I wanted to like this movie so much more than I actually did. I dig puppets. A lot. On the heels of absolutely loving The Muppets, I was in the mood to see some puppet horror, which I haven’t seen very many times before. Unfortunately, what I got was a pretty dull flick that I wouldn’t have enjoyed with live actors either. It had a few inspired moments, but overall puppets weren’t enough to save this one.
The story is basically a House on Haunted Hill setup; five “people” are invited to win money by spending a night in a spooky old mansion. They include a wuss who wants to reopen his family’s store, the girl he’s too scared to ask out, a punk couple, and a horror nerd. When they get there, they discover that the house is owned by a mad scientist who has history with all of their families and intends to right past wrongs via his pet monster in the basement.
Does the movie bring the funny? Well, it’s very hit and miss. For the most part, no, it doesn’t. Most of the jokes fall flat or stretch out forever. The one exception is Raimi, the horror nerd. The lion’s share of the good comedy belongs to him. The other characters have a couple of good moments, and puppet nudity is always good for a chuckle, but unless you think a room full of flatulent bunnies is hilarious, the humor is way too inconsistent. What about the scary? We do have a good bit of puppet mayhem, which is mostly CGI, but it’s pretty entertaining when it occurs. The monster is pretty cool looking too.
The characters are problematic. There are only three that didn’t make me either groan or yawn the whole time; Raimi, Dr. Wolfgang Wagner, and Grandpa. Unfortunately, we spend a comparatively small amount of time with them. The rest of the characters, who make up the bulk of the running time, are so flat that it would have taken an actor with incredible charisma to make them interesting. A puppet and wooden voice acting just didn’t do the trick. The fact that the film is very dialog heavy, yet the dialog wasn’t very good, doesn’t help at all.
That isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have its bright spots. The sequence where Dr. Wagner recounts his history with the families is brilliant. That part is actually animated, and was quite effective. Raimi is a fun character, and he has the one running gag that doesn’t get old after a minute. Some of the CGI backgrounds look cool, and some of the lighting is great. The actual monster is a lot of fun too. The scene at the end where it goes on a rampage is good, it just goes on way too damn long.
Actually, the problem with the flick as a whole is that it’s too damn long. This would have been an excellent short. It’s not a good feature however. There is about 15-20 minutes of really good stuff padded with an hour of tedium. Had it been a short, I probably would have loved it. As it stands, if you keep a heavy finger on the fast forward button, there are a few moments of fun to be had. This flick tried to rely too heavily on the puppet gimmick to improve a lackluster script, and it just wasn’t happening. One half severed thumb up. Nathan says if you want to see puppet horror, track down Once Upon a Time in the West and check that out instead.