25th Aug2018

Frightfest 2018: ‘Chuck Steel – Night of the Trampires’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Features the voices of: Mike Mort, Jennifer Saunders, Paul Whitehouse, Dan Russell, Jonnie Fiori, Samantha Coughlan, Romano Marenghi, Geoff Robbins, Jonnie Price, Mark Richard Jones, Laura Tofarides | Written and Directed by Mike Mort

chuck-steel-poster

It’s not 1985 anymore… it’s 1986! And Chuck Steel is the maverick, lone wolf cop on the edge, who doesn’t play by the rules and must prevent the worst plague ever to hit Los Angeles – a scourge of deadly Trampires, mutant hybrids of vampires and bums.

Beginning life as a 2013 animated short, it has taken some time for this feature-length version of Chuck Steel’s adventures to come to the big screen, a shorten version having previously screened at Frightfest in 2013… Was it worth the wait?

In a word (or two). Hell yes!

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is like Aardman animation but if said animation was seen through the eyes of a kid in the 80s heyday of action cinema… A kid who never actually saw ANY of the movies of the day but heard all about them and made up his own plot from memory! And that’s not a bad thing, it’s actually sheer genius. As a kid of that era, growing up in a world without the internet, a world where you had to judge films from their posters or VHS artwork, this is the kind of over the top action film trips to the video store promised but very seldom delivered.

The story itself takes a leaf out of old Hammer horror films, where Van Helsing found allies to take down Dracula and his cohorts – only in this case it’s a bunch of hobo vampires, the titular trampires, and their “master” who, at least to the more film-literate audience, will be easy to spot – even with the red herring that is thrown in from the get-go; a red herring which isn’t actually wasted, instead offering up ANOTHER villain for Chuck to eventually battle. That’s the core story – as per the title – but there’s so much more to this film.

Action set-pieces, ridiculous and near-the-kuckle jokes, sight gags, stunt work that would put big budget films to shame… It’s a heady mix and one that is even more commendable given that this was such a labourious task. Corners haven’t been cut, shortcuts haven’t been taken. This is a labour of love that says a LOT about writer and director Mike Mort – a man whose previous work includes episodes of Shaun the Sheep and whose love for stop-motion animation bleeds out of every frame of this film.

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is, besides being a brilliant love letter to stop-motion animation, also a loving tribute to 80s horror cinema: with trampire deaths that look like they stepped out of the original Evil Dead, complete with metly plasticine effects; monsters that are reminscent of both the vampire effects of Fright Night and Grace Jones’s titular Vamp; and a hero that is more manly than the manliest man that has ever been seen in cinematic history – part Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, part Sly Stallone in Cobra and all man (plus a helluva lot of chin)!

It’s not only Chuck Steel who’s the standout character, he also has one hell of a supporting cast – from the rest of the police force who are getting in touch with their emotions, to the Police Chief, whose like a cross-cressing version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s loud mouth Captain from Last Action Hero! Steel also has a number of sidekicks (yes a number of sidekicks, as working with Chuck Steel is as lethal as it gets) who – despite their brief appearance(s) – have quite and impact on Steel and the film, especially the hulking Swedish Heidi-esque partner who saves Steel’s life whilst [accidentally] sacrificing hers.

There are films made to convey a message, films made to tell an important story, films made to win oscars, and film made for the sheer fun that cinema can bring. Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is all of those (OK, so maybe it won’t win an Oscar) in one epically, hilarious, epically action-packed and epically epic film that is GUARANTEED to be the most fun you’ll have in a cinema all year. And unlike Mort’s film, which often plays things for laughs, I mean that in all seriousness. Seriously.

***** 5/5

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires screened at Arrow Video Frightfest today, Saturday August 25th.

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