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Review: PUPPET KILLER (2019) – BITS 2019

Killer puppets tend to come in two forms, ventriloquist dummies like those in Magic and Dead Silence. Or marionettes, such as the ones in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and the rest of that franchise. Killer hand puppets are, for some odd reason, fairly rare. Well, say hello to Simon, who may or may not be on a killing spree in Puppet Killer.

Jamie (Jett Klyne, Z) is having a wonderful childhood. Loving parents who raise him on horror movies, And Simon, his mother’s childhood puppet, to play with. But as with all horror films, things go wrong. Mommy (director Lisa Ovies) dies of cancer and daddy remarries. And she’s an evil bitch who hates Simon and horror films. Then one night, after a particularly nasty argument with daddy, she goes away.

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Now it’s ten years later and Jamie (Aleks Paunovic, Cold Pursuit, Zero Contact) is a somewhat disturbed high school student who is quite convinced Simon killed his stepmother before vanishing. His friends have convinced him to go back to the cabin where it all happened, it’ll be a great place to party. And, per his girlfriend Jessie (Lisa Durupt), for Jamie to get over his need for psych meds.

It doesn’t take long for Simon to reappear. Or for Jamie to start getting unhealthily attached to him. It should come as no surprise that the friends who tease him about this, soon meeting bad ends. Has Jamie gone off the deep end? Or is Simon really a murderous muppet?

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When it was first announced, Puppet Killer was originally supposed to be co-written by and co-star the Soska Sisters. The roles they were set to play are still in the film, and very obvious. Thankfully there’s no trace of them in the writing, or any other credits, though. Director Lisa Ovies and writer Kevin Mosley (Savage Island) have crafted an enjoyable tribute to 80s slashers that doesn’t need their heavy-handed input.

What we get are familiar characters, the brothers who are nothing alike, the couple who can’t keep their hands off each other, etc. A familiar setting, the isolated house with a sinister past. And, quite possibly, a less than familiar killer.

Puppet Killer manages to play most of the kills fairly straight, even as it gently parodies the genre. Though, the scene of Simon wearing a hockey mask should get plenty of laughs. Most of the gags and references are a bit more subtle, however. Which is a good thing, as the film goes to great lengths to keep us questioning Jamie’s sanity. I was never sure if I was seeing what I was seeing, or being set up for a High Tension style ending.

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One joke I wish Puppet Killer had avoided was the obviously over aged actors playing high school students. Pickaxe pushed that to its limit, and I chuckled. This, however, is just stupid. Paunovic is 50 and looks like it. The most convincing of them is Gigi Saul Guerrero (Funhouse, Bingo Hell) and she’s 29. Also look for scream queen Jessica Cameron (Red Eye, The Curse of Buckout Road) in a small role, but not as a student.

Puppet Killer will play November 21st as part of this year’s Blood In The Snow film festival. You can find the details here. You can also check the film’s Facebook page.

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