Popcorn Frights Review: ‘Abruptio’ Blends Life-Size Puppets and Existential Violence In A Surreal Horror Film
Evan Marlowe’s Abruptio is a one-of-a-kind and truly weird film. I say this as an endearing description because it is something that needs to be experienced. After reading the plot summary I thought I had a good idea of what to expect, but after being repeatedly thrown for a loop with the plot taking weird turns, I was left stunned and wondering where this would go next. Abruptio keeps things strange to the very end and it works in its favor.
James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) voices Les Hackel, our lead puppet. Les is a mid-30s man working a dead-end job while living at home with his parents. He’s been dumped by his girlfriend and is trying to find a purpose in life when he’s told that there is a bomb implanted in his neck and he must carry out actions as requested by an unknown person(s) — otherwise the bomb will detonate and kill him. What follows is a trip through a world that is falling apart in more ways than one, as Les is tasked with carrying out increasingly gruesome and violent acts to keep himself alive.
After completing each task Les is rewarded, which forces the viewer to ask themselves what would they do in this situation? Is the reward enough to look the other way from the violence being carried out? During these tasks Les meets other individuals who have their own bomb in their neck and there is this existential discussion about what is happening, why it is happening, and how each character compartmentalizes the acts they are committing. Everyone has their own ideas and try to justify their actions to the others. Some even enjoy the violence and relish the opportunity to exact revenge on a world they feel needs it. Horror fans will immediately recognize some of these eclectic characters as Jordan Peele, Robert Englund, and the late Sid Haig lend their voices.
Even though every character is a puppet, there is plenty of blood, gore, and violence. The effects are all very well done and fit perfectly in the surreal world the story is set in. There’s something deeply unsettling about the design of the puppets. Not only are they life-size, but they’re lifelike with such realistic features that it’s easy to forget they are puppets when they are driving a car, taking a shower, or just generally existing in a world much like our own — not to mention the uneasiness of seeing a puppet bleed out or be torn apart by gunfire. This lifelike but still “not quite right” look adds to the sense that there’s something off with this world, a notion that is furthered by news reports in the background that confirm society is indeed falling apart. It’s reminiscent of a nightmare, where things look and feel just slightly off enough to make you consistently uncomfortable.
Overall, Abruptio is a delightfully weird movie. The story is unique and while the ending does not land completely, it did leave me thinking about it for days after watching it. If you’re looking for a unique and intriguing horror movie then do not pass this up. In the meantime, you can check out the trailer below for a small taste of the surreal carnage.