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Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires – Review

// Featured, Reviews (Film)

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is the eagerly awaited feature debut of Mike Mort, the BAFTA award winning director of Aunt Tiger, the caveman classic Gogs and the Chuck Steel short Raging Balls of Steel Justice. Though Mike has enjoyed a long career in stop motion, Chuck Steel remains his passion project, the amalgamation of all of the directors obsessions with 80’s action films, monster movies and chisel jawed heroes.

Skwigly attended the world premier at the Annecy Animation Festival earlier this month and crowded into the Bonlieu with what seemed like the entire crew, the atmosphere was as electric as purple 80’s lightning as the crew were greeted with thunderous applause, we were about to see if that applause was well earned.

From the very beginning the audience is instantly greeted by the lavish attention to detail that the stop motion sets and characters provide, each move is sculpted, it’s expressive and it’s smooth – some of the best stop motion seen for a long time. Then the action starts it’s like staring into a hairdryer and it is pretty much relentless for the entire length of the film. When it isn’t action packed it’s funny, when it isn’t funny it’s dramatic, all under the thick veneer of 80’s nostalgia. There’s story too, Chuck Steel finds himself having to struggle with personal and literal demons in the form of Trampires, an evolved version of a vampire which prays on drunkards. With the LAPD distracted to the point of uselessness by new age psychology Chuck teams up with Abraham Van Rental, a quirky Brit who introduces our hero to the murky mythical underworld of monsters and mayhem and aids him in his race against time to save the world. The trouble is, Steel works alone and his partners can’t handle his adrenaline fuelled pace, often finding themselves expiring. The film comprises of many charged set pieces. Car chases, monster fights, ninja battles, flash backs – if there is a trope from an 80’s action film you’ll find it in the film.

Chucks character really holds the film together, he’s bold, and thick headed, the archetypical action hero. There are moments in the film which are like watching the magazine Viz in movie form, a particular interaction with a nurse at the hospital could have been taken from a Sid the Sexist strip so it is great to see that style of comedy throughout the film especially when the joke is turned on Chuck. Though Chuck is written well, towards the end of the film it seems the character gets carried away and open to mild misogyny, where we were laughing AT Chuck earlier in the film, by the end there is a feeling that you are supposed to laugh WITH his more sexist actions. There is a particular moment with a character at the end of the film which could have been handled with more care, a perfect opportunity to make Chuck more of a hero rather than being an excuse for a quick custard joke. This is the only complaint I have with the film and the rest of the humour in the film is fantastic with those 80’s tropes being played for laughs and piling up like a closet full of broken televisions.

Thought it is animated in stop motion this is not a film that could have been made by Aardman, Laika or anyone else, it is unique in its style and could only have been made by Mike Mort and the team at Animortal. It is marvellous to see a new company adding something new to an already diverse range of stop motion feature offerings, with this film the team have firmly established themselves and we look forward to seeing what’s next from the team at Bridgend. Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires finds itself without a distributor and is in desperate need of one if it is to make its way into cinemas, the trouble is that most distributors have an unfortunate short-sighted view on animated features, if they have one on their books they are often reluctant to buy more. The good news is that Night of the Trampires isn’t an animated film, it’s an action film that just happens to be animated.

This is a film that desperately needs to be seen at the cinemas, it’s a riotous thrill-ride of a film that doesn’t slow down. If you like your films loud with explosions, big hair and big laughs this is the film for you.

Chuck Steel Night of the Trampires will be in cinemas as soon as it finds a distributor. If you’re a distributor reading this, give the Animortal team a call.

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