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Spooky handmade puppets bring this short horror film to life

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Puppets are just about the creepiest things around, and that's why a new short horror film called "The Mill at Calder's End" looks like it will be a real winner. Hollywood puppeteer and special effects artist Kevin McTurk (who's previously worked on films such as Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, and The Aviator) is leading the project, which was funded on Kickstarter last year. The film's called a "Victorian ghost story," and McTurk says the work is inspired by such literary giants as Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

Now there's a truly spooky trailer for the short film, which is shot entirely with hand-crafted puppets controlled by skilled handlers. The figures — which are roughly two-and-a-half feet tall — are known as bunraku puppets. Three or more puppeteers trained in the centuries-old Japanese art of bunraku puppetry manipulate the figures to give them life-like movement. In traditional bunraku puppet theater, the puppeteers are shrouded in black and visible on-stage, but they've either been cropped out of frame or digitally removed in "The Mill at Calder's End." True to the art style, McTurk is shying away from special effects in the film, explaining that "there will be almost no computer generated imagery in the final film" because "it is my goal to make a film that celebrates practical effects."

From the little taste offered by the teaser, the results look like a true artistic achievement — especially when you consider the amount of work that goes into each and every frame. The handcrafted look of the film and the puppeteering is particularly notable because it seems to suit the subject matter so well. If you're looking for more of McTurk's work, be sure to check his other short horror film, "The Narrative of Victor Karloch," which was released last year. Principal photography of "The Mill at Calder's End" wrapped up this summer, and the entire short film is "coming soon."