Les Hackle (James Marsters) leads a boring life. He spends his days at a job he hates and his evenings with a girlfriend who hates him. At night he stays up drinking and playing guitar in his room, much to his mother’s annoyance.
When he discovers a bomb has been implanted in his neck, Les finds himself embroiled in a global conspiracy. Ominous text messages demand that Les commit increasingly violent acts. Should he refuse, the bomb in his neck will detonate. Can Les outsmart his seemingly omniscient overlords? Or is he doomed to remain a cog in a machine which he will never understand?
Sometimes life manages to bring you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. You didn’t even know you wanted it, but once it’s discovered you wonder how you’ve managed to survive this long without it. The beauty of these gifts is they come when you least expect them.
The trailer for Abruptio came across my path as I laid in bed watching the 1994 classic Speed. In one film, there’s a bomb on a bus. In another, there’s a bomb in a neck. The synchronicity felt appropriate. Call it fate. Call it luck. Or call it karma. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I was destined to see Abruptio.
For what purpose?
I haven’t the slightest idea. But be that as it may, Abruptio is an absolute must-see. Written and directed by Evan Harlowe, Abruptio is clearly a labor of love. For reasons unknown, Harlow and his team have been toiling away at this completely psychotic project since 2015. Did the world need a hyper-violent, puppet movie about a shady world-wide conspiracy?
Of course not, but Harlowe and company gave it to us anyway, and we’re all the better for it.
I did have some concerns at the start of the film regarding the puppets. I was unsure how palatable the puppetry would be for a full feature-length time frame. Perhaps I’ve become a bit spoiled with the state of the art in puppetry over the years, but I worried that the mobility of the puppets (or lack thereof) would be something of a hindrance.
I had no need to worry. The limited mobility, relegated mainly to the mouth and eyes, is a complete benefit to the film. The almost-but-not-quite-human appearance of the characters pushes the imagery straight into Uncanny Valley territory. From Les to his young companion Chelsea (Hana Mae Lee), to the old man Sal (Sid Haig), the characters come across as actual people trapped within their garish and distorted bodies. Puppetry is a perfect choice to present a world that’s almost normal, but just slightly askew.
The voice-actors provide the final masterstroke to bring Abruptio to life. Along with James Marster’s fantastic performance as the schlubby yet likable Les, the movie features appearances from Jordan Peele, Robert Englund, and Christopher McDonald. The cast here is absolutely stacked, and despite the oddness of the project, every actor puts in a perfect performance.
The story does falter somewhat as it reaches its end. Fantastical stories (bloody or otherwise) have a tendency to stumble over themselves at the finish line. It’s relatively easy to dazzle with imaginative set pieces and elaborate forms of torment for the characters. What’s harder is bringing all that home to a satisfying conclusion.
So, like many films before it, Abruptio struggles in its final moments. Not enough to undermine the preceding events, but just enough to leave a hint of sourness in the mouth.
But to use the old cliche, it’s about the journey, not the destination. And Abruptio is a journey completely unlike any other. This is the kind of movie made for a particular breed of mutant. One look at the trailer and you’ll know if it’s meant for you or not. But if fate has chosen to make you aware of this little beauty, then you really don’t have a choice. You have to see it.
The bomb in your neck will explode if you don’t.