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Chuck Steel: Night Of The Trampires (2021)

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is a British stop motion animation action/comedy/horror movie, which originally premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2018 and is blasting into cinemas in the UK from 29 October, just in time for Halloween.

Trampires is the feature debut of writer/director/producer/voice talent Mike Mort and his Animortal studio and sets out to “parody and pay homage” to live-action films of the 1980s. Think Viz comic meets Die Hard meets Evil Dead. 

Our ‘hero’, Chuck Steel is a no-nonsense maverick renegade cop who comes face to teeth with a horde of vampire-like beings: trampires. Trampires feast upon the blood of those who are drunk – alcoholic tramps being a favourite target – and can be killed via exposure to sunlight or a stake through the liver. Steel’s schtick is that he always “works alone”, and after a series of partners quickly decease, we see why. But Steel seems the only man who can defeat the trampires, if he can get past the toxic wokeness which is taking down the LA Police Department from the inside.

Steel first appeared, along with his boss Captain Jack Schitt, in Mort’s acclaimed 14-minute short film Raging Balls of Steel Justice, which has clocked a cool 335,000 views on YouTube (plus multiple screenings on the Film4 TV channel), and is worth checking out for a peek at Mort’s animation chops, which are impressive.  Trampires is visually eye-catching, with smart direction, excellent production design and great lighting. The character models are at the cartoonish end of the scale, and perhaps could have benefited from a little more facial nuance at times, but their movement and expressions are generally handled well, giving a pleasingly smooth viewer experience. This is quite some movie for its reputed $20m price tag.

There’s some decent voice talent on display – Jennifer Saunders plays the police psychologist (Dr Alex Cular – you can work that one out for yourselves...) and Paul Whitehouse takes on three minor roles. Mike Mort himself voices Steel, police captain Jack Schitt and Steel’s English sidekick, Abraham Van Rental, and proves himself to be highly versatile.

Before you watch Trampires, it’s worth doing a little self-check. Did you grow up with or enjoy the action movies of the mid-80s? Do you like your humour pretty broad (fart/vomit/penis/boob/ass jokes, digs at cross-dressing, quite a bit of sexism and the odd gay joke)? Do you enjoy your animation with plenty of gore, exploding heads and torn off limbs? If you answered YES to all this, proceed and have fun. And have fun you will.

After a slightly slow start, Night of the Trampires gets nuttier and more exciting as it barrels along. Body and explosion counts rise steadily through the roof and the movie culminates in a blockbuster climax including a truly inspired and quite hilarious fight scene (clowns feature heavily here and are indeed something of a leitmotif throughout). Trampires is great festival-fodder, or for a night in with broad-minded mates, beer and pizza, definitely more of a boys’ movie in all honesty. 

Where Trampires misfires a little is at the level of the script, which is at times clumsy and occasionally wince-inducing.

The classic ‘80s action heroes were at their best when they were witty – think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall telling the corpse of his fake wife (Sharon Stone): “consider that a divorce” – but Trampires takes a lower road, preferring fairly corny, sometimes pretty juvenile humour. The tramp that Steel gives quarters to on the street stores them in his foreskin, Van Rental remarks on the size of Steel’s penis while at the urinals in a bar (his large penis comes up a lot – fnar...), the female partner Steel has been insulting tells him she loves him as she plunges to her death and so on.

Steel’s unconscionable behaviour is presumably designed to set up his redemption arc, but this gets a little muddied by the often equally awful behaviour of the other characters. Instead, the mild degree of character growth Steel ultimately experiences is swallowed up in the excitement of saving the world.

Ultimately, Trampires feels like a movie slightly out of time, as unreconstructed as its hero, but if you sometimes feel the world has gotten a little too PC, and like your animation comedy raw, gory and visually spectacular, you’ll be roaring in the aisles.


IN A NUTSHELL:  A visually arresting, ambitious labour of love, but Trampires' deliberately un-PC script means it may struggle to find an audience beyond animation festivals and beery nights in with the lads.





Mark Brandon has been a fan of all things animated since he can remember, and a writer since he could put pen to paper. He lives in the south of Scotland, where he writes science fiction and fantasy, goes for walks in the country and lifts big bits of metal up and down (mainly for vanity’s sake).