Thursday, September 8, 2011



Distributor: MVD Entertainment Group
Label: Dustin Mills Product
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Duration: 70 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Director: Dustin Mills
Cast: Ethan Holey, Jessica Daiels, Steve Rimpso, Dustin Mills, Bart Flynn, Erica Kisseberth

In Dustin Mills' DIY horror-comedy THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE a
group of five teens receive letters challenging them to spend a night in a creepy old mansion on the edge of town, yeah sure why not, right? At stake is one-million dollars for anyone brave enough to remain in the mansion for the duration of the night. It's a classic horror premise right outta William Castle's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959). What they don't realize is that mansion is owned by a former Nazi scientist Dr. Wolfgang Wagner (Steve Rimpici) who has bio-engineered a carnivorous creature that he plans to unleash upon 'em as soon as the door closes behind them. That's the very simple set-up to the film, now throw in some kinky Muppet-styled hand puppet fornication, copious amounts of splatter, 400 soldiers battling a Godzilla sized creature and what you get is a splatteriffic horror-comedy that's a great watch.

There's a small cast of fun  characters here which perfectly suit the film's 80's inspired cartoonish carnage and splattery mayhem. Our main character is an Jesse Eisenberg type wimpy kid by the name of Charlie Hawkins (Ethan Holey) who is joined in the scary mansion challenge by his best-friend Gwen, a Brit-punker named Iggy (Bart Flynn), his girlfriend Mona (Erica Kisseberth) and an awesomely pervy horror nerd appropriately named Raimi (Dustin Mills) named of course after EVIL DEAD 2 (1987) director Sam Raimi. It's perhaps a sad reflection upon myself  that Raimi was definitely the character I could most relate to here. Also thrown into the mix is Charlie's ultra-ornery WWII vet Gramps (also voiced by Flynn), he's the second most quotable character after Raimi. Our antagonists are the aforementioned Nazi scientist Dr. Wagner, his evil-penguin sidekick Squiggums and the flesh-crazed toothy creature.

The director keeps it fairly simple with a pretty well familiar set 'em up and knock 'em down creature feature/slasher narrative. The unwitting teens arrive at the mansion, meet the mysterious Dr. Wolfgang Wagner and the bio-engineered creature quickly begins slaughtering puppets one by one right from the get-go, it's inspired in it's simplicity. The kills are not only surprisingly bloody but very well executed as puppet massacres go anyway, it's pretty crazy fun stuff.

I love the medium Mills has chosen to work with, it seems a completely novel and gimmicky conceit to use hand puppets set against 3D digital backgrounds and some South Park style animation flashbacks to WWII but it mostly works. The potential for disaster here would seem overwhelming, there are so many shitty DIY horror films and a hand-puppet splatterfest doesn't immediately spring to mind as horror-comedy gold but the film is well-written with some snappy dialogue and well executed right down to some great atmospheric lighting and shadowplay.

Like some of the best 80's horror film's this is deeply infused with a strong comedy element but it's character driven and not too absurd, it's really spot on. Probably not the best parenting decision I've ever made but I watched some of this with my 11 year old and we were both in hysterics, like we were watching The Three Stooges, there's no small amount of fart humor here but it complements the film's sensibilities as well as my own.

The major drawback to the film for me was that I just didn't care for the films main protagonist Charlie, he was very weak character in my opinion and my man Raimi was slighted to early on in the film, I just wanted more of the pervy horror nerd.
 At only 70 minutes the film flies by in a flurry of fuzzy carnage, it's the perfect length, not too short and not long enough to wear out it's welcome. Mills obviously poured his 80's horror loving soul into this project and it oozes awesomeness at every turn.

DVD: THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen and looks mighty good upscaled to 1080p on my screen. Colors are vibrant, black levels are strong and overall it's a very slick looking feature that one wouldn't assume cost $3500 to make. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track suffices, it's not fantastic or particularly dynamic but it's clean and the dialogue sounds crisp.

The disc's special features include two scrapped ideas for the creature design presented in short video clips, what Mills decided to go with in the end is definitely the right choice for the film. There are also two commentaries, one with the director and another with both director and assistant direct Brandon Salkil. I only listened to the director's commentary thus far but it was quite informative with lots of talk about his love of 80's horror, making the film, the voice actors, creating the puppets and even critiquing the film a bit.

Special Features:
- Scrapped Monster 1 (0:10) 16:9
- Scrapped Monster 2 (0:30) 16:9
- Audio Commentary with Director Dustin Mills
- Audio Commentary with Director Dustin Mills and Assistant Director Brandon Salkil

Verdict: THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE is pure 80's splatter inspired puppet carnage with some fun kaiju elements. If you dig TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, Peter Jackson's MEET THE FEEBLES or Bill Zebub's DOLLA MORTE there's definitely something here for you to enjoy, worth a rental at the very least, recommended.