Frank & Zed [Fantasia International Film Festival Review]

Frank & Zed is something really special – a full-fledged horror movie accomplished completely through puppetry. If the Muppets suddenly found themselves in a George Romero flick, it might look something like this. You'd think such a premise would get stale after a few minutes. That isn't what happens, though. The movie builds to an epically gory final half-hour guaranteed to make your jaw drop. Screening at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival, it's a bloody blast.

The titular characters are creatures. Frank is a Frankenstein's Monster-like figure, Zed is a zombie. They live – if you can call this living – in an old castle, where Frank routinely kills rats so that Zed will have enough brains to eat. Their existence is disrupted by the arrival of villagers who are hoping to subvert a demon curse that has been placed upon them. Violent, insane mayhem ensues.

You wouldn't think a movie with puppets could pull off traditional gore, yet Frank & Zed does. There are decapitations, impalings, zombie bites, and more. Much more. Blood routinely gushes like a geyser. In other words, nothing has been softened just because the movie stars characters made largely of felt. Director Jesse Blanchard has a total commitment to horror. Although there are some intentionally humorous moments in the picture, the grotesque stuff is played absolutely straight. It's familiar horror content presented in a new, exciting way.

What's most impressive is the level of artistry on display. Frank & Zed is not a cheap-o production. The sets and characters have been meticulously crafted, and the camerawork is often intricate. Making the movie with puppets is no joke; Blanchard and his team show immense skill in melding the style to the content. Saying that literally every shot is interesting to look at would not be an understatement.

Frank & Zed is a picture every fan of bold, experimental horror will absolutely want to see. It's great to see Blanchard pushing boundaries in the genre, and succeeding so well.

Frank & Zed is unrated, but contains strong bloody/gory violence. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.