The year is 1895. Steam-powered ships fly through the air. Clockwork robots have replaced servants. And a grisly murder has taken place in the dark night of New York City. Called to the scene of the ritualistic murder of a young woman, newly appointed police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt discovers Detective Wayne and his police officers power usurped by two special investigators appointed by the White House: Occultist Edgar Allan Poe, a clockwork automaton housing the soul of the literary legend, and Mrs. Emma Entwistle, a dangerous assassin with a unique connection to the otherworld. When they elicit information from the demon Neshrew, a much darker and more dangerous plot of world domination is uncovered.
The Mechanical Grave (2012) is a steampunk short film directed by Jon Keeyes, written by Charles Burnley and Jon Keeyes, and starring Jonathan Brooks (Edgar Allan Poe), Nicole Leigh (Mrs. Emma Louise Entwistle), Matthew Tompkins (Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt), Michael Crabtree (Detective Wayne), and Charles Baker (Neshrew). Watch the teaser trailer here …
Welcome to the world of The Mechanical Grave. Steeped in the popular steampunk and horror genres, the story paints an alternative history of the Victorian Era world. Founded in the science fiction of steampunk grandfathers Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, The Mechanical Grave is an exciting adventure filled with robots, assassins, steam and clockwork powered inventions, magicians, demons, supernatural beings, and a life in which magic is very real, although taboo.
OK, so I’m on a kind of steampunk kick right now, for which a book I am reading is the catalyst. More on that book later. In my previous steampunk-related post, I declared that Tea Time (2014) was my second favorite steampunk short, behind The Skyship Chronicles (2015). Well, I’m revising that ranking by declaring that The Mechanical Grave is, now, my favorite steampunk short! All three films are fantastic, but, this one is just a little… more fantastic!
The Mechanical Grave is like The Wild Wild West [the awesome CBS TV series (1965-69) not the dumb movie (1999)] but more steampunk-y [like the dumb movie!] and mixed with urban fantasy elements. The film isn’t set in Victorian London, like most steampunk, but in New York City in 1895. It’s the same era, different sides of the world. The Mechanical Grave is, basically, the set-up for a web series that, three years later, hasn’t been made. Tea Time, although filled with potential, is a set piece; while The Skyship Chronicles is, in fact, a series whose next episode is currently being funded via Indiegogo (here). What happened to the next episode of The Mechanical Grave? If you watch the movie, and fall under its spell, you will be disappointed at the end – and demand more!
The Mechanical Grave introduces a quartet of heroes who exist in an intriguing steampunk’d alternate history filled with both science and magic. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt is, of course, the future 26th President of the United States – the one who would be known for his “speak softly, and carry a big stick” foreign policy, and the one for whom the “Teddy bear” would be named after. The historical mash-up follows in the wake of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s popular novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010), whose movie adaptation [which I enjoyed!] was released in 2012. Roosevelt finds that he is “protected” from the summoned demon Neshrew by “something… or other.” He is played by Matthew Tompkins whose indie film company Wolfclan Productions co-produced the short [with director Jon Keeyes‘ Highland Myst Entertainment]. Forthright Detective Wayne, played by Michael Crabtree, is Roosevelt’s best man. Together, they represent local law enforcement. However, in this world …
To protect the protect the United States against supernatural threats, the Office of Esoteric Sciences has been established, headed by an automaton and an assassin.
Edgar Allan Poe is the (clockwork) automaton whose bulletproof body houses the soul of, well, Edgar Allan Poe, the famous author/poet who died in Baltimore in 1849 – the one who wrote “The Raven”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and many other tales of mystery and the macabre. Poe is the OES’s occult expert. He’s kind of like a steampunk version of Data (Brent Spiner) from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94). He is played by Jonathan Brooks. Mrs. Emma Louise Entwistle is the (beautiful) assassin. She has a psychic connection to the supernatural world. She is also skilled with magic and firearms. I love when she throws her folding fan like a knife at a minion, then quickly draws two steampunk-y pistols for the climactic battle! I have to think that Mrs. Entwistle’s given name is an homage to ultra-sultry spy Emma Peel, played by Diana Rigg from 1965-68 in the British adventure TV series The Avengers. Mrs. Entwistle is played by the lovely Nicole Leigh. She is featured [with Matthew Tompkins] in the web series Pink, a dark comedy about a (beautiful) assassin! … Note to self: watch Pink!
The demon Neshrew (Charles Baker) is “a vain little bugger” who was summoned by the ritual sacrifice of the young female victim (Erin Marie Garrett). The ritual was intended to summon a soul-stealer in order to steal Poe’s soul and kill Roosevelt. However, “they” summoned Neshrew instead, then called him by another name! Neshrew is like a demonic steampunk version of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. “When I say I don’t know… I do not know,” he snarls at Mrs. Entwistle when she demands that he talk to her after he said he didn’t know why “they” want Poe’s soul. I love when Neshrew briefly re-animates the young girl, who glances at the empty hole in her chest where her heart once was and screams.
Eventually, “they” return and chaos ensues! In the end, Poe and Mrs. Entwistle set off to follow up on a lead. “Let me come with you,” Roosevelt pleads. “You’ll hear from us soon, once I’ve called the rest of the team in. I promise you,” Mrs. Entwistle assures him. “You’re destiny has been set into motion, Mr. Roosevelt. Welcome to the team,” she adds. Then, she and Poe vanish into thin air. The rest of the team? Are there other historical heroes? More literary legends? Another badass babe? The mind boggles at the possibilities! I need more!
The Mechanical Grave is well-written and well-acted by all as it needs to be since the entire 15-minute affair takes place in the entrance hall of a great mansion. In addition, the costumes are well-designed, too, particularly Mrs. Entwistle’s elegant Gothic-Victorian dress with a top hat and goggles for added steampunk chic. My only gripe with this film is with the climactic fight sequence, which I think could have been polished up with more stylish action and quicker cuts because, as it is, too many minions are kind of just waiting to be killed. However, the gripe is minor, and The Mechanical Grave is a major steampunk success!
Rent or buy the digital movie at Wolfclan Productions (here) or at indieflix (here), or purchase the physical DVD at Highland Myst Entertainment (here). I ordered the DVD. Well, I will on my next payday. It’s that good!