Puppet Monster Massacre Review

Several directionless instincts collide in Puppet Monster Massacre, the first being that puppets, on their own, make anything funny. After Avenue Q and Meet the Feebles seemingly divined everything that could be divined from placing Muppet stand-ins in adult situations, one would hope that film-makers after cheap laughs would look elsewhere, but Massacre utilizes its cast without about as much character as those Fandango ads featuring brown paper bags. The other is that haunted house movies were popular in the 1980s, which they weren't. The back of the box proudly proclaims that the film honors the horror films of that decade, but plots involving kids having to spend the night in spooky old mansions have far more in common with the beach party movies of the 1960s than they do with the early slashers. These may seem like minor quibbles, but they speak to something wrong at the heart of Puppet Monster Massacre, and may help in determining exactly why the movie isn't funny at all.

Horrible, Germanic mad scientist Wolfgang Wagner works alone in your standard issue condemned home out in the middle of the forest, perfecting his genetic design for a creature that only grows larger and more voracious the more that it consumes. His experiments having learned all that they could in isolation, he invites a number of teenagers out to his house under the pretext of potentially earning a million dollars. Time and bandwidth could be spent describing them or the situation that follows to you, but that'd really be a waste of your time. Suffice it to say, the problem isn't that you've seen this before (though you probably have); it's that the dynamic here is too weak and facile to be persuasive even if it was the first time it was being utilized.

Carps about the production values aside (because really, we do all need to believe that something like this could be made reasonably well with these kind of resources), everything that you really need to know about Massacre can be summed up in the way that, even clocking in at under 75 minutes, numerous scenes stretch on for much longer than necessary to tack on jokes that aren't especially funny. Take the scene in which we are first introduced to the grandfather for example; even after his grandson has left the room and given all necessary expository information, the grandpa spends a considerable amount of time talking to himself, and revealing that he has soiled himself. Even if you happen to think that they're funny (but don't count on it), it'd be hard to argue that they have anything to do with what's going on in the admittedly thin story. It's sort of a magnification of South Park's famous complaint against Family Guy, but on even larger scale. Instead of cutting away to a joke that isn't necessarily funny, Massacre simply mistakes its whole set-up for being funny.

And it's not hard to see why. There seems to be a pernicious trend going around that insists that anything referencing aspects of the recent past that are already past their shelf life can get out of jail free based on nostalgia alone, resulting in innumerable unwarranted playings of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and so many Chuck Norris jokes that they were eventually collected as a book. It also bears noting that if Puppet Monster Massacre had no puppets in it, the only thing that would change is that its title would be grossly inaccurate. There was really no reason to make this film with puppets, other than to perhaps give it a certain notoriety that human actors would not. But that underlies the real problem, which is that the whole thing plays like something the film-makers thought people would find funny, rather than as something that was actually funny. It's an ugly amalgamation, and it's unlikely that even last weekend's The Smurfs would come across as more cynical and calculated in its designs.


There are a few commentary tracks as well as some deleted footage.

"Puppet Monster Massacre" is on sale July 26, 2011 and is not rated. Horror. Written and directed by Dustin Mills. Starring Steve Rimpici, Bart Flynn, Ethan Holey, Erica Kisseberth, Dustin Mills, Brandon Salkil.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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