Five years in the making, Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires has been eagerly awaited by Frightfest audiences, and I can happily say that not only does it exceed the great hopes and anticipation for a superior work of stop motion entertainment, but it is stands undoubtably as one of the best films of the festival, and deserves to be a breakout hit for wider audiences too!

Night of the Trampires follows renegade cop Chuck Steel, a man on the edge who buries the demons of his past by burying the heel of his boot into the face of crime itself. However, a spate of disappearances on the city streets will bring Chuck on a collision course with a different kind of menace, a supernatural force mutated by cheap booze and broken dreams: the Trampire. As the rest of the force fails to see the dangers emerging around them, Chuck will have to team up with occult expert and Trampire hunter Abraham Van Rental to save the city from this inebriated evil!

The vision director Mike Mort has brought to the screen within an adult stop motion action horror is utterly phenomenal, with a true knowledge and affection captured within an astonishing depth of detail. Mort’s original short Raging Balls of Steel Justice previously illustrated the potential for a wider tale within this universe, based on the skill and irreverence he displayed, but quite frankly, Night of the Trampires (in the most fitting 80’s way) cranks it up to eleven in every possible category. Inspired by the likes of Cobra, 48 Hours and Fright Night, Night of the Trampires is bursting with minute attention to reference and subtle touches that convey the tone and visual nuances of 80’s cinema. Explosions, neon and montages abound, with the excess of stylisation captured with knowing love; Chuck’s apartment eternally lit in blue or purple tinted light, as artificial and inaccessible as his tough guy exterior. Mort playfully uses the inflection of visual cliches to immerse the audience in the tone and attitude of the film’s world, illustrating the careful tribute to this particular brand of cinema on display, as well as enhancing the texture of the film itself in the marriage of humour and authenticity in the mise en scene.

However, more than just a visual treat, the film’s burlesque of sheer silliness is reinforced by the irreverent tone and wacky spectrum of characters. The film is utterly bursting with personality, excelling particularly in taking stock characters (the police chief torn between frustration and admiration for his difficult super cop; the foppish, inevitably British monster hunter) and warping them into utterly insane abstractions that reflect the brash vulgarities that the film revels in with irreverent abandon. To some this humour might step over the line into bad taste, always willing to take some jokes right to the very edge; but in my opinion this humour isn’t used to attack any particular group or ideology, but rather it is so indiscriminate and intentionally crass that it not only reflects the questionable sensitivity of many 80’s action and horror films, but parodies it to the extent that it is always at the expensive of the central characters and the genre cliches they have emerged from, particularly Chuck and his abrasive pride. Indeed the character arc of Chuck himself is remarkably satisfying and unexpected, as Mort manages to add dimensions to his history and personality that only reinforces the sheer infectious joy of the character. It would be easy to either excuse or condemn the embodiment of flawed 80’s action hero arrogance that Chuck represents, but it’s a credit to Mort that he never falls into this simple distinction and as a result strikes a balance that plays to the strengths of the film’s carnival of retro delights. Chuck might be a lone wolf in the film…but he is going to have a deserved army of fans thanks to this film.

The most striking element of the film is undoubtedly the sheer sense of scale director Mike Mort and his team have managed to capture on screen. From horrific attacks cast in the chiaroscuro lighting angles of a grim and gritty back alley to the gigantic climactic showdown under the big top, the breadth of creativity and commitment to style is nothing short of an inspirational achievement. The smoothness and kinetics of the film’s action sequences are so elegantly realised that they burst from the screen with an effervescence and energy that is ludicrously infectious. It’s hyper stylish and most importantly always intermingles with the tones of humour to the point where it never becomes self serious, it’s quite frankly an audience’s dream.

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is an absolute wonder; a tribute to the 80s cinema of excess that inspired it, brash and ballsy with an awareness and attitude that invites the audience into a world of ceaseless thrills and hilarity. Put simply, cinema has a new action icon…just turns out he’s straight out of the past!

 

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Chuck Steel - Night Of The Trampires
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul250190@gmail.com