Samurai, Ghosts, and Kickstarter

Kickstarter has always treated me like a bad romantic partner who hurts me, but I keep coming back anyways. It seems like the best you can expect is well-intended but infeasible projects. Or, if you’re unlucky, you might find yourself hiring private investigators to investigate beef-based fraud (the best kind of fraud). At the very end of the spectrum, there are Kickstarters that will just bum you out. Does the world need a “smart” fidget spinner? Is the world ready for a smart fidget spinner?  Is the company called Kickstarter because you’re paying to get the emotional version of your groin kicked?

If you’re like me, apparently it doesn’t matter. I’m very much hoping that this puppet film about a samurai and his friend, a severed head, gets funded. The Haunted Swordsman will be directed by Kevin McTurk, who has directed several other successful and spooky puppet films. Other members of the team have experience working on Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy franchise, Stranger Things, and other films, so fingers crossed that this one doesn’t end up on Your Kickstarter Sucks.

Production Shot from The Haunted Swordsman

The project seems like it has experienced people working on it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a success. For that, there needs to be a good story. From the Kickstarter page:

“Lost in a bamboo forest, his Shogun murdered by an evil supernatural force, a lone samurai collapses to his knees with an anguished cry. Disgraced and humiliated at having failed to save his Master, the Samurai prepares to commit seppuku. But a voice stops him. A voice emanating from a cursed severed head who offers to guide the Samurai on a quest for vengeance. Thus begins the tale of… The Haunted Swordsman.”

This, of course, is just the premise; ostensibly, the script will be written and fleshed out as the project gets funded. Regardless, it seems like a good starting point. Who doesn’t like ghost stories involving samurai? The two go together very well, better than most people think.

One of the surprising things about Japanese culture is how much their folklore embraces horror. Most of us are familiar with this through the subgenre of Japanese Horror from films like The Ring or The Grudge.

But in addition to tapping into this particular vein of horror, The Haunted Swordsman will also be using 36−inch–tall bunraku puppets. This is a traditional type of puppet theater from 17th-century Japan that requires three separate puppeteers to control a single puppet.

So, it seems like The Haunted Swordsman has a nice confluence of factors that might contribute to its success. There’s an experienced team working on the project, and there’s cultural history that contributes to both the form and the genre, which should provide plenty of material to make a compelling and sufficiently spooky story. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Kickstarter page here.