Abruptio (2023) Review

ATMOSfx! Woo!
The puppet named Les Hackel in Abruptio.
Les Hackel

Intensity: 🩸🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸
What do you get when you combine the voice talents of Sid Haig, Jordan Peele, and Robert Englund with a cast of creepy life-size puppets
and a story that might as well have been written by Philip K Dick? It’s called Abruptio.

Written/Directed by Evan Marlowe

Movie poster for Abruptio.

Abruptio (2023) is a labor of love eight years in the making. According to IMDB, writer/director Evan Marlowe has done a crapton of short films with some TV episodes thrown in for good measure. Abruptio is his first feature-length project and what a thing to start with!

Creating Abruptio began with recording all the voice work that would be used in the film. Marlowe took this route — rather than doing the puppet work first — so as to not limit the voice actors by asking them to deliver their lines to match what the puppets were doing. Better the other way around to give some of the biggest names in genre filmmaking the freedom to do what they do best.

Sid Haig recording voice work for Abruptio.
Sid Haig

And when you start with the voices of people like:

you’re definitely setting the bar way up high.

To go with those voices, the “actors” in Abruptio are all life-size puppets. Realistic looking enough to take the place of human actors without all the whining and calls to the union when they get fed head first into a giant blender. However, they’re still pretty disturbing to look at giving the movie yet another edge of strangeness to make the audience uncomfortable.

The puppet named Chelsea in Abruptio.

As if it needed more strangeness. The basic story line goes like this, Les Hackel [voiced by James Marsters] is a down-and-out office drone in his 30s who still lives with his overbearing parents and was recently dumped by his girlfriend. One night, he finds a fresh incision in his neck. His friend Danny [voiced by Jordan Peele] tells him it’s a bomb and that he’s got one in his neck, too.

That’s when the messages start coming in forcing Les to team up with all sorts of unsavory characters to commit heinous acts. As the violence around him continues to escalate, he meets Chelsea [voiced by Hana Mae Lee] and the two try to figure out What The Actual F is going on.

The puppet for Police Chief Richter in Abruptio.
Police Chief Richter

Marlowe’s choices for shots and how to edit them all together makes for a taut, engaging watch. There’s an underlying current of paranoiac tension throughout the film that never lets up; even in the one-on-one dialog scenes. Plus, his occasional use of uncomfortably tight closeups keeps the audience off balance. Especially since those closeups are on some fairly unnerving looking puppets. Also, the director’s adept use of natural light, reflections, and other “real world” visual elements give Abruptio a solid visual foundation — often in spite of the puppets. Which makes it all the more disorienting when things go completely off the rails.

With all the paranoia, suspicion, wild ideas, and odd contraptions, Abruptio feels like you just fell into a Philip K Dick story. In a good way. Aliens, armed robbery, possible alternate dimensions, implanted devices, the list goes on and on. All of it leading to a point of clarity as if the whole movie up to that point was a necessary catharsis.

If you’re in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned puppety weirdness, Abruptio should definitely be at the top of your list.

Abruptio had its world premiere at the Santa Monica Film Festival. You can catch it streaming right now (March 1 – March 12) via the Cinequest film festival’s online event, CineJOY.

Review by Robert Zilbauer.

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