Mr. Wagner, a lonely old hermit, lives on the outskirts of town and he's decided to hold a contest with four particular teenagers in mind. The contest: stay in his creepy and haunted mansion an entire night and walk away with more money then you could imagine. What the hapless teenagers don't know is that Mr. Wagner is actually Dr. Wolfgang Wagner -- a mad scientist who invited the teens to his house so they can become the meal for his pet monster.
As repetitive as the horror genre is I, and many others, still love it. No matter how clichéd a movie can get, deep down they're still enjoyable on some level -- assuming the movie isn't a total turd. But even so it is always nice to see someone do something different with a horror movie and that's why I was glad to see the one-man no-budget project "The Puppet Monster Massacre" was made available. Sure it's not going to be scary (Honestly, at this point in my life if I expect horror movies scare me then I deserve to be drowned in a toilet.) but it could be fun and entertaining at least, and that's really all one can ask for anymore. Sure, the concept of puppets and horror isn't THAT original what with The Creepy Puppet Project, the Danish flick "ZombieWestern: It Came from the West", and of course "Meet the Feebles" (even though that's not really horror) came before Dustin Mills' movie.
Regardless of how original it is or what came first, I was still amped up to see "The Puppet Monster Massacre" since I expected it to be nothing but a fun time. Even when I read Kevin Moyers' negative review for the movie over at Cinema Head Cheese, I was still determined to see this movie. But alas, "The Puppet Monster Massacre" seemed destined to be one of those movies where the creativity was limitless but the entertainment value is extremely limited. The overall idea of teens being invited to stay at a creepy mansion to win money made the movie an obvious love letter to the genre while also including some friendly ribbing. Something made all the more obvious with the character Raimi -- a horror obsessed nerd.
While not great, the story worked well enough for the ridiculous concept that the movie had going for it. What hurt the movie the most was the lack in comedy and worthwhile gags. Too many fart jokes and not enough punch lines with some...punch...It's hard to say what exactly made the comedy fall so short, especially being an amateur project. However, I am going to guess that part of the problem, I think, came from the fact that the voices were provided by Dustin along with his friends and family. On one hand, that's great that he included them in his movie and I'm sure his resources were limited. But because they aren't professional voice actors they lack the comedic timing to make a joke work. Well, I take part of that back. There are two professional voice actors that provide a few additional voices which is good but it also kind of makes a bad situation worse. I wouldn’t say all but definitely most of the time, the non-professional people providing voices sounded like kids who get called upon to read from a book out loud during class. You all know what I'm talking about. Dustin did a decent job, especially as Raimi but the rest sounded flat -- like there were just simply reading the script out loud. It seemed to lack that timing in overall enthusiasm that helps make telling a joke funny and makes humor work in general.
And I don't know Dustin Mills personally so I don't know what his comedic influences are or were but there were more than a few parallels between the comedy style of "The Puppet Monster Massacre" and the TV series "Family Guy": over use of farts, (I can appreciate a good fart joke now and again but there is a point where it becomes played out in a movie.) gags that play out way to long, overly repeated gags, random comments/vignettes that don't really tie in, etc. Certainly that can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you are and whether or not you like "Family Guy" but for someone like me, it's like someone sticking their goddamn thumb in your eye.
Like I said, there are a few other reasons why the comedy felt like it didn't work and fell flat so many times but because it's subjective it's hard to say if it was just me or if it was indeed the movie's fault. Either way, because the movie wasn't funny it felt like it took forever to get through and it wasn't as entertaining as it could have been. The creativity was there as well as the technical talent of shooting, animating, lighting, puppet-design, etc.. Sadly the final product was merely an ambitious project by Dustin Mills that didn't live up to the potential that the concept had set for itself. However, I think many horror fans can understand and appreciate where Dustin was coming from with this movie because it is a love letter to our favorite genre. In the grand scheme of things maybe I'm wrong -- maybe everything worked -- concept and comedy wise, but it just doesn't work on a feature-length scale. It could be that "The Puppet Monster Massacre" needed to be a short film, like "Zombie Western". Whatever it might be, I can't recommend the movie but if you are interested or even curious about the movie you should probably check it out, just in case.