The hyperrealism put behind the puppet horror film Abruptio is perhaps why this movie is called that. Here, we’re looking at a very relatable story—Les Hackel (James Marsters) has nowhere to go in life. He’s in a dead-end job, lives with his parents and recently got dumped by his girlfriend. What takes him out of the everyday humdrum is that he finds a bomb implanted in his neck, and he’s not the only one.
Pretty soon, he’s tasked to carry out tasks if he wants to keep his head, and the jobs differ from what the Suicide Squad does. This film exists somewhere between what defines a thriller and a character study. The look on the human condition is what makes this work become an instant cult-classic!
Strangely, I don’t remember Jim Hensen’s Fraggle Rock as being heavy with its varied messages about saving the environment when compared to Back to the Rock. It’s a joy to come return to this world as there’s a lot of updates to make it reverent to today’s generation of children growing up with streaming services instead of television.
I absolutely loved the reintroduction with Rock On. These short form pieces focused on the tunes and the updates with talents like Jason Mraz (who appeared on Sesame Street), Neil Patrick Harris and Alanis Morissette, the remixes are excellent, and truly nostalgic. The music from the rebooted series is noticeably different; they’re more modern pop than the bubblegum of the past.
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.”
Nickelodeon’s The Barbarian and The Troll is a love letter to the antics from the original Muppet Show, and tosses in some of Matt Groening’s style from Futurama for good measure. Technically, he’s been producing Disenchantment, which I simply lost interest on over time. This puppet version has a better appeal since it doesn’t feature as much violence.
Brendar(voiced bySpencer Grammar) is very much like a Leela figure, fiercely independent and sassy, and gets her title not by choice. Her side-kick, Evan (series creator Drew Massey) dislikes trying to extol tolls from the bridge he’s supposed to manage.His singing chops are great (the tunes are catchy) and I’d have to say he is more of a bard than a mad troll. However, the people aren’t exactly praising him for his skill. He’s every much a level one D&D character with a charisma value of about five.
True to the fantasy formula, they form an adventuring party, and Brendartakes the lead. I’d guess she’s at least a level six warrior (with a magical talking axe) on a quest to rescue her brother, Kendar. A demon by the name of Alvin kidnapped him.
There’s Skelly (Allan Trautman), the general of a skeleton patrol who is causing problems in the world of Gothmoria. Their antics are crazier than those from the movie, Army of Darkness, and I suspect that’s where this puppetry team is drawing their inspiration from. Their moments are laugh-out-loud funny, especially the third episode where Skelly has lost his body, and his minions have to figure out how to put their leader back together again. Humpty Dumpty never had it this bad!
Buried in this same narrative is the wizard Horus Scrums (also Trautman) plans for this world. There’s a simplicity in the narrative that’s enjoyable. It’s not too crazy like Lord of the Rings.
Production-wise, the visuals switches from wide shots of the puppets animated by wire to close-ups where puppeteers are tucked below the camera line. This technique works very well to make the show come alive in the same level as The Dark Crystal.
But the big selling point is with Evan’s musical numbers. Somehow, they turn into full blown orchestrations (which may get addressed a fourth wall breaking moment one day). Ultimately, it’s the nostalgia which makes this program great viewing for older audiences who grew up on Henson’s many puppet products. Kids won’t necessarily understand the humour, but I was cracking up whenever the skeletons are on screen.They are the reason I love thisshow lots. They tickle my funny bone!
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.