In the wake of last year's ThanksKilling discovery, the Cap'n tries to find some homespun horror made for a very low budget. Young directors with vision tend to produce sillier horror movies because they can afford to, and rely on gimmicks you might not see higher echelon talent utilize. For example, let's say a Haunted House / Monster story told entirely with hand puppets, shot on a green screen in front of computer effects that remind you of Alone in the Dark 2. Or maybe when Sierra started releasing games on CD, like Gabriel Knight. That's The Puppet Monster Massacre.
When I first read a review of the film, I somehow missed the part that it was all puppets - I thought it was just the monster, who looks like an Otaku-ized version of Giger's Alien. Sure enough, every character is a puppet, from demented Nazi scientist Wolfgang Wagner (Steve Rempici) to the bunny rabbits he keeps around to feed his genetically modified super monster. The only character who isn't a puppet is a stuffed penguin that say "wak wak," and only Dr. Wagner can understand.
The evil doctor invites four teenagers from the town nearby to spend a night in his haunted mansion: there's Charlie (Ethan Holey), who is in the words of one character "kind of a pussy"; his best friend / would be girlfriend Gwen (Jessica Daniels); punk / fake limey Iggy (Bart Flynn); and Raimi Campbell (Dustin Mills), a geek / expert on horror movies (and, well, look at the name. One person groaned). Tagging along with Iggy is his girlfriend Mona (Erica Kisseberth), who Doctor Wagner allows to stay and compete for a million dollar prize. Of course, he really just wants to feed them to his monster so it will grow, as well as settle a score from forty years ago (the film takes place in 1985).
From that setup we're exposed to puppet gratudity, fart jokes, and extreme puppet violence. It's rather amusing in its willingness to go for the cheap laugh and pile on the gore at the same time (i.e. when Raimi meets the monster for the first time, he audibly shits himself for at least thirty seconds before leading the monster on a Scooby Doo-like chase, only to end up with half his head ripped off). The comedy is crude and frankly unrefined, but it suits a film featuring hand puppets will enough that I can't really complain. It's exactly what I hoped it would be when I realized the gimmick extended beyond the monster. By the time the monster is decimating an entire military unit, complete with slow motion shots and dramatic "war" music, it's clear The Puppet Monster Massacre has achieved exactly what it set out to. Silly, gross, and kind of stupid, but exactly the kind of goofy horror comedy that brings the energy up in a room.