The flipside of Frank and Zed are the townsfolk. The Baker is introduced when Titus and the Priest’s plan to have him killed by Frank comes into play. That plan involves drawing a map of the woods leading him to a lady, who also followed a map. Are these two already seeing each? That would explain how they fell for the plot so easily. But it’s not established, so it seems they are just gullible idiots. If that is the case, then show them earlier as dimwits. Sadly, this one-dimensionality extends to all the humans, save for the Priest, and one character with a special connection to Zed’s past.
That does mean that Frank & Zed does not invest the audience in quite the same way when not focusing on the titular characters. However, the viewers do not tune out because the art and production design are awe-inspiring. The sets are extraordinarily detailed and gorgeous. There are several stained-glass windows that bath scenes in vibrant colors, while still maintaining the spooky atmosphere. The crumbling castle Frank and Zed call home is creepy as heck, with its ruinous walls and lonesome corridors. The electric chair that Frank uses, and that the contraption makes lightning is so unique and different.
But the real star is the remarkable puppet design. Grog The Brute is a massive hulking man, immediately recognizable in silhouette. Zed has a hole in the side of his head, and his pale bluish-green hand occasionally reaches in there, picking around for a brain, even his, to eat with his rotted, crooked teeth. It’s an original and engaging spin on the all too familiar zombie look.
“…might be the most fantastic looking Frankenstein’s monster ever to grace the big screen.”
As far as Frank is concerned, he is a beautiful creation to behold. The detailing on him is impressive. His stitched, left eye bulges out, missing the lid and surrounding skin. His face muscles are present as no skin was grafted onto sections of his head. The different skin tones blend well, as to be noticeable but never distracting. The bolts for his energy come out of his brain, encased in glass. The most memorable thing about Frank, though, is his legs. One is shorter than the other, so he has a giant wooden block nailed through his foot to make up the difference. He might be the most fantastic looking Frankenstein’s monster ever to grace the big screen.
Frank & Zed’s momentous visual design is bolstered by Blanchard’s taut direction. One early scene of a shadowy hand stretching across a wall brought to mind Francis Ford Coppola’s excellent Bram Stoker’s Dracula and how he used shadows to show the vampire’s true nature. He also maintains the tone quite well, so that the comedy never intrudes on the drama, which only strengthens the horror (the ending is shocking, a bit devastating, and quite powerful). Blanchard understands what makes horror work, and forces the audience to wait, but richly awards their patient.
Frank & Zed could stand to be a little bit longer to flesh out some of the integral supporting characters. But, the titular characters are so compelling and the direction so enthralling, that the movie never loses the audience, especially those with a penchant for gore. It is in the set design and puppets where the film truly leaves its impression, though. It is steeped in horrific imagery, the oppressive atmosphere of which will scare you, and the characters are striking, visually dynamic, and creatively designed.
"…brought to mind Francis Ford Coppola's excellent Bram Stoker's Dracula..."