This article was last modified on October 10, 2020.


NIGHTSTREAM review: FRANK AND ZED

Two reanimated corpses, dependent on each other for survival, live a life of solitude until a power-hungry magistrate tricks a group of villagers into attacking their lonely castle, fulfilling an ancient prophecy: The Orgy of Blood.

“I don’t know why I keep showing up to work when I know we’re all gonna die in an orgy of blood.”

“Maybe we’ll be spared.”

“It’s an orgy of blood, grandpa — there are no loopholes!”

This sample of the dialogue shows the real wit of the script. The humor is exquisite, but the film is not a comedy. The story takes place in a mythical land, but it is not a fantasy. The gore and blood are extensive, but it is not a horror film. It is all of this and more and refuses to be put in a box. But if it was, the box would say “Caution: Contents Awesome.”

FRANK AND ZED is the brainchild of Portland-based writer, director, and puppeteer Jesse Blanchard. Although the finished product looks enermous, he somehow lensed the film inside his garage and at a nearby studio. On the surface, the concept bears some similarities to Peter Jackson’s MEET THE FEEBLES (1989), though the parallel is really just offbeat puppetry. (Why has it been 30 years since the last good puppet film?) The heart of the film – the splatter and the humor, though, are more in line with Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE. Is Blanchard a Jackson fan? They certainly come across as spiritual brethren.

My favorite running gag is the X’s over the eyes that appear when something – both human or beast – dies. I brought this up to Blanchard and he told he was actually challenged on the idea and had to fight a little bit. For the naysayers, you’re wrong. This is a great gag. It’s one of many small touches that make the film greater than the sum of its parts.

As it entered the Nightstream 2020 film festival, FRANK AND ZED was one of the entries without a distributor. If there is any justice in the world, the movie will not only be purchased, but will go through a bidding war. This is big screen material, or better yet could be treated as a pilot for an ongoing Netflix series. This world has endless stories – FRANK AND ZED is only the opening salvo.

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