A sprawling gothic horror story set in a far-away fantasy kingdom, Frank & Zed is an unbelievable DIY passion project from Portland-based filmmaker and puppeteer Jesse Blanchard.
Conceived and filmed over a period of six years, this love letter to classic terror is filled to the bloody brim with long-forgotten ancient secrets, a towering cursed castle, and a world of unbelievable characters that both honor the legacy and humor of The Muppets while simultaneously making their own ghastly mark on the world of cinema.
The brainchild of Portland-based writer, director, and puppeteer Jesse Blanchard, Frank & Zed is a fully puppeteered feature film that took an unbelievable seven years to complete. Having lensed the film in 4K inside his garage and at a nearby studio, the 39-year-old Blanchard has long-championed the use of puppetry in film. His production company, Puppetcore, was founded in 2011 with only two rules: “The characters are real; they just happen to be puppets” and “The effects are practical whenever possible.” This mantra has never been more focused than with Frank & Zed, a feature length gothic horror adventure that required over 40 handmade puppet characters, intricate miniatures, practical cloud tank effects, and honest-to-god fire.
While similarities can easily be made to Peter Jackson’s exploitative 1989 puppet film Meet the Feebles, Blanchard’s heartfelt work owes far more of its pedigree to Jim Henson’s Muppets. While Frank & Zed‘s centerpiece – a battle between angry villagers and supernatural forces – becomes wildly violent, it eschews the “splatstick” gross-out intent of Meet the Feebles in favor of following its bloody, disembodied heart. Frank & Zed is played completely straight, and exists in a world that treats its events – no matter how violent, shocking, or unbelievable – as real.
The film, which was partly funded via two immensely successful Kickstarter campaigns in 2015 and 2017, was written and directed by Jesse Blanchard. It is produced by Evan Baily (Sonic Boom, Turok: Son of Stone); executive produced by Jane E. McGregor (Sonic Boom); and associate produced by Cody Klewin, Cameron Harrison, and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here, Mohawk).
Frank & Zed will celebrate its World Premiere at NIGHTSTREAM, which runs from October 8th through the 11th. It is the combined digital edition of five acclaimed genre film festivals: Boston Underground Film Festival, Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, North Bend Film Festival, Overlook Film Festival, and Popcorn Frights Film Festival.
Are you (virtually) attending NIGHTSTREAM? Are you excited to check out Frank & Zed? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.