Claymation horrors reenter the film industry with “Wendell & Wild”



Legendary collab between horror producer Jordan Peele and claymation director Henry Selick, “Wendell & Wild”, takes viewers on a trip through the life of a demon-ridden teenager. The main character Kat, voiced by Lyric Ross, journeys to face her greatest nightmares with help from her friends along the way. Through luminous hues and impeccable character design, the film prioritizes culture, individualization, attention to detail and mental health among teenagers.

Mia Kirkwood, Reporter

Henry Selick, the highly influential director of groundbreaking claymation movies such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Coraline” delivers a notable comeback with the theatrical release “Wendell & Wild.” With the help of critically acclaimed horror movie producer Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, the cold, teenage animated Halloween special became an immediate sensation. The film was broadcasted in movie theaters October 21 and released on streaming platforms through Netflix October 28. 

This PG-13 moody animation relays a dark but enticing feel that animated thriller fans love. The film introduces its main character, Katherine ‘Kat’ Elliott, played by Lyric Ross, as a bubbly young child who lives in the city of Rust Bank. The bright yellow-based lighting in these scenes provides the impression of a feel-good family movie as Kat and her parents prepare to ride home on a stormy night. However, in mere minutes, watchers’ perception of the seemingly sweet film altered. In outright horror, Kat screeches as her candy apple oozes infested worms. The screech resulted in Kat’s parents crashing off the side of the road and landing in the depths of the city’s lake.

Kat’s character development sprouts from the trauma she induced by the death of her parents. Throughout the movie, Kat’s decisions, emotional responses and interactions trace back to her childhood. Kat suffers from panic attacks and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as she relives experiences that remind her of her past. The imagery of these complex situations ventured viewers on a path of profoundly personal and realistic scenes as she traversed and explored her well-being. Kat’s breathing techniques after panic attacks, the adults’ responses to Kat’s outbreaks and other students’ confusion toward Kat’s behavior added an exceptionally well-written touch of realism to the story. 

After the courts put Kat into juvenile detention for immoral behavior, Kat found herself back in her hometown to attend a traditional private school. At this school, Kat met the students Siobhan, Sloane and Sweetie. Although the three students embody the classic preppy schoolgirl stereotypes, an additional character Raúl breaks the cliché. Displaying a similar alternative style to Kat with gauged ears and side-swooped hair, Raúl fits Kat’s vision of breaking the status quo. As the only transgender boy attending the all-girl institution, Raúl’s experiences and identity allow another unique viewpoint to Kat’s world. 

“‘We’re going to be the most inclusive animated film— what are the people we need for this to be inclusive?’ We never set out to do that. [Raúl] came from this very simple idea of like, I want there to be one boy at an all-girls school. And at the end of the day, well, why is that? We need a reason. Then, well, he’s trans. That’s why he’s the only boy at that all-girls school. I just like to have elements that don’t fit the pattern, so it started from just that idea of ‘why this kid’ and then ‘what’s the reason?’ So it came pretty naturally… I’d like to think it’s very organic, and it felt right for the overall tone of the film,” Selick said.

Throughout the movie, viewers receive a plot line from Kat’s demons living in the underworld by the names of Wendell and Wild. Played by former comedy duo Keegan Michael Key and Peele, the pair adds a comedic touch to the film’s primarily melancholic storytelling and circumstance. The movie’s underworld encompasses brilliant colors and compositions associated with Halloween greens, purples and rusty oranges. Additionally, themes of Mexican and African diasporic mysticism present themselves through multiple characters and artistic elements within “Wendell & Wild’s” plotlines. These additional aspects added outstandingly clever easter eggs and eye-catching touches to the film’s fast-paced scenes. 

“The trailer was amazing and I’m super excited to watch it. With the directors from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline [Henry Selick] plus Jordan Peele as a producer, I know it’s going to be perfect for Halloween. All the diversity and the spooky stop motion animation, which is always super classic, makes it even more anticipating,” junior Samara Weatherly said.

Through this wild ride of a movie, viewers experience an expeditious, Halloween-inspired, spooky setting that only a claymation film can achieve. Diverse voices such as African Americans, Indigenous Americans and Mexicans spoke powerfully throughout every second of the film. In addition, each character displayed distinguishable styles, facial features, body types and skin tones, which ultimately steered the overall character design away from the same-face syndrome. Rushed plot pacing appears as the only potential problem, which mainly becomes an issue toward the film’s midpoint. 

Released at perfect timing for the Halloween season, “Wendell & Wild” stands as a needed spooky movie for teens and claymation fanatics to watch.


The Chant’s Grade: A+