FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Frank & Zed’ Is a Brilliant Showcase of Gory Puppetry

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Frank & Zed - But Why Tho

You can’t help but feel deep admiration for the work that Puppetcore Films and director and writer Jesse Blanchard put into Frank & Zed, a wonderful orgy of puppetry fun, and gore that took six years to develop.

The story is set in a fantasy world with medieval tones. Many years ago, a king made a dangerous pact to destroy the evil wizard that lived in a castle not far away from his kingdom. However, his two servants Frank and Zed survived the attack and since then, have quietly lived in the castle. 

The aptly named Frank is a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature and Zed is a zombie. Frank hunts animals in the woods to feed brains to Zed, who in return helps Frank get hooked to a machine that provides him with a healthy dose of electricity to keep living. Despite how disturbing this might sound, it’s a charming symbiotic relationship that immediately creates an emotional investment in their bond. 

But Frank and Zed’s peace will soon come to a halt because humans are jerks. Back in the kingdom, a Lord Regent is hungry to gain more power, so he instigates the townsfolk to attack the castle, triggering an ancient curse that promises an “orgy of blood.”

The whole pact/curse storyline is poorly explained and doesn’t convince beyond being a big excuse to lead us into an insane showdown in the second half of the film. However, these political plots and moves delve into thoughtful ideas of humanity. While a bunch of humans are lying and betraying each other with no empathy whatsoever, two deformed and decaying creatures are struggling to cope with their own flaws; ironically, murder is what triggers a sense of humanity long-hidden which allows them to find a conscience and start to realize the evil in their deeds.

The film struggles when the focus is on the village with the human characters. There are too many of them, and beyond an old badass lady seeking to avenge her grandson, not a single one of them manages to be interesting or have a convincing motivation. This creates engagement problems later on in the story.

The good news is that, of course, we spend more time with Frank and Zed. They don’t speak and can only gargle sounds, but their character development is heartful and their codependence is fuel for the film. We learn to care about the fate of this endearing pair whose story gets more complex with each passing scene.

Their development pays off big time in the extraordinary last third of the film. Up to that point, the film had been an impressive showcase of artistry, but here’s when your jaw falls to the floor at the craftsmanship on display. Puppetcore Films gives us an epic showdown of chaos, blood, beheadings, transformations, and dismemberments. It’s a tornado of gory entertainment that never forgets the comedic nature of its puppetry. The humor is organically embedded into the action and storytelling. 

As mentioned above, the only issue within these climactic scenes is the weak character development of human characters who suddenly turn into heroes to little effect. They get cool, spectacular moments that are definitely a blast to watch, but they ultimately mean very little. However, there’s so much fun going on that you can easily forgive those storytelling sins. Even better, the dynamics between Frank and Zed are more than enough to keep you emotionally invested until the very end.

The unmissable behind-the-scenes footage shown during the credits confirms what is perceived in the overall aura of the film: this is a loving work of art brimming with fun and creativity. Despite the flaws in the storytelling department, Frank & Zed is one hell of a ride whose impressive use of puppetry to blend comedy and body horror will have you either laughing, smiling, or just utterly astonished by the artistry of it all.

Frank & Zed is screening On Demand at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Frank & Zed
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Despite the flaws in the storytelling department, Frank & Zed is one hell of a ride whose impressive use of puppetry to blend comedy and body horror will have you either laughing, smiling, or just utterly astonished by the artistry of it all.