GREY HORIZONS: A Review by Todd ford
I feel fondness for creative people. I especially admire persistent ones -- those precious few who find themselves under the spell, captured by a vision, probably spending sleepless nights of frenzied writing while dreaming with their eyes wide open. You know the type. They express their vision and you say. "Wow, man! That sounds pretty damn ambitious." Then years later, you rephrase it: "WOW! That IS mighty mucking ambitious! How'd you do that?"
And if that dreamer has talent to match, you sit back and smile. Kristian Stenslie is just such a dogged creative talent and his feature length animated film THE VOID WAR: GREY HORIZONS, screening on June 10th at the Fargo Theater, is his latest vision. It's a science fiction yarn of remarkably epic proportions infused with a love for the genre that's palpable. And, oh yeah, it's painstakingly made almost entirely with Legos and clay.
The craftsmanship is top notch. Claymation is used for special visual effects, often in the form of the horrific. I've seen this avenue traveled before. Films from RETURN TO OZ to THE EVIL DEAD come to mind. I've never seen it used more skillfully. The images he conjures here belong on the same shelf as ALIEN and Carpenter's THE THING. (Likely, much if not all of GREY HORIZONS'S production gave Stenslie something to do during COVID lockdown and just as THE THING feels to have anticipated the pandemic, his film feels, if not inspired by it, at least enriched by it.)
There's a certain film-school-iness to the screenplay. You know, a sense of "I love this movie. Let's see if I can make reference to it somehow." STAR WARS predominates (I appreciated seeing affectionate nods to that favorite of mine). Did I detect SOLARIS as well? It might've been my imagination, but extra kudos just for taking my mind to that special planet.
I'm not going to quibble, though. I found it all good-spirited, fun. Better yet, Stenslie often draws from another welcome wellspring -- a sense of humor. There's some clever wordplay that seems derived from nothing except his playful imagination. I laughed often.
If you get a chance, join him and his collaborators (the credits indicate many of his friends and family also had talent and time to kill) in Fargo in June. And if you live far, far away, don't worry. I'll keep you posted on other ways to see it. I'm positive there will be plenty.