Friday, June 10, 2011

'Puppet Show' fails to live up its potential

Puppet Show (2006)
Starring: Erica Slider, Tom Wooler, and Nina Tepes
Director: Jay Gowey
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

After her grandfather is murdered, Casey (Slider) inherits Charlie Chowderhead, the puppet that helped make him a star during the Golden Age of Television. Unfortunately, Casey also inherits the family curse, and she is soon at the center of a maelstrom of death and horror.

"Puppet Show" is another one of those low-budget efforts that fails to live up to the potential of the ideas contained within it, not because of lack of funds but because its execution was botched. It's another one of those movies I sat down wanting to like--how can you NOT want to like a slasher movie featuring a demonic clown when your tastes run along the lines of mine?--but which nonetheless disappointed.

The biggest problem is that even at a scant running time at just over an hour "Puppet Show" feels padded. There are several scenes that drag on well past the point where they should have ended and others that serve no purpose whatsoever. It also doesn't help that the acting leaves a lot to be desired on the part of most performers who either overact fiercely or seem to be heavily medicated. (The only exceptions here being star Erica Slider as the unfortunate Casey, Nina Tepes as her slutty best friend Kat, and Tom Wooler as Casey's grandfather "Ringmaster Rick", each of whom give a decent accounting for themselves.)

The film does have some good moments, however. The dream sequence where Casey is a puppet being manipulated by a giant Charlie Chowderhead is very creepy, Kat's death and the subsequent mutilation of her body is shocking, and the demonic puppet is very well done for a movie of this level... which isn't surprising as the production company behind it, Monsters of Extinction, is first and foremost a special effects firm. That said, I wish the filmmakers had sprung for two puppets, one that looked less evil when it wasn't animated and stabbing people to death and the demon-faced one. The differences would have to have been subtle, but I think the end result would have been a scarier and ultimately more believable film monster.

A testament to the great ideas that are at the heart of this fillm is that as it unfolded, I found myself reorganizing the story in my head, putting it together in a more effective fashion and editing out the padded sequences and pointless scenes and characters. "Puppet Show" had great potential, and it's potential that shines brightly in a few scenes but is mostly not fully realized.

If you are really into killer puppet/doll movies, it's worth checking out, although you might consider going with Charles Band flicks like "Doll Graveyard" or "Blood Dolls" before this one. Everyone else might just want to give it a pass, because the worthwhile moments here are few and far between.