Film Review: Abruptio
ABRUPTIO writer-director Evan Marlowe clearly had a vision- a fantastically absurdist vision: A hyperviolent movie entirely enacted by puppets. The result is a film that has been seven years in the making, an insane mix of 70s exploitation and 2000s-era action movie with actors who are lifelike but not quite alive.
Abruptio’s cast of voice actors boasts some pretty legendary horror icons. Robert Englund, Jordan Peele, James Marsters, and Sid Haig -in one of his final horror roles before his passing in 2019. The film also stars Hana Mae Lee (The Babysitter, The Babysitter: Killer Queen) and Christopher McDonald (Thelma & Louise).
After premiering at Santa Monica Film Festival, Abruptio is screening Here on Cinejoy, the virtual version of Silicon Valley’s Cinequest, from March 1 until March 12, thanks to HellBent Pictures.
Les Hackel (James Marsters) is not in a good place. He is trying to stay sober, but his girlfriend just left him, his tedious office job is sucking the life out of him, and he is stuck living with his parents. After people around him start literally blowing up, Les discovers a bomb has been surgically sewn into his neck. Then, he gets messages telling him that if he wants to live, he has to do whatever he’s told. Now he is a hostage on a high-octane mission where he is made to do horrifically violent acts. He crosses paths with a mostly-terrifying cast of characters, including other bomb-filled eccentrics, torture-happy police officers and a possible love interest.
When you hear “puppet horror movie”, don’t go thinking Puppet Master or any of its highly questionable later instalments. Abruptio tells a very human story, and its characters are made with incredible practical effects. They are rubbery and life-sized, whose bodies crinkle and move unnervingly. Certainly lifelike but not quite human enough; they make the film absurd and disturbing. This uncanny valley effect never really dissipates, and this is undoubtedly intentional. Evan Marlowe’s stylistic choices make Abruptio look like a gloriously deranged episode of Sesame Street.
Once you embrace the zaniness of the puppets, it works pretty well as a standard “there’s a bomb” movie. Story-wise, Abruptio lags a little in the beginning because its action-thriller story beats are well worn concepts, but the story slowly picks up into something more original and starts entering horror territory. Then you’re hooked! Blood and gore abound; if you want to see what a puppet’s insides look like, you’ll have plenty of chances. And a late tonal shift in genre, which I dare not spoil, is something you have to experience yourself.
Whether or not you find the story capturing, there is no doubt that Abruptio is a unique cinematic experience, a surreal spectacle. Darkly comic, in the way you find yourself laughing every time you think, “what the…”. Abruptio is a wild ride of a film with a whole lot of time and effort by everyone behind it. It claims to be unprecedented, and it is not wrong; it is definitely something audiences have never come across. Now I want to go and rewatch Speed… but with a Keanu Reeves puppet.
“Evan Marlowe’s stylistic choices make Abruptio look like a gloriously deranged episode of Sesame Street”