Annecy 2018: 'Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires' is Absurdly Superb
by Alex Billington
June 12, 2018
It's not often that someone makes an R-rated animated movie. And when one does get made, they're usually not too good, either over-the-top or just nasty. Every once in a while, one comes along that totally blows the the lid off of everything and becomes a huge hit, shaking things up and proving there's an audience for this. Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, directed by Michael Mort and made by an independent stop-motion studio in Wales called Animortal, is one of these insane movies that is sure to become an instant cult classic. We really haven't seen an all-out, R-rated animated movie packed with this much absurdity and ridiculous humor since Team America: World Police (in 2004!). Get ready for this one. Scratch that, there's nothing you can do to prepare yourself - except maybe watching Big Trouble in Little China on VHS before.
Animortal's Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is a stop-motion, action-horror, totally ridiculous R-rated monster movie straight from the 80s. Set in 1986, it's about a complete-asshole, good-looking cop named Chuck Steel, who always works alone, recklessly destroys everything in his path, and is (of course) the best cop on the force. When the city of Los Angeles is threatened by a group of "trampires" (vampires evolved from bums that feed on drunk human's blood) Steel has to grow up, or at least try to, in order to stop them and save the city (and the world) from turning into trampire hell. This film packs in all kinds of terribly lewd humor, with cringe-worthy jokes that are somehow hilarious. Possibly because the film doesn't take itself seriously and mocks everything going on in it, which makes all the comedy work when it probably shouldn't.
This movie is totally insane, and goes all-out in every way possible (you have no idea), yet it is extremely entertaining. It's incredibly gory, shamelessly hilarious, and endlessly absurd - but this is why it's awesome. The filmmakers don't hold back and they don't really want to - they want to throw everything out there, and try every joke, and give us everything to laugh at because they can. Because it's so rare that an R-rated, stop-motion film even gets made - so when one does get made, why not try it all, stuff it with everything absurd and wacky and amusing and entertaining. Chuck Steel is definitely not the most original movie ever made, but that doesn't matter because it's supremely enjoyable. It's cinema at its most absurd yet most laughable and endearing. Even though he's an asshole, you want Steel to save the day, because he's a lovable asshole.
To top it off, the animation in this movie is top notch. Some of the best stop-motion work I've seen - with massively detailed sets, very fluid character animation, excellent production & character design throughout. It never lingers too long on any shot or feels lifeless like other independent stop-motion films often do, it feels kinetic and full of energy. All of the characters' eyes are so expressive, and they move around rapidly, which seems overwhelming at first but turns out to be a very effective way to depict emotion and provide nuanced reactions. A big congratulations to Michael Mort and his team and everyone at Animortal Studio for pulling this off. I enjoyed it as much as I did because the animation is as good as it is, including all the background details, visual gags, and subtle aspects of each & every character. This film will blow you away.
There's honestly no good way to properly prepare for the coming of Chuck Steel, just know that
he's it's on its way and this is something you need to see yourself to believe. It's grisly, it's preposterous, it's awesome, it's amusing, it's unforgettable; animation at its most insane. Make way for the one-and-only Chuck Steel.
Alex's Annecy 2018 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing