“I never played with puppets, or had any interest with them”-Jim Henson
“PULL THE STRINGS!!! PULL THE STRINGS!!!”- Bela Lugosi
“Raise your knee, raise your other knee… Raise your foot, raise your other foot… Walk in a circle… DO THE PUPPET MASTER!”- Elijah Wood
Previously on Puppet Master, we followed a group of comically useless psychics as they are picked off one after another by puppets who had been brought to life and were controlled by some power hungry asshole. The puppets turned on their master after he made some distinctly non-puppet friendly comments, and the last psychic, Alex Whitaker managed to escape the ordeal with his life. Which brings us to…
Puppet Master 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first film. This is a positive. It’s too common in horror to have name-only sequels that don’t do much to advance the narrative. It is worth noting however, that other than the puppets, there are no returning characters from the first film. I am perfectly ok with this, as Alex was really only a technical protagonist anyway. None of his actions served to advance the plot, and he was pretty much just murder fodder that managed to luck into survival. The first film is unique in that the puppets themselves end up being the heroes in the end, even though they served as the main antagonists for 3/4 of the movie. For the life of me, I’m not sure if that is clever or incredibly sloppy writing. At any rate, the sequel does make an attempt at closing Alex’s story arc by letting the audience know that after the events of the first movie, he went nuts and had to be committed to a mental institution. It’s unclear if what he saw legitimately scrambled his brain, or if his factual account of the events were just too bat shit crazy to be believed.
Our main protagonists this time around are a group of government funded paranormal investigators, who were drawn to the hotel based on Alex’s insane ramblings. They don’t seem to be taking their job too seriously though, as they seem to fit the horny young person mold more than the dedicated science person mold. Shortly after arriving, one of the crew, Camille, an older woman who works as a tabloid psychic, runs across one of the puppets and is immediately mocked by the rest of the group when she says she is leaving first thing in the morning. So, obviously she is taken and presumably killed by the puppets before she had a chance to leave.
The rest of the group just thinks she’s flakey and took off early, despite all her stuff being left in her room. But this IS a movie, and she is OLD and a WOMAN, so you guys know the drill, right? The next night, two of the dumb shit ghost hunters are goofing off instead of watching the cameras, and wouldn’t you know it? Tunneller shows up and drills Patrick, ore of the dumb shits, to death in his face! The rest of the group tries to come to his aid, but arrive too late. They do manage to grab Tunneller and smash his head in.
The next day, things start getting kind of weird…
The next morning, our intrepid band of dum dums start examining Tunneller, and strip him nude, and lay him out on a table, alien autopsy style. They even fold up his tiny little puppet clothes next to him. As they are desecrating his poor little puppet corpse, Eriquee Chaneé, a weird foreign dude covered entirely in bandages shows up, saying he is the owner of the hotel, and is very curious what these folks are doing there. The team says that they work for the government, and they had no current records of ownership. The guy is all like, “no, I’m totally the owner. I just don’t have it on file because I don’t believe in paperwork. Also, please disregard the fact that since I’m covered in bandages, I can’t really even prove I’m who I claim to be.”
That explanation is enough for the idiot team of idiots, though. The mummy man agrees to let them stay to finish their research, as long as they stayed out of his personal quarters. And thus, the working agreement is set between two groups of shady squatters.
Shortly afterwards, the flakey psychic’s son Michael shows up, looking for his mom. The head investigator & Patrick’s sister Carolyn, says, “she apparently left under totally sketchy circumstances last night, but she left all her stuff, so it’s sort of suspicious.” The son replies, “that’s classic mom. Don’t worry about it. She does dumb shit like this all the time.” Then, Carolyn fills him in pretty matter of factly that her brother was just murdered by a sentient puppet. As you’d expect, such a common everyday event left him completely unfazed. And since his mother wasn’t around, he started to leave, but she stopped him because apparently watching her brother get eviscerated by some abomination totally flips her switch to “DTF Mode.” Since Michael is a 2 dimensional character in a direct to video horror movie, he agrees to stay at least for the night, just in case a totally shoe-horned in romantic subplot can go down.
We’re about 20 minutes in to the movie at this point…
That night, a local white trash couple is trying to sleep. The large piece of wife is awoken by the sounds of what she assumes to be her husband pleasuring himself, but to her surprise, she looks over to find Leech Woman hunched over her husband, doing her disgusting brand of business. She flips her shit, and throws the girl-puppet into the fire place. At this point, we are welcome to the most important thing about this entry in the series. the debut of a certain trench coat wearing, kaizer helmet equipped, flame throwing son of a bitch, FUCKING TORCH!!!!
Torch is amazing. He looks absolutely bad ass, and has a fucking flame thrower for an arm! Losing the bottom two puppets on my depth chart in Tunneller & Leech Woman, and adding FUCKING TORCH to the mix is a welcome trade off. He is everything that 13 year old me just totally got excited over. Anyway, this amazing little guy shows up, and turns the unfortunate backwoods couple into a pile of smoldering ash. The puppets return to the Bodega Bay Inn, and then, to the absolute surprise of NO ONE, Chaneé reveals himself to the audience as a reincarnated Andre Toulon. I neglected to mention the cold open to the movie in which the puppets dug up a body in the graveyard behind the inn. I did this on purpose, because I wanted to point out how much of a mistake it was for the movie to reveal the puppets fucking around with Toulon’s grave before Chaneé showed up at the hotel. It seems to be counterproductive to the mystery surrounding his character when it’s clear he is a reanimated Toulon the second he appears on screen.
