Wendell & Wild Review


PLOT: A young orphan girl discovers she’s a Hell Maiden who has been assigned a pair of personal demons named Wendell and Wild.

REVIEW: About thirty years ago, director / stop-motion animator Henry Selick teamed up with Tim Burton to create a film that has been embraced as both a Halloween classic and a Christmas classic: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Now Selick has joined forces with genre filmmaker Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us, Nope) to craft another stop-motion animated film that may not quite reach the level of The Nightmare Before Christmas, but is sure to earn its own solid fanbase. Based on an unpublished novel Selick wrote with Clay McLeod Chapman, the film is called Wendell & Wild – and it’s about a pair of goofball demons.

The lead character in the film is actually Kat Elliot (voiced by Lyric Ross), a young girl whose parents were killed in a car accident five years earlier. The Elliots were the owners of the Rust Bank Brewery, the heart of their hometown… but after they died and the brewery burned down, Rust Bank has become a ghost town. It seems the only place still functioning is the Rust Bank Catholic school. Which happens to be the school where Kat, who became a juvenile delinquent after losing her parents, is now enrolled. But she hasn’t been in the Catholic school for long before she discovers she is a Hell Maiden, assigned two personal demons. The Wendell and Wild of the title.

Wendell & Wild review

Voiced by Peele (he’s Wild) and his sketch comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key (he’s Wendell), Wendell and Wild are not the evil monsters you might expect demons to be. They work for a much larger and more powerful demon called Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames), who torments the souls of the dead in the Scream Faire carnival that sits on his massive stomach. Wendell and Wild got in trouble for dreaming of making their own carnival – a Dream Faire, which would actually be fun for souls to visit, and now they’re forced to work Belzer’s hair farm with their horse-like creature Spark Plug, roaming Belzer’s scalp like it’s a field and making sure he has a fresh supply of vibrant hair plugs every day. Follicle by follicle, they supply Belzer with hair and hit each follicle with their hair cream… which happens to have magical properties.

Kat summons her demons into the Land of the Living with hopes they’ll be able to improve her situation, but Wendell and Wild get distracted by their own goal of building the Dream Faire and end up siding with the money-hungry Father Level Bests (James Hong) and the villains who have ruined Rust Bank in the last five years. Soon enough, there’s an army of the undead filling the streets of Rust Bank and Kat has to team up with nun Sister Helley (Angela Bassett) and her pal Raul (Sam Zelaya) to get her demons back under control. In the midst of this, screenwriters Selick and Peele dig into the story of Kat and her parents in a very touching way. And, as you would expect from Peele, they also work in a bit of social commentary.

Wendell & Wild review

The voice cast did terrific work in their roles, and Key and Peele made Wendell and Wild fun and amusing characters to watch even when their actions are not honorable. Tim Burton gets a lot of credit for the look and style of The Nightmare Before Christmas – in fact, a lot of people mistakenly call it a Burton movie. With Wendell & Wild, Selick continues to prove that he has his own dazzling style and imagination separate from the influence of Burton. The character design in this film is great, the animation is stunning. There are a lot of fun ideas (a demon with a fair on his belly and a hair farm on his head, desiccated corpses rising from their graves) that were excellently brought to the screen by Selick and his crew.

These visuals will appeal to horror fans and monster kids alike, and younger viewers will be rooting for tough Catholic schoolgirl Kat as she goes on this supernatural adventure. But while Wendell & Wild will be appealing to kids, parents should be warned that there is content in here that you might not want the youngsters to see. Wendell and Wild have trippy visions after ingesting the hair cream, there’s a murder, the first end credit song has some questionable lyrics… so you might want to check it out for yourself first before letting the kids dive in.

Wendell & Wild is a delightful little Halloween treat and another great artistic achievement for Selick, thirteen long years after the release of his previous feature film (Coraline). This may not be a new classic (or maybe it is, we’ll have to wait and see), but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Wendell & Wild is now available on the Netflix streaming service.

Arrow in the Head reviews Wendell & Wild, a stop-motion animated film from Henry Selick and Jordan Peele. Now on Netflix.

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About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.