Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Puppet Monster Massacre and Slaughtering the '8os: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by Gravitas Ventures.

Director/writer: Dustin Mills.

Cast: Steve Rimpici, Jessica Daniels and Bart Flynn.

Experimental movie-making and puppet theatre could not get any more stranger with The Puppet Monster Massacre. This horror comedy product comes from the mind of writer, director and actor Dustin Mills. He takes the early style from "South Park" and mixes it up with the production reminiscent of 80’s "Sesame Street." Appropriately enough, the vintage vibe Mills is going for shows.

In this film, Mills manages to make a running gag out of the movies from that era, and keep it going fairly strong. This product is certainly the most unique piece of B-cinema performance art to come out a long time. Who would have thought that a horror movie could be made with nothing but puppets? There are no true scares, but the twisted humour Mills uses somewhat works.

Some of the laughs are found in the situation that Charlie (voiced by Ethan Holey) finds himself in. One day, he gets an invitation to go spend the night at an old house in the outskirts of town. He takes along Gwen (Jessica Daniels), and along the way, they meet Mona (Erica Kissenberth) and Iggy (Bart Flynn), two hardcore punks. Raimi Campbell (also Mills) is the strange little tag-a-long and yes, this individual is a nod to two of the biggest icons of the genre—Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.

Together they enter the house of terrors. Wolfgang Wagner (Steve Rimpici) welcomes the gang, and before House on Haunted Hill can be screamed, the many acknowledgements to other classic tales, like Psycho and Evil Dead, can easily be spotted. Wagner is the mad scientist, and with his army of killer bunnies and even a penguin who thinks he's Igor, the absurdities do not end there.

The setup runs like a sitcom, going from one moment to another, and this film is more or less schlock entertainment. The monster looks very familiar; some may wonder if Dustin Mills is taking cues from Larry Blamore's Lost Skeleton Returns Again. The deadpan performances and comedic pairings are very evident and both serve the same function: to laugh it up.

But some viewers may ask just what the heck can be gained from watching puppets? One possibility is that Mills may be fulfilling a childhood wish of making puppets slaughter each other. Instead of the Charles Band approach of animated puppets in a real setting, Mills is going all out with real puppets and impressive set designs. There are certainly some amusing pieces of gore to watch, a decent storyline to follow, and a raunchiness to laugh at. Not even the best Full Moon product goes that far. But in respect to the "South Park" analogy, nothing in Puppet Monster Massacre will ever top what Team America did in the obligatory sex scene.

Dustin Mills may possibly be at home with Matt Stone and Trey Parker. To imagine what kind of follies they can produce could make for some very entertaining products to come.

Overall: 6.5/10.

*this title has recently released on video-on-demand platforms (Oct, 2011).

A listing of available vod platforms for this title is available at Gravitas Ventures:

Gravtias Ventures VOD Platforms

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