Produced by indie filmmaker Loredana Gasparotto, Creatures is an animated mini-series inspired by the filmmaker’s memories of an orphanage for disabled children near her elementary school, as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale Wild Swans, and the movie The Miracle Worker, which is the story of a courageous teacher who saves her pupil’s life.
The project uses puppets combined with post-processing effects to simulate character movements like lip sync, eyeblinks, and head movements.
Loredana describes her inspiration behind the project:
A few years ago, in addition to those inspirations, I came across images of Chernobyl and the Grünenthal Thalidomide disaster, which resulted in many deformed children. Since then, I have begun investigating the issue of hidden pharmaceutical experiments on people and the effects of nuclear accidents. Creatures came to life during that research.
The story takes place in an Old Victorian Gothic mansion in a 19th-century rural American heartland and features heroes whose courage enables them to triumph over their enemy. The story is dedicated to individuals who must overcome nearly insurmountable odds.
Creatures is a thriller and a modern fairytale about a group of disfigured children, their eccentric teacher, and their endeavors to break through the walls of fear and marginalization. It is a journey into a world that combines danger, beauty, and a desire to wander into new imaginative and cerebral possibilities.
The opening of the first episode is very frantic and jarring, introducing the main character Ama (Nathalie Bryant) who has just been accused of burning down the orphanage where she works as a guardian. She protests her innocence and begins to recount the story of how she came to be employed at the orphanage to two investigators trying to get to the bottom of a tragedy that left all the children and staff inside dead.
After that whirlwind introduction, things calm down and the episode starts taking its time introducing us to the setting and characters of the orphanage and the surrounding grounds.
Miss Ama is introduced to the unusual residents of the orphanage who consist of a group of about a dozen children who are welcoming and positive despite their severe disfigurements. They quickly form a bond with their new caregiver as she teaches them how to embrace their differences and see the strengths in their disabilities.
Throughout the episode we see Ama taking medication. She also appears to be prone to hallucinations and it’s implied she may have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Mental illness is a recurring theme in the episode and is juxtaposed with the outward physical ailments of the children.
Overall, the first episode of Creatures is an interesting and compelling watch. The charm and physicality of the puppetry go a long way to endearing each of the characters. Their unique designs and personalities are also memorable and help them stand out from each other.
There are elements of the show that reminded me of the David Lynch film The Elephant Man (1980) as well as the video game Sanitarium (1998), specifically the second level, The Innocent Abandoned. The movement of the characters in the show has a jerky, staccato feel to it that fits well with the unsettling and psychologically dark tone of the show. The show also makes effective use of the miniature sets and real-life outdoor settings like forests and fields. The warped sense of scale, which was admittedly distracting at first, serves to further enhance the effect of the heightened reality of a world that’s decidedly skewed.
Creatures has a broad genre appeal to anyone interested in psychological horror, character development, and the macabre in general. If Jacob’s Ladder took place in the countryside of the 19th-century rural American heartland, it might’ve looked something like this. I recommend the show to any fans of the Silent Hill, Remothered, and Rule of Rose games.
You can check out Creatures and Loredana’s other works on her Youtube channel, Instagram page, and artist’s website. She has submitted the first episode of Creatures to various festivals and hopes to get it out to a wider audience soon.
Be sure to check out the trailer for the Creatures mini-series below.