By David Dent
At first glance, Lisa Ovies’ debut directing feature shares a similar setup to Ben Holt’s ‘Benny Loves You’; both date from 2019 (Ovies’ film is only now getting a UK release) and concern childhood attachments to a puppet with murder on its mind. Coincidence, surely?
As a child young Jamie, a horror movie-obsessed little boy has a tough time. Losing his mother to cancer, he’s now caught in the middle of heightened bickering between dad and his new wife, with only a bright pink puppet (a favourite of his mother’s) for company. Bickering has escalated to separation status, and as Jamie’s step-mother makes arrangements to leave the family home, she is knifed to death by an invisible assailant; the body is whisked away and she is deemed to have gone missing.
Ten years later Jamie, now a young student (and in an audacious bit of casting, his part is played, not by a teenager, but 50-year-old Aleks Paunovic, possibly a nod to all those teen slasher movies where the students are actors in their 20s and 30s) has gathered his schoolfriends together for a weekend at the home where he grew up, now abandoned.
Once they arrived the gang settle in for the usual blend of beer, drugs and premarital sex, with Jamie keener to access a stash of VHS tapes in the basement and organise a horrorthon. But the movies aren’t the only thing from the past that’s rediscovered. His pink puppet is also unearthed, and before long somebody, or something, is offing the partying kids.
You have to take a pretty big leap of faith to go with the plotting of this frequently hilarious homage to/send-up of classic horror movies. But it wins because the script is smart, the cast are great value, and the puppet gets all the best lines. It’s often surprisingly gory too; the addition of filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soskia about halfway through, in a plot device that intrigues rather than annoys, displays not only their acting chops but a film that isn’t afraid to chuck everything into the mix. Good work.
Puppet Killer will be available on Digital Download from 29th November