Abruptio (2023)
HellBent Pictures, LLC. Sweet Home Films

[Popcorn Frights 2023 Review] Dive Headfirst into Midnight Madness with Life-Sized Puppets in ABRUPTIO

Director Evan Marlowe pulls just the right strings for the uniquely disturbing horror trip that is Abruptio. Integrating life-like puppets into an all too real world, Marlowe explores the darker depths of the human experience in a film viewers surely won’t forget.

Down on his luck Les Hackel (James Marsters) can’t catch a break. In his 30’s and single, Les lives with his parents, can’t escape his monotonous office job, and struggles with an alcohol addiction. If that wasn’t enough, things take a turn for the worse when his buddy Danny (Jordan Peele) reveals explosive devices have been sewn into the necks of the working class. As long as unlucky carriers do exactly as they are instructed to, the bombs won’t detonate. However, the tasks given aren’t as simple as taking the trash out. Les is thrown into a world of violent, murderous crime he must perpetrate just to survive another day.

 

“Puppeteering Mayhem”

 

Misery has company, as crummy and crude comic Sal (Sid Haig), the sensitive-stomached accountant Mr. Salk (Robert Englund), and fellow survivor and budding love interest Chelsea (Hana Mae Lee) join Les in the carnage. Yet, something darker than implanted bombs is afoot. Les is brought in by police chief Richter (Christopher McDonald) and ordered to confess to a crime he hasn’t a clue he committed. Remembering may be the only way out.

Abruptio unsettles you from the very first frame. Bringing back repressed memories of creator Eric Fournier’s infamous “Dark Youtube” boogeyman Shaye St. John, climbing on board with the unnerving, life-sized human puppets presents a real challenge for even the most seasoned horror veterans. Fortunately, director Evan Marlowe made a very wise decision by bringing in very recognizable talents to provide the voiceovers.

 

Abruptio explores heavy themes of depression, helplessness, addiction, and levies indictments of corporate America and politics.”

 

It’s hard to describe the relief and bittersweet happiness when the late Sid Haig enters the film as Salproviding a tether back to familiarity just when you’re about to get perpetually lost Abruptio‘s frightening world. Adding in horror staple Robert Englund, Jordan Peele, and Christopher McDonald further serve as pleasant reminders that you’re viewing a feature film and not one of those “10 Recordings Too Disturbing to Watch” videos.

The voice cast as a whole do an outstanding job transposing emotional depth onto the inanimate stars of the film. In particular, both leads James Marsters and Hana Mae Lee deliver impressive performances, delivering some really hefty plot material you would not expect. It’s here where Abruptio really earns its stripes. Captivating puppetry that will have you perpetually side-eying the screen does not ensure a captivating film. Marlow, who also wrote the film, doesn’t waste the massive craftwork at hand whatsoever, delivering a well-told but amorphous story of the human experience.

 

Abruptio unsettles you from the very first frame.”

 

Abruptio explores heavy themes of depression, helplessness, addiction, and levies indictments of corporate America and politics. It’s insane to think that such topics could be unpacked so effectively through the puppeteering mayhem used here, but in hindsight, what a perfect choice it was.

Abruptio will most certainly not be for everyone. Those who do buy a ticket for the 1.5 hour bus ride through madness will form vastly different opinions of what message is being sent without a doubt. The themes may vary and you may not be sure the exact meaning of what you’re witnessing, or even if it’s actually happening at all. Yet the best compliment I can give Abruptio is amongst the ambiguity and unsettling imagery, the film closes with a satisfying conclusion regardless of how you got there. Marlowe struck an exceptional balance of ambivalence without dipping into the godawful pretentiousness that sometimes plagues horror films with similar aspirations. And even if the story told doesn’t captivate you at all, the macabre puppetry surely will.

 

“…even if the story told doesn’t captivate you at all, the macabre puppetry surely will.”

 

Follow us here on Nightmare on Film Street for more coverage from the Popcorn Frights Festival, August 10-26. Did you catch any of the festival films virtually or in person? Let us know what you watched over on our official Facebook and Instagram pages!



Hot at the Shop:


Abruptio (2023)
[Popcorn Frights 2023 Review] Dive Headfirst into Midnight Madness with Life-Sized Puppets in ABRUPTIO
TL;DR
Abruptio will most certainly not be for everyone. Those who do buy a ticket for the 1.5 hour bus ride through madness will form vastly different opinions of what message is being sent without a doubt. And even if the story told doesn't captivate you at all, the macabre puppetry surely will.
Voice Cast
90
Uniqueness
95
Puppeteering
80
Story
80
86
SCORE
nightmare on film street best horror movie podcast background mobile