Category Archives: PuppeTose

You’re no better than Puppetose Street

Longtime readers of the site know it’s no secret that that we love puppets. Especially the inventive use of a low budget and twisted humor from the warped world of Puppetose.

Given the Halloween season, I thought it would be good to share one of my favorite episodes of Puppetose Street, wherein the gang visits a haunted mansion. It’s filled with loads of horror movie references and very NSFW humor and situations. So, without further ado:

Dedicated Puppetose fans will undoubtedly notice the cameo by the hypno-priest from the show’s second episode. Also, be sure to check out the new season of Puppetose Street on the official Puppetose Youtube channel.

An Evening With PuppeTose

An Evening With PuppeTose

‘An Evening With PuppeTose’ is the darkest of the PuppeTose Theatre productions we’ve reviewed so far; it’s also perhaps the most intelligent of the four. What makes it so astounding is that it is the chronologically second, following 1999’s ‘Valley of the Robots,’ with ‘Random Stories Grab-Bag’ and ‘PuppeTose Street’ following after.

‘Apostasy’ tells the story of Pracitus, a senator of a theocracy confronted with charges of heresy he openly confesses to, citing the fraudulent nature of his society’s governmental structure in the titular abandonment of all his religion, party and state. The Oracles that dictate the Gods’ will are mere constructs, a system of tubes where the real men in power whisper their perversions to willing listeners. It is Pracitus’s intention to stage a coup, capitalizing on growing unease after an unpopular war to instill a dictatorship.

As with every PuppeTose production, it doesn’t end well. ‘Apostasy’ deals with the nature of man, god and government in a quick fashion. Here, we see a character who knows the truth of his society labeled as a heretic, but if he were to succeed in his plans, Pracitus would implant a dictatorship in the theocracy’s stead. What is dictatorship but a theocracy without gods, where one man’s will is infallible and not to be questioned?

“What is religion, but recognition and suppression of natural urges?” he asks his captors after they detail the gruesome procedure laid out to rid a criminal of his or her heresy. What doesn’t get outright asked is “what is government?”

The Theocracy’s procedure for curing heresy, much like the Salem Witch Trials, leaves the victim dead but their soul cleansed. The methods do indicate the absurd nature of the theocracy; in addition, a prime example lies with Attulus, the man assigned with arresting Pracitus, who literally carries his authority with his ‘Authority Stick.’

I think ‘Apostasy’ has an underlying theme of the fault of trust. Attulus and his party have full trust in the Theocracy, its gods and its methods, even though through Pracitus’s insistence that the whole system is fraudulent. It’s the arresting party’s trust in a peasant’s house that leads to Pracitus’s escape, when the peasent father and daughter turn out to be agents against the Theocracy. It’s also Pracitus’s trust that ultimately leads to his undoing. I think that ‘Apostasy’ sends the message that any kind of unquestioned-trust will turn to be fatal, which runs well with the common PuppeTose ideal.

The ending mirrors much a fable one might find in any religious text. Attulus, bloodied and bruised, comes across two centurions on patrol. With no bauble or Authority Stick to prove his identity, it comes under the judgment of a nearby senator, Xenocles.  Pracitus soon arrives and fate’s hand is dealt.

The ending image is sincerely frightening. I have to commend Ross Wilsey & Co. for giving me the creeps. I’m also very impressed with the work.

Following next on ‘An Evening With PuppeTose’ is ‘Goodbye Day.’ When a thief named Lugo double crosses his compadres to keep the stolen money for himself, it starts a chain of events that, surprise-surprise, leads to everyone getting totally fucked.

Straight up, ‘Goodbye Day’ is, of all the PuppeTose productions, the one that could most easily be transferred into a production with real actors. It would take the right casting to find someone suited to play Red Eyes, the killer who goes about celebrating Goodbye Day with the utmost zeal. I would enjoy to see someone take a crack at doing it because I think that the story here is not limited to the puppet medium.

However, it’s the use of puppets applies that same distancing expression, that we’re witnessing something that is both real and unreal. The puppets here are the more complex and emotive PuppeTose characters, employing fashioned eyelids to express different emotions when needed. Through the excellent audio work that has complemented every PuppeTose production, ‘Goodbye Day’ is able to convey an sense of desolation, desperation and emptiness.

Perhaps I haven’t given much attention to it in previous reviews, but an active component in these productions is the original music. While both Ross and Ryan Wilsey have provided original scores for the PuppeTose productions, it’s through Cinco’s music that ‘Goodbye Day’ echoes the sense of life and death that embodies by the characters and its actions.

I might have bandied the words ‘Joyful Nihilism’ about when describing the world of PuppeTose. It’s so concisely displayed here in ‘Goodbye Day,’ where the main motivations—lust, greed, anger—all end up with the same result: death.

There is a moment when the protagonist, Lugo, presents a chance for one of the other robbers to leave with his life. Instead of shooting him, Lugo presents Speedy a chance to leave. I found it interesting, either possibly implying a unseen history between the two or that Lugo really has no desire to rack up a killing spree under his belt. It’s a rare moment in a PuppeTose production where a character implements mercy or a real honorable trait.

Of course, in the prior scene with him, Lugo uses the woman he was just fucking as a human shield against a vengeful cop, so who knows his which way his moral compass points?

“It’s all a part of this festive day.”

I always have a soft spot for those seemingly psychotic monsters who understand that they are not in control of their own destiny, that there really is no great reward or heavy damnation. Characters that come to the conclusion that all is superficial and trite, that the earth itself is hollow and those plans of who walk upon its face are nothing but the efforts of ants collecting pebbles in the wind. Everything is fucked, think these characters, and I am fucked as well. It’s so easy to overplay these characters, making them more heartless than they should be. They need a sense of sorrow from what they’ve come to see as true; playing them cold overlooks the tragedy of their humanity.

I think that if Red Eye should be considered along the likes of other similar monsters. His motivation is summed up with the final line: “It’s Goodbye Day.” There IS NO justification for what he does, no real deep prerogative other than this day is a holiday, albeit made up, and it’s proper to celebrate.

‘An Evening With PuppeTose’ ends with ‘Down the Bunny Hole,’ a animated short that features cartoon animals fucking. With the two deeper and higher quality PuppeTose features on this release, to end it with a duck getting it on with a rabbit, I can only say ‘Why the fuck not?’

For myself, I’ll always pick ‘Valley of the Robots’ first but if I were to introduce anyone to the world of PuppeTose, I would offer ‘An Evening With PuppeTose’ as a demonstration of their storytelling abilities. There isn’t a release from PuppeTose Theater I wouldn’t suggest you check out – do yourself a favor and watch them all.

PuppeTose Theater Presents: Random Stories Grab-Bag

PuppeTose Theater Presents: Random Stories Grab-Bag

There’s a neat scene in ‘Premonition,’ the first of three stories in PuppeTose Theater’s Random Stories Grab-Bag. A dragon stalks the character Helgi, a soothsayer within a castle and despite there being no real frame of reference other than both are the trademark PuppeTose puppets.  Through choices in editing, the scene effectively conveys a heightened sense of drama in a short period of time with ‘actors’ that are nothing more than wires, strings and shaped pieces of painted newspaper and flour.

It’s the longer of the three pieces on ‘Random Stories Grab-Bag,’ but all three bear the trademark sense of ‘futile efforts in horrific world’ that one can expect from Ross Wilsey and his cabal of players of PuppeTose Theater.

[I must mention that Ryan Wilsey has worked on every of the PuppeTose production (save for ‘A Question of Clean’) that I have viewed so I want to give mention to him, as not to somehow overlook him. Ross and Ryan Wilsey.]

It’s not considered a spoiler to say that there is no happy ending to ‘Premonition,’ unless the idea of everything burning and falling to filthy pieces of trash is your idea of ‘Happily Ever After.’ If so, you should probably send an email to us and see about writing for the site.

In a time after a civil war, the resistance failed to dethrone the King.  The titular premonition is had by the aforementioned Helgi during a dream. She warns her husband, Asgrim, that when he goes to meet his brother, Thangbrand, death awaits him in the woods. Prophesized that ‘no foe should defeat him,’ Thangbrand plans to unite with his brother and launch one final shot at regicide. But an element of chaos, a stalking dragon, seeks to destroy them all.

I find it an interesting tale since the King nor does any element of the Royalty come into play. Instead, the main antagonist is the nameless Dragon. I see ‘Premonition’ as a fable, or a parable involving the repercussions of an individual’s hubris and/or desires get out of hand.

While PuppeTose is primarily, as you would rightfully guess, about puppets, Ross Wilsey demonstrates his talents as an animator with ‘A Question Of Clean.’ Detailing a patient’s breakdown involving his sense of bugs under his skin, the short animated piece puts together a surreal sense of illness with plague bugs that feast upon the flesh. The style of the animation is raw, very good for helping build the idea of, appropriately, uncleanliness to every character involved.

Finishing up is ‘A Full Life,’ which is admittedly (by the ‘lack of Plot’ listing in the credit) PuppeTose’s weakest outing. This isn’t to say that it’s bad; there’s just a noticeable lack of story in the short. PuppeTose has no problem with story, as seen in tales like ‘Valley of the Robots,’ ‘Premonition’ or even the ‘PuppeTose Street’ shorts. Wilsey & Co. can easily create a captivating tale.

But ‘A Full Life’ is more of a three minute exploration of an idea—a homeless man, dead in the gutter, remarked to have lived ‘a full life’—than a story.

But once again, this isn’t to say that it’s bad. In fact, the shots taken with the PuppeTose puppet against the real world, especially night-time shots that seem to work around with limited lighting, kept me watching to the end. It was more of an artistic display that could express a sense of emptiness, in both the vagrant’s desolate life and in the final statement of the shithead couple who pass his dead body.

What you have in ‘Random Stories Grab-Bag’ is a trio of stories expressing the hollow futility of life and how ultimately, we’re all going to die and fester in the streets, our bloated corpses filling up the cracks until the scavengers pick our bones clean. YUM.

PuppeTose Street Vol. 1 & 2

PuppeTose Street Vol. 1 & 2

Despite the name, PuppeTose Street isn’t a parody of Sesame Street, though both utilize puppets and seem to be about learning. But those taught by Fuller and Milo are not the lessons of Muppet-stock. Along with Gypsy Bitch, Louis Lackluster and the landlord, Buford T. Hick, the cast of PuppeTose street teach you a lesson or two with each episode.

  • Sharing — “If you’re going to have sex with passed out women, you NEED TO WEAR A RUBBER.”
  • Personal Responsibility — “Remember: When hiding your intoxicants, make sure you’re not too intoxicated to remember.” 
  • Be Prepared — “Zombies are so fucking stupid. I wouldn’t be a stupid zombie. I’d be a – smart zombie. I’d know how to get brains.I’d have brains IN RESERVE. I’d have a system of when I got all fucked up ’cause I needed a brain and I couldn’t find one – I would have one. And nobody would fuck with me either, ’cause I would be dead.”

When first seeing Fuller and Milo, it’s easy to think that PuppeTose Street might be a Beavis and Butthead parody, but Ross Wilsey & co.’s collected wit shows through the papier-mâché characters. Both Fuller and Milo wax poetically about their degenerative behaviors as men who think a lot about what little they do. There are no redeeming factors here, though. Everyone is pretty comfortable with how completely vile and worthless they are and there’s something endearing about that.

It wouldn’t be such an odd sight to see an episode of PuppeTose Street in the Adult Swim line-up since each ten-to-twelve minute show features a clever story and a catchy song (with such lyrics as “Sex With A Passed Out Girl/Is Like Sex With Melted Ice Cream” are deplorable and catchy as all hell) This lo-budget/no-budget production of low-class/now-class individuals is a little more accessible to the common mongrel than the more serious attempts by PuppeTose. Going for the lowest common denominator means reaching the highest amount of people.

Like ‘Valley of the Robots,’ PuppeTose’s production shows that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make something look really good. This will be repeated in the following reviews and it’s something that can be told to a lot of people.  IT DOESN’T TAKE A LOT OF MONEY TO MAKE SOMETHING LOOK REALLY GOOD. Considering the fabricated reality of the PuppeTose world is of colored construction paper, paint and crayon, what Wilsey & Co. do is rather impressive, especially in the ‘Wife Swap’ episode where an escaped mental patient scalps an unknowing gas station attendant. The gore is less than what one might expect a spooky site like this to cover but we’re about digging up some of the weird and the wild and bizarre; it doesn’t get any better than this (or, like the opening song points out, “you’re no better than PuppeTose Street.” So you don’t DESERVE any better than this. Amen.)

March Into News

Did Strange Jason’s review of Valley of the Robots whet your appetite? Want more? Here’s a (NSFW) preview:

These puppets ain’t for kids! Amazingly, that was the tamest of the three trailers available at the official PuppeTose Youtube channel. You can order a copy (and find more PuppeTose madness) here.

We’re planning on interviewing real gravediggers. Please send all leads and questions to gravediggerslocal AT gmaiL DOT com. Don’t forget to let us know if you want us to use name (real or web) during the interview!

Horror bands! Strange Jason wants to talk to you. In a band? Know a band? Email strangejason AT gravediggerslocal DOT com.

We’ve heard a rumor that This TV plays a horror movie every Saturday night. It seems to hold true for tonight, as they’re showing the original A Bucket of Blood at 11:30 PM EST. The channel is owned by MGM and Weigel Broadcasting. Weigel owns WCIU, the home of Svengoolie. HINT HINT THIS TV!

Speaking of MGM, they’re streaming a bunch of their movies at their website. Similarly, Troma is offering free streaming films on both Youtube and Hulu.

Indywood Films is raising funds for the upcoming Invasion of the Not Quite Dead by selling promotional packs and putting the names of buyers in the credits. See the official site and Twitter feed for more information.

Mark your calendars, because Record Store Day 2010 falls on April 17th this year. Visit the official site or Twitter feed for further details.

We learned about Record Store Day from the Newbury Comics newsletter. All of our New England readers should sign up at their website as well, as they give out a lot of great news and coupons. The notifications on one day only “flash sales” are also handy. They once had one for 20% any vampire movie DVD, with an extra 10% off for coming in dressed like a vampire! Wearing all black and paper fangs (easily hidden in your pocket for “regular shopping”) is easily worth a 30% discount. They also mention the sales on…you guessed it…their Twitter feed.

Valley of the Robots

The Valley of the Robots

Written and Directed by Ross Wilsey

If granted the power of omniscience, I doubt anyone would notice a difference in my attitude. Perhaps I would be a little bit meaner, a little less joyous at knowing at all times the common atrocities occurring within the universe, about how effortlessly a person can inflict pain on another for those unjustified greedy and pathetic reasons. Witnessing  would threaten to strip away what kindness I have left, what grace and possibility for love I hold for myself and anyone in this world, leaving me a rancid, twisted animal who would pray nightly for a real, tangible extinction.

Or, perhaps, since I would know of all the different creative expressions, the moments that people said “Fuck it, let’s do this because it’s fun,” I may hold a positive outlook on life, that all this misery and death is offset by creation for the sake of joy. I wouldn’t miss out on those pockets of sincerity that get plowed under and buried by the growing disposable commercial dungpiles filling up in the streets, gutters clogged by plastic and still-twitching bodies.

It’s something fun to think about. But honestly, I don’t think I would change that much.

I’m a big supporter of public libraries and public access, of used record stores and second-hand shops. I don’t have omniscience so it’s with these trusted establishments that I usually discover what I’ve missed. The internet can only provide so much and it’s with synchronicity and the grace of the shovel that I dig up what I can.

Three years ago, someone put on ‘Valley of the Robots’ during an afternoon slot on CTV, the ‘Community-Television’ public access channel in this state. While changing channels, I came across it midway and was hooked. The language (explicit) and the inclusion of tits (fabricated) didn’t get it pulled from broadcast. In fact, it would show up twice more in the following years, but only that first half in what thirty-minute bloc it was allocated.

Early searches back then provided the word ‘PUPPETOSE’ though that was it. There wasn’t a name, wasn’t an address. I contacted the station to see if I could get a copy of ‘Valley of the Robots,’ mainly to see the second half.

Produced by Puppetose Theater out of Austin, Texas, ‘Valley of the Robots’ (1999) is a papier-mâché post-apocalyptic play, a “corrupt fable,” from the mind of Ross Wilsey.  Seventy-six years after The Second Ruin, the earth is a radioactive wasteleand. Humanity is nothing but a shadow of what we know, twisted and mutated into gangly forms. Legend speaks of The Valley of the Robots, and the Vault of the Ancients with its untold resources of fuel, food weapons and armor.

Enter Hero (“The Stranger”,) a mercenary initially working for Urknall, leader of the bandits. Instead of delivering The Card of the Ancients to Urknall, the Hero decides to use the card for himself in search of the Vault of the Ancients in the mythical Valley of the Robots. Capturing a perverted scavenger named Modus to use as a pack animal and rescuing Thornya from a one-eyed Radiation Bird, the Hero looks to evade the Urknall’s scorpion-tail arm, the Rat King and his legions and ultimately, the deadly drones inside the Valley of the Robots.

Along the journey, we are privy to puppet rape and pillaging; man-eating flowers; radioactive mushrooms; and an interlude with Eelgid, a crippled hermit living out in the forest. I must say I liked Eelgid the most.  I enjoyed Paul Novak’s go at voicing the character. There isn’t a bad voice actor in the cast.

There’s slack given to a puppet play. Sure, you can see the strings or the sticks, but since it’s a puppet, the strings are part of the show. It’s not like the spotting the zipper on the rubber monster, an event that breaks the film’s illusion. The puppet mechanics are expected constructs of the performance.  They’re part of the reality.

I don’t think ‘Valley of the Robots’ could be as successful of a movie if it were shot with actors and given a bigger budget. The atmosphere generated by the use of puppets was appropriate for the movie. In a world that’s supposed to be growing out of the remains of Armageddon, the lifeless and unblinking objects express a desolate and perfunctory existence.  The puppet stands in for a representation of what humanity has become. We would only see actors in makeup and latex, looking for the face under the mask. With puppets, it’s understood that there’s a performer but as a viewer, you don’t look for the person pulling the strings. You focus on the object that speaks and moves, giving it the idea that it’s alive and functioning even though it’s a construct of newspaper and paint.

If there’s any disappointment, it involves the term ‘Raping Spree.’ It’s such an excellent line that doesn’t have the proper follow up, in my opinion. It’s a small complaint considering the carnage that follows. The ending is delightfully nihilistic and well executed.  There is no happy ending. The film would be worse off if it was any other way.

If granted the authority that all starting filmmakers should seek me out for an example of what to do to make a good movie, I would hand them ‘Valley of the Robots.’ Puppetose shows that a production shoe-stringed by budget should never letting the fact get in the way.