I get a lot of … let’s call them “odd” projects to review for wreckhousemagazine.com and anythighorror.com. I’ve gotten bizarre animated films, experimental indie films, and even a computer generated short film about a talking demon dog who has a taste for human flesh. But last week I received THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE from writer-director Dustin Mills, who himself called a “micro-budgeted feature film.” Always eager to support the indie horror scene I of course told Dustin I’d love to see his film. What I got was a real eye-opener … a film starring a cast made up completely of puppets. My interest was piqued but I must admit I was also skeptical. But wow am I glad I got a chance to see this one. This is a hugely entertaining film but be warned … this is NOT a puppet show for the kiddo’s!!
The film takes place, “A long time ago in the year of our lord, 1985.” This sets the stage for a tongue-in-cheek film full of black humor, puppet violence, puppet gore, and even little puppet nudity (yeah muppet titties!!). The film starts with a hunter getting a smack down from a penguin (??) in the woods and wakes up in the mansion of Dr. Wolfgang Wagner (voiced by Steve Rimpici). It seems Dr. Wagner is a little crazy and uses the hunter as a live incubator for some kind of bizarre parasite. Then we flash over to our main cast of puppets. There’s Charlie (voiced by Ethan Holey), a guy who’s own girlfriend calls him a pussy; Gwen (voiced by Jessica Daniels), Charlie’s ass kicking girlfriend; Gramps (voiced by Bart Flynn), Charlie’s very foul mouthed grampa; Mona and Iggy (voiced by Erica Kissenberth and Bart Flynn respectively), a punk rock/hardcore couple and also the source of the puppet nudity; Raimi Campbell (voiced by Dustin Mills), who’s a horror movie geek; and of course Squiggums (voiced by Dustin Mills), the psychotic penguin. Charlie gets a letter in the mail telling him that if he can survive one full night in Dr. Wagner’s mansion then he’ll win a million dollars (and he didn’t seem freaked out over the use of the word “survive”). Gwen, Iggy, and Mona get the same letter and they all head up to the mansion to collect an easy payday, or so they think.
Sure the set-up is pretty basic and can be found in a thousand films from the 70’s and 80’s, but it’s not so much the set-up that’s the prize here, it’s the execution. The writing is what really grabbed me. The Gramps puppet had me laughing out loud at his very foul language and semi-senility. Just try not laughing when he tells Charlie his favorite WWII war story:
Did I ever tell you about the time I punched Adolph Hitler in his ding-ding?
Or when Gramps tries to give Charlie some advice about and the importance of sex:
I used to fuck your grandma six ways to Sunday and look at me now … I fight like a bear, shit like a gorilla, and I can fill a bucket with my giant balls.
That’s some funny shit right there people!!
But what’s most endearing about this film is Dustin Mills’ obvious love of the horror genre. You can tell THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE was a labour of love and Mills and his fellow cast and crew had a blast making it. Just look at the character of Raimi Campbell (no doubt a nod to both horror director Sam Raimi and horror scribe Ramsey Campbell) who’s a total geek complete with zits on his face and a voice that would fit perfectly in REVENGE OF THE NERDS.
We also get the classic trappings of the “haunted mansion” sub-genre with secret passageways, a mad scientist lab in the basement, and a vicious creature who gets bigger with every victim it eats. Gramps ends up playing a pretty prominent role in the plot as we discover his connection to Dr. Wagner and Dr. Wagner’s tainted past. And don’t worry; along the way we get a lot of dismembered puppets with spurting blood and flying limbs as the creature tears through both the cast and a platoon of soldiers (you’ll just need to see this to believe it) like a buzz saw ripping through rotted wood. Besides some great bloody puppet moments we also get tons of fart humor, mostly from Gramps, and one great fart-set-piece from Raimi Campbell. Raimi turns a corner, sees the monster, stops dead in his tracks, looks into the camera, and lets out a huge fart, and then runs away.
Is THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE full of pretty base, elementary school-level humor? It absolutely is and I absolutely love it. Call me immature. Call me sophomoric. Go ahead; it’s nothing I haven’t heard from my wife!! But the bottom line is that THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE is a really fun, well-written, gory, and fart-filled, all puppet-casted film. This is just about the perfect film to watch while having the gang over and drinking your way a case of beer. This one’s a winner!!
Director: Dustin Mills (& writer)
Plot: 4 out of 4 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer