Friday, May 22, 2015

Randall Kaplan's Boxhead

Hey there. Recently, an animation Kickstarter that looks like it might be of interest to some managed to get successfully funded. It's an animated HORROR film.

To my knowledge, the only people who have pulled off horror films in animation would be the Japanese. Ralph Bakshi tried a live-action/animation horror film, but thanks to the meddling of execs, we got Cool World, which is considered a mess by many.

I freely admit to not being much of a fan of horror (though I do love horror-comedy, like Gremlins, Cabin In The Woods, and the Evil Dead movies), but regardless, I'm a huge supporter of animation as a serious storytelling medium that's capable of being more than "just for kids". Besides, I tend to have a fascination with the macabre, and-

Alright, ALRIIIIGHT!!! 

So anyways, now that we got a humorous bit out of the way, time to be a bit more serious. This project is the brainchild of Randall Kaplan, a filmmaker and artist who has worked in the film industry as an editor, concept artist, and even actor, and he has done some short films of his own. It's based around this character that came to him in childhood that he dubs Boxhead, a human-like creature with a head that has eyes and nothing else and a long stalk of a neck.

Creepy looking, isn't it?

He drew this character again and again, and it grew into a story. His thesis film in college was a live-action short film involving the creature, which was shown at festivals and eventually compiled with Kaplan's other films on the DVD "Behind The Flesh".

But he wasn't done with Boxhead yet, oh no. The story only grew, and Kaplan decided it should be a feature length movie, and as he was drawing these concepts and storyboards, he came to the realization that he HAD to see these images and characters come to life through drawings.

This is the story, according to the Kickstarter page:

Al is an aging, alcoholic recluse. There was a time when he aspired to be someone; a writer, with a life and career. That time, along with all of his dreams have long passed him by.

He lives alone, his life reduced to an empty, solitary and drunken existence.

But as time slips away, a strange creature watches, waiting in the dark...

One night Al discovers something absolutely horrible that could possibly save his soul.

He takes on the role of a detective, acting out a story he never finished.

All the while, the creature enters into different people's lives, unveiling their deepest fears and regrets, their loneliness...

...and feeding off of it.

Al is led down a rabbit hole, through a labyrinth of past and present fantasies and nightmares, to ultimately, find himself.

Promotional Art for Boxhead done by Randall Kaplan
This film has creative potential for quite a few reasons. First of all, as was mentioned, it's an animated horror film, a rarity outside of Japan. With the whole Animation Age Ghetto thing in place, people are still under the delusion that animation is just "for kids". In actuality, it's capable of being a storytelling medium in its own right, one that's capable of matching or even surpassing live-action. And with the right mind and the right project, it's possible to demonstrate that. I believe in its potential to be that. Sure, there can still be animation for kids and families, but that doesn't mean that ambitious, adult projects can't be accepted as well. I've mentioned that I was a huge fan of indie animator Bill Plympton before, and a lot of the reason was because he was always daring to be different from the mainstream, and it always showed in his work.

Randall Kaplan's project is similar. It dares to be different. It dares to present something new to animation and horror fans alike. And that's something that deserves to be admired.

Second, rather than being exploitive nonsense like certain horror films tend to fall under, this deals with some pretty heavy themes, like loneliness and isolation. It's very personal to Kaplan, but he hopes it'll be universal to others. To me, it's a story that has a lot of promise to it, a story about someone who has given up hope but, amidst a series of truly terrifying events, manages to finds himself. It's one that presents the possibility for a lot of depth. I love good stories, and this has the makings of not just a good horror story, but a good story in general, from the interesting premise to the strong themes.

And under it all, surprisingly, there will be a tenderness to it, something that doesn't come to mind when you think "horror". I don't know how most horror fans would respond, but personally, I like this idea. Sometimes, there needs to be something to balance out the darker aspects of a project, like humor or poignancy. Just like life isn't all sunshine and rainbows, life isn't all bleakness and misery, either. I love dark stuff as much as the next guy, but it's always nice to be reminded that, even in the darkest of times, the good of humanity can still shine through.

Turner Classic Movies wrote a blurb about Kaplan's short films back in 2009, and one that will hopefully apply to Boxhead as well:

"Kaplan expertly blends the uncanny, grotesque, and the touching..."

Already, this film sounds like it could be up my alley. Despite not being the world's biggest horror fan, I've managed to find quite a few I like and, thanks to stuff like Cinemassacre's Monster Madness reviews, I can understand and appreciate what the genre is about, what the appeal is, and what it's capable of. Besides, as someone who understands what it means to be lonely, (yes, even for someone who's not very social such as myself, I've had my fair share of loneliness,) I'm pretty sure it'll manage to gravitate towards me as well.

Third, just from what I've seen of the project, through the opening scene available on Kickstarter, as well as Kaplan's concept drawings, it looks great. The drawings are creative, well-shaded, and they really give off this heavy atmosphere. As I mentioned, I tend to have a fascination with the macabre, and whenever the macabre is depicted through drawings, it's very fascinating, because you can see where someone's imagination can truly go.

Like I said, he managed to get it successfully funded, but I feel indie artists need all the help they can get. I wrote to Kaplan, and he said that he was still open for donations and support of any kind. I plan to write back to him once I finish this blog post, thanking him for responding back and likely donating some money, because this is a project I'd like to see come to life, and one that I'm sure a lot of others would like to see as well.

If you like, you can read more about Boxhead here:

And you can visit Kaplan's website here:

Thanks for reading and, as Kaplan told me in his email, "many dreams and nightmares to come..."

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