated R film. Reciting his mantras is easy, but when he is presented with physical challenges, averting his eyes is not. However, there’s more he must face to test his virtue.
The people from Edo-period Japan tends to have a deeper spiritual connection with the world. Whether that’s in the art they produce or their every day life, the supernatural is generally believed to exist everywhere. When rendered to a form either on paper or with a word, there’s a life given to the work. With literature, it gives the narrative a higher meaning. In the full 70minute film, just what this tale means is worth exploring. Is it folklore, a Brothers Grimm type tale or symphonic prose?