“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao-tzu
“Come crawling faster… Obey your master” -Metallica
“I’m a big fat cowboy” -Eric Roberts
Ok, so here we begin on an epic journey of equal parts self discovery and self destruction. I’ve always wanted to do something more ambitious with my contributions to this blog, and the idea of reviewing an entire series was appealing to me. I had remembered the Puppet Master series vaguely from my teenage years of lurking in “that” section of the Mom & Pop video rental places I frequented. I was a big fan of Full Moon releases, and they had bad-ass puppets that killed people, so I was obviously intrigued. So, this series was an obvious choice for a sort of drunken retrospective. What I didn’t realize was there are TEN of these fucking movies. 11 if you count the crossover with the Demonic Toys series, which I don’t. (even Full Moon Features considers this as non-canon, as it was released by a different company. So I’m not going to watch it, at least not for review purposes) I believe I had only seen the first 3 entries, but aside from the puppet designs, I don’t really remember much from those viewings. So I will be watching these movies with fresh eyes. So, strap in and if you’re not interested in the Puppet Master films, this is going to take me a while, so I guess I’ll see you in July or so.
Andre Toulon (played by some old guy who is in a lot of movies, who I always think is Burgess Meredith, but is NOT Burgess Meredith) has found the secret to animating non-living materials. It’s vague World War Two-ey time, and those pesky Nazis are on his shit about it for purposes assuredly more sinister than bringing dolls to life. The Nazis tracked Toulon down to a California hotel, but before they could take him in, he stashed his living puppet collection, and killed himself to make sure his secrets died with him… or so he thought.
50 years later, a group of psychics are each haunted by a different chilling vision of an associate of theirs named Neil Gallagher, and are prompted to track him down. Their searches lead them all to the same hotel where Toulon committed suicide. The group of psychics include Alex Whitaker, who can dream the future, Dana Hadley, who is just generally psychic I guess, and Carissa Stanford who has the ability to tell if someone has boned in the room she is in, and then, to steal one of Robin’s phrases, “plunges her toilet” to these visions. So, a real group of impressively useless people. Dana in particular is confusing. We are introduced to her while she is working as a cheesy carnival psychic, complete with gypsy silks and a crystal ball, giving out bullshit fortunes about people’s futures. I am really confused by the concept of a real psychic pretending to be a fake psychic, pretending to be a real psychic. Also, she has an extremely detailed vision of her own demise, and still manages to do nothing with this information and get killed EXACTLY as she was in her vision. So, while psychic powers are impressive in this world, they are also pretty worthless.
Anyway, the psychics gather at the hotel, expecting to meet Gallagher. Instead, they meet his wife, who informs them that he had passed away. As the night goes on, the group reminisces about how much of a dick they all thought Gallagher was. They had all been working with Gallagher on hunting down the works of Toulon, and their research eventually led them to this hotel. When they stopped getting correspondence from Gallagher, they had assumed he had cut them out of the deal. You know… on account of the whole dick thing.
One by one, the psychics are stalked and killed by Toulon’s puppets, until only Alex and Gallagher’s wife Megan are left. Then, it was revealed that Gallagher HAD in fact discovered the secret to eternal life, and was very much alive and walking around. Furthermore, the purpose of assembling the group at the hotel was to tie up loose ends, and to get more fresh corpses for experimentation. Then, in his ranting, he made some disparaging remarks about puppets, to which the puppets were all like, “that’s racist, yo!”, and they dismembered Gallagher, making sure he stayed dead. Since the puppets are all basically chaotic neutral, without a master, their murderous urges are gone.
And let’s talk about these puppets. They are EASILY the best thing this movie has going for it. The designs are all almost impossibly cool, and legitimately creepy. The leader of the puppets, as well as the most iconic, is Blade. He is dressed in a black hat and trench coat, and has a stark white skull like face. One of his hands is a knife, and the other is a hook. Then, there is Jester. His face has 3 rotating sections that spin around and settle to give him several different expressions. While he doesn’t have any cool weapons or powers, he is still my personal favorite of the puppets. There is something about watching his face spin around that I think is awesome. Also in the group is Pinhead. He is the group’s muscle. He has a small pointy head, and an enormous torso and arms. He is strong enough to overpower a normal adult. Tunneler has a drill on the top of his head, which he uses to disembowel his victims. Rounding out the group is Leech Woman, who vomits leeches. She is my least favorite because i think the design is pretty boring, and her power is creepy, but somewhat impractical. I mean, leeches are gross and all, but it takes her about a minute to puke up the leech, and then it’s just a leech. Knife hands are much more effective. Maybe they’re poison leeches, or something. I don’t know.
So, all in all, this is actually a pretty decent movie. I mean, it’s not amazing or anything, but for what it is, it’s pretty solid. The best thing it has going for it is of course the puppets. They are also smart enough, or maybe limited by budget, to not overuse them. It makes every minute they are on screen feel special, something I’m SURE the sequels will fuck up. It works as a stand alone story, while setting things up for a sequel pretty well. That’s pretty much all you can ask for with low budget horror fare. It isn’t my favorite Full Moon release, (that honor belongs to Head of the Family. Go find it now!) but it’s a solid entry in their catalogue, and a decent launchpad for the inevitable franchise. We will see how long into the series this relatively high level of good-will lasts. Good or bad, I’m going to hit all of them, so stay tuned for more puppet themed blogging.