More brilliance from Dustin Wayde Mills

DIRECTOR: Dustin Wayde Mills


4 Knives

PLOT: Puppet hater punishes by torture porn, subversive grind-art from the big bad now!


This is so fucked up. “This” being SNUFFET, the new red splash of originality from wielder of underground brilliance, DUSTIN WAYDE MILLS. Dude is a creative genius, to appropriately use an overused phrase. Mills is a fucking rock star at finding innovative but I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that simple methods of manifesting his mayhem. It seems like there is a point in every one of his films (points, plural, really) where I’m just gape-jawed, going, “That makes so much sense and it works perfectly!” Mills may not have access to all the Hollywood latex and slather big budgeteers apply to their opuses of gross. SNUFFET is staggering because no matter how much you think you know what you’re in for, you’re wrong. That is, yes, we see puppets killed, dissected and worse but the way the proceedings make you feel is just unforeseeable. I can’t begin to illustrate the blissfully, psychotically pleasant cognitive dissonance from wanting to burst out cackling at the very same time one wants to puke. Surprisingly, reducing the victims of torture porn to mere puppets doesn’t mitigate the disturbing factors inherent in torture porn. If anything, it only increases pleasurable discomfort, the sort of thrills, chills and tingles we look for in a horror or *sigh* “exploitation” picture. And it’s so askew to anything normal and askew in a particularly shivery way that your brain and gut are pulled taut into a drooling knot. SNUFFET also upsets the found footage applecart, since this is a combination of footage shot by the torturer (whose anti-puppet bigotry is pretty harsh, I must say), webcam footage and more. This might be the most exciting puppet movie since the original Muppet Movie. Mills exhibits the sort of creativity in cinema lauded by the likes of Robert Rodriguez. Fuck limitations, says Mr. Mills. He has a vision and by god he makes it happen. I have to kind of stand in awe of his ability to continually create sharp, slick films that totally bely its microbudget nature. The filmmakers’ sick proclivities and his sense of humor dovetail wonderfully, as usual. Girl-on-puppet porn? This puppet-themed “sleaze” isn’t content to wallow in one corner of the “exploitation” room; fuck that, let’s throw in some seriously illicit sex, too! Works for me. One graphic, sexually themed puppet murder is no less horrific, I think, for the character having been a puppet rather than, er, a real girl. Pinocchiette? Did I mention these puppets are anatomically correct? Yep. Snuffet always manages to find a new level of mental illness to which to elevate his film. I mean, what if someone got off on puppet torture? I might mention, for horndogs among the readership, that there is actual human-on-human sex in the tale, as well. It’s fairly graphic. And also really weird. Mills, though I may have said it before, is an auteur, and one of the most original filmmakers in horror and perhaps beyond. Mills’ serious storytelling skills – who says puppet found footage torture porn doesn’t deserve a good story? – are exhibitied both in the pathological psychodynamics that serve as the basis for the film as well as the story developments, such as the evolution of the torturer’s world and the increasingly complex character dynamics between multiple humans and puppets. It might seem nothing but silly but don’t be fooled, absurd and silly aren’t necessarily … the same thing. And silly can coincide with darkness, a trick Mills does mighty well. This works on too many levels for my tired, lazy ass to try to tease apart. Besides, why should I rob you of that fun? This is but a guidepost. Really, it’s just my rant. One scene well illustrates how something so seemingly silly can have headier implications, too. I’ve seen piss play in sexually graphic horror before. Like, say, the films of Lucifer Valentine. I’ve never seen it with a puppet, though. But that novelty is just the foundation of the sequence. Beyond the fact of the puppet’s getting pissed on there is the fact of being able to plainly see the tip of a very real cock (or a damn good approximation thereof and, if so, the best godsdamn verisimilitude ever in the microbudget world). So. Image of real cock pissing. Pissing on somebody else. In a torture/humiliation scenario. And, the receiver is puppet. Piss play, not just suggested, but real, but with a puppet (forced) submissive. See how the yuk-yuk might get shoved to the back as mere – if flavorful – seasoning. Furthermore, the context in which it operates is a big palette with gross absurdism, stern seriousness, a very straight face despite the presence of puppets, gruesome gore, and dramatically compelling sequences – such as the silent but for a tremendously moody piano line scene in which the torturers (plural now) stage a daylight abduction of their next puppety victims. The tone is so humorless and grim as to subvert the very blatant absurdity of something with a stigma of innocence being included in horrific contexts. It’s a neat collapsing ouroboros of cancelling outs and reverberations and, ultimately, a sublime rising above of something totally beyond the sum of its parts. Such sickeries and more abound, like the slaughter of children – including infants! – and more. I’d never have expected to say that a movie with hand-puppets in it would be disturbing, but there are moments that border on stomach-churning, and the puppetiness of the proceedings make it worse, not better. And recall that storytelling I mentioned up yonder? When the mask comes off and a crucial secret is revealed, that’s when the real fall down the rabbit hole commences. I promise. A climactic bit of gory mutilation drives home why this film is so effective despite its seeming silliness. Because this is presented as reality – a reality, not ours, certainly, but a reality nonetheless – and since it is presented thusly, rather than in hey-look-it’s-puppets-(wink-wink) fashion, and we the viewers accept it as reality, it is therefore disturbing when violence occurs because all these characters are real within the film’s context. It’s not being played strictly for snicker-inducing novelty value. Nope, this is real moviemaking.

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  • Todd S.
    10 November 2014 at 4:05 am - Reply

    It also stars Janet Jay.
    Actress,model,and horror hostess.

    You didn’t add her on top.