DVD Review: Puppet Monster Massacre

Hi all…

When I was in junior high and high school in the mid-1980s, it seemed there were new horror movies hitting theaters every week. I didn’t get to see many until they started showing up on video in high school and college, but I did see a few. And most of them involved teenagers doing dumb things and getting slaughtered by the monster or serial killer of the week.

From Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street and the haunted car in Christine to The Lost Boys and Friday the 13th, they all start with a group of clueless, usually good-looking teenagers with hormones raging out of control and end up with blood and dead bodies everywhere. Like Jeff Goldblum‘s character in The Lost World: Jurassic Park says – “Oh yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”

What if I told you there was a new movie that took that basic plot and turned it on its head? The Puppet Monster Massacre is definitely one of the strangest mash-ups I’ve ever seen. Teenagers? Check. Evil mad scientist? Check. Monster? Check. Creepy old house? Check. Puppets? What the…?

That’s right – The Puppet Monster Massacre from writer/director/actor Dustin Mills takes aim at the classic teenage horror movie pattern, but uses puppets in all the roles. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of blood, gore, running, screaming, and sex – yes, I said sex – in this movie so be VERY aware this puppet show is NOT FOR THE KIDDIES. That said, I was laughing my butt off in more than a few places as the film pokes fun at the horror movie genre.

The story takes place in 1985 and starts with a hunter in the woods. He encounters a penguin and proceeds to get his butt kicked by said flightless bird. The poor old hunter wakes up in a mad scientist’s lair and is used as the incubator for a strange little black monster. I knew from the first blood splatter that this wasn’t going to be an average puppet horror film, though I had no idea what the “average puppet horror film” might be when I started…

After that we’re introduced to the rest of the characters – Charlie (voiced by Ethan Holey) is the main character. He lives with his perverted, swearing, gassy grandfather (voiced by Bart Flynn) in a small town. Charlie is in love with Gwen (voiced by Jessica Daniels) who lives nearby but has been chicken to ask her out. One day Charlie gets an invitation in the mail to spend the night at an old house near town. If he survives, he gets $1,000,000. Though his Gramps suggests that something seems hinky, Charlie is determined to go anyway. And when he finds out that Gwen got an invitation, he knows he has to go to prove that he wasn’t the wimp everybody thought he was.

We discover quickly that Gwen and Charlie aren’t the only “contestants” in this potential night of horrors. Also invited are Mona (voiced by Erica Kissenberth) and Iggy (also voiced by Flynn) – a couple of hardcore rockers who like to party and have sex frequently; and Raimi Campbell (voiced by Mills) – a horror movie buff who seems to live in his mother’s basement whose name has to be a combination of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.

Once this gang of five puppets arrives at the front door to the big old spooky house, they meet the mysterious Dr. Wolfgang Wagner (voiced by Steve Rimpici) – the strange benefactor who invited them all to participate. What they don’t know is that surviving until morning really isn’t in the plan. Dr. Wolfgang, his assistant Squiggums (the penguin), and the Monster have something else in mind. Revenge!

The absolutely hilarious thing to me is that if you decided to cast this film with real actors – it would still work. It’s almost as though Mills decided to take a thought experiment of “what if we used puppets instead of people?” to it’s conclusion and this movie is the result. Though seeing puppet sex was slightly disturbing, I have to say I enjoyed how wacky and well-written the film actually was. Some of the visuals alone had me in stitches such as when the monster is coming out of a door with “CLEARANCE 3 FT.” stenciled above it – or when Charlie falls into a room full of fluffy bunnies with the words “FOOD STORAGE” stenciled on the walls.

Of all the characters, Raimi was my favorite. With his buck teeth and puppet acne, he manages to narrate his way on a trek through the forest that had me laughing early on and then laughing even harder as he explored the house later. I think he had all the best lines and definitely the best chase scene in the whole film that evoked a very Scooby-Doo kind of feel from the music to the cartoon-like path they took through the house.

Don’t worry that there’s not enough blood… There is definitely plenty of mayhem and gore in this movie in addition to the comedy. I can truthfully say I’ve never seen puppets die in as many gruesome ways as they did here. Deaths varied from monsters eating heads to soldiers shooting holes in other soldiers to claws slicing halfway through a puppet’s face (with the requisite brains/gore inside)… every time I thought I’d seen them all, the crew came up with another one.

