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The Jim Henson Company Will Produce S. Craig Zahler’s ‘Hug Chickenpenny’

That’s right. A family-friendly company is backing the guy who did ‘Bone Tomahawk’ and ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’.
Hug Chickenpenny Book
By  · Published on December 21st, 2017

That’s right. A family-friendly company is backing the guy who did ‘Bone Tomahawk’ and ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’.

A lot of us here at FSR may not be partial to Bone Tomahawk, but S. Craig Zahler‘s next project has an unexpected producer on board. Fresh off the buzz of his newest film, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Variety has announced that one of Zahler’s upcoming projects is an adaptation of his own book, “Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child.” The Jim Henson Company, known for creating the Muppets, has joined the production.

“Hug Chickenpenny” is about a young child of unknown origin who is different, to say the least. The book details a world that’s both slightly whimsical and definitely creepy. “Hug Chickenpenny” seems to be a story about individuality in the midst of a less forgiving world; Zahler’s “gothic Dickensian take on ‘The Elephant Man.'” Read the full book synopsis here:

“Hug Chickenpenny is an anomalous child. Born from tragedy and unknown paternity, this asymmetrical and white-haired baby inspires both ire and pity at the orphanage, until the day that an elderly eccentric adopts him as a pet. The upbeat boy’s spirit is challenged in his new home and as he is exposed to prejudiced members of society in various encounters. Will Hug and his astronautical dreams survive our cruel and judgmental world?”

Zahler is slated to direct and write the adaptation. He and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop will work together to create the animatronic puppet versions of Hug. This is already set up as Zahler’s most accessible work, given his penchant for more extreme and horrific genres. Hug Chickenpenny would likely incorporate some very unsettling themes anyway. In fact, it might simply be a huge red herring to focus on the family-friendly aspect of the Jim Henson Company when “Hug Chickenpenny” isn’t even a book marketed to children in the slightest (Amazon lists the book’s genre as simply “gothic”). The book could instead be using the themes of a lost, lonely child to build a story that’s more relatable to adults.

Nevertheless, considering how Brawl in Cell Block 99 consisted of a “combination of slow character beats and exploitation-on-steroids violence,” Hug Chickenpenny seems like a noticeable shift for Zahler nonetheless. No one should be expecting hyper-violence at any rate. Hug Chickenpenny joins a number of other projects that Zahler has in the works. His next directorial effort, a police thriller titled Dragged Across Concrete that stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, is currently in post-production. He also wrote the screenplay for the next installment of the Puppet Master horror series (maybe Zahler’s two signatures could be intense bloody violence and movies featuring puppets). Both films will be released in 2018.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)