In addition to the film (about 70 minutes long), there are a couple of commentary tracks as well as a couple of monster designs they decided not to go with.

All in all if you’re looking for a violent, bloody, puppet-based horror flick with crude humor and language, The Puppet Monster Massacre should be right up your alley. Even if you’re just looking for something different in the horror/comedy genre, it fits that bill too. But either way, this has to be one of the more original concepts for a horror film I’ve seen in years and I’d love to see more from Dustin Mills and his crew. Who knows? Maybe this will kick off a whole new genre of horror!

For more about the movie, check out the film’s website at PuppetMonsterMassacre.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Look for this fun flick at Amazon!

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Preview: Cars 2 Character Bios

Hey there!

Though we all know the usual characters of the Cars universe, like Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and Mack (John Ratzenberger)… I’ve been interested as we learn more about some of the OTHER characters coming in the film.

For example… Rod “Torque” Redline (voiced by Bruce Campbell, one of my favorite character actors) plays a hot spy car in the movie…

Rod “Torque” Redline is considered by many as the greatest American spy in the world. Recruited after the Cold War for both his brains and brawn, Torque is a tough-as-nails Detroit muscle car with a mastery of disguises. In his latest deep-cover operation, he obtained vital information about the plot to sabotage the World Grand Prix. So Rod plans a rendezvous with his British counterparts to share his discoveries at the World Grand Prix welcome reception in Tokyo, Japan. But with the bad guys hot on his tailpipe, Rod is forced to ditch the intel early and with the first party guest he sees – a rusty American tow truck named Mater.

Or Siddeley (Jason Isaacs) – a sleek spy plane partnered with Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) of British Intelligence.

Siddeley is a state-of-the-art British twin-engine spy jet. At 176 feet from nose to tail and an impressive 157-foot wingspan, the super sleek silver-bodied Siddeley streaks through international skies at record-breaking mach 1 speeds. Outfitted with all the latest in high-tech spy equipment, including cloaking technology, defensive weaponry and afterburners, Siddeley is Finn’s steadfast partner-in-fighting-crime around the globe.

With the recent announcement of Disney Animation’s movie Planes, I’ll be very curious to see how the planes work into the Cars universe in Cars 2!

Question: What do you think? Will the Cars sequel be a boon or a bane to the Disney/Pixar track record so far?

–Fitz

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Why do we love bad movies?

Hi all!

Recently I began pondering why I sometimes like movies that are panned by just about everybody I know and dislike movies that are universally loved. It’s not a new phenomenon either – it’s been happening for years.

In the past, I’ve simply brushed this little speed bump aside. “That’s what’s great about art,” I’ve said. “Everybody likes different things differently.”

But when I’ve stated publicly that I like a movie like Bubba Ho-tep starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, I’ve been blasted by comments from friends like “Are you out of your mind?!” And frankly, they may be right. I may very well be a bit insane. A little insanity goes a long way.

So a couple of nights ago when I actually *paid* for the privilege of watching Jonah Hex on my television via pay-per-view, I fully expected to hate the film. I mean – every single review I saw of the movie panned it in the worst ways possible. And yet… I kind of liked it. I may have actually enjoyed it.

Was it Oscar-winning material? Heck no. Was it an escapist film based on a DC comic book? Definitely.

What is it that makes people’s opinions differ so wildly on such a movie? I have no idea.

But here’s what I think. This is purely opinion. No facts. No proof backing me up.

I like movies, television, and books to help me escape my everyday life. Popular media is my drug of choice. Sometimes I’ll swing towards nonfiction, but I tend to stay squarely in fictional genres that make me happy – fantasy, science fiction, comic books, thrillers, spies, zombies, martial arts, explosions, and so on… Occasionally I’ll try a drama or something serious, but let’s face it – if I’m going to spend money and time on something, I want to enjoy it – not feel like I’ve just been taught a lesson or slapped in the face.

Does this make me a bad person? I don’t think so.

Sometimes it *does* mean that I like a movie nobody else does however.

And like Nicholas Cage‘s character Balthazar Blake in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice when asked if he’s insane, I have to agree that I too might be just a little bit nuts.

Is it just me? Or was Jonah Hex not the worst movie ever made? (For me, that honor still goes to the film Bug with Ashley Judd.)

What are your favorite guilty pleasure movies or movies that other people think you’re nuts for liking? Leave me some comments below!

–Fitz

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