Zombie Toulon chastises Torch for burning the couple to a crisp, because now they can’t have their brain juice salvaged for the magic serum that not only runs the puppets, but Toulon himself. I have to wonder what he expected when he built a tiny murderbot with a flamethrower for a hand. Nothing about his design implies subtlety or restraint. I might be a bit biased here based on my unabashed love for the creature design of Torch, but it seems to be unreasonable to expect him NOT to burn shit to a crisp. Toulon also tells us that he is under the impression that Carolyn is either a reincarnation of his wife, or he thinks that she is his wife who has somehow not aged in 50 years… or something. To be honest I really don’t think it matters which. It’s still gonna come across just as skeevy when a zombie is perving on some young girl.
Some more stuff happens… Torch murders an asshole little kid who thinks he is Indiana Jones, but hilariously dances around saying the full name for copyright reasons. Toulon has a convienient exposition ridden flashback. Carolyn and Michael go into town to check on the inn’s official ownership situation, after becoming suspicious of Toulon’s involvement in Patrick’s death and Camille’s disappearance. Carolyn and Michael inevitably screw. Toulon, sensing that Michael is becoming an obstacle to his skeey pervery, instructs his puppets to kill the remaining investigators, saving Michael for Torch because restraint is no longer an issue, I guess. Blade sneaks into the room where the other two investigators just finished screwing, and after a quick nude scene featuring fake boobs and horrible high waisted panties, they are easily dispatched.
Torch succeeds in setting Michael’s bedroom totally on fire, but Michael barley and nakedly escapes. Something for the ladies, I guess? Anyway, Camille decides that she should break into Toulon’s forbidden quarters to get a better idea of what kind of shady dealings he is up to in there. When she gets in, she sees two life-sized humanoid puppets, one male and one female, and now I will have nightmares for at least a month about this. They are firmly in uncanny valley territory. I think it’s the vacant dead eyes that does it. Toulon sneaks up on her and realizes his subterfuge is no longer necessary. She calls him out on totally being Toulon, and he’s all like “well yeah. I mean that’s pretty obvious, right?” He unravels his bandages to reveal a rotten zombie face. Now as bad as that is, It is still probably less conspicuous than walking around covered head to toe in bandages. I mean, with a little make up and some elbow grease, he might be able to pass for a normal (if kind of funky looking) human being. Being Mummy McGee, he has little chance of blending in. I don’t know. Maybe he was vain? Also, if he died 50 years prior, shouldn’t he have basically been decomposed almost completely by the time the puppets dug him up and administered the serum? I guess it’s unclear how long ago he was exhumed, but you’d think that the puppets wouldn’t have served Gallagher in the last movie if Zombie Toulon was walking around in the world somewhere.
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Toulon tells Carolyn that he is going to use the puppet bodies to contain their essences so they can live together forever. Then, he slits his throat and bleeds out into the mouth of the male puppet. The male puppet springs up and starts walking around, and now I’m going to have nightmares for at least a year. Just as Creepy Puppet Toulon is about to slaughter Carolyn in the same way, Michael comes to the rescue, and the puppets suddenly realize that the dude they were working for MIGHT be up to some evil shenanigans. They switch allegiances as they are prone to do in the 3rd act of these movies, and destroy the Toulon Puppet sort of anticlimactically. Michael and Carolyn run away, and Jester is seen with a vial of the serum, approaching Camille’s body.
Then, it happens…
So, there’s an epilogue tacked on here. It seems that the puppets transferred Camille the tabloid psychic’s essence into the remaining female puppet. They are seen driving in a car, while Camille explains that they are going to entertain kids in a psychiatric hospital, because if troubled kids need anything, it’s to be creeped out by some sort of Lovecraftian Abomination. Plus, if anyone there catches on, she could play the whole “they’re just crazy kids!” card. And the movie ends on THIS fucking shot.
Ok, this movie is somewhat of a mixed bag. First, the good. Torch is fucking amazing. He should get his OWN spin-off series. I would totally watch him incinerate children for 90 minutes. I’m not sure what that says about me, but whatever. Also, the removal of the pointless psychic subplot is a welcome change. The fact that the first movie had psychics was completely irrelevant to its plot, and removing the backstories for the murder fodder makes things move by a bit more crisply. And things DO move along at a faster pace in this movie. The script, while definitely not as successful in either creating a stand alone film or advancing the plot of the series, manages to be successful in being a more fast paced and interesting film than its predecessor. Also, this movie is MUCH weirder than the first one, and for me that’s a plus.
Now the bad. There seem to be some pretty major issues with continuity between films, which is kind of scary to see, considering we’re only in part 2. The Toulon reveal loses some impact because of the opening scene, which ends up being sort of pointless. Also, as cool as Torch is, the movie doesn’t do a good enough job explaining where he came from. If Toulon made him AFTER he was dug up, that should have been made clearer, and if he was around from before, then his absence in the first film should have been explained. Toulon was also maybe a bit too overtly villainous in this movie, after being shown as somewhat of a sympathetic character in the original. But maybe the biggest thing wrong with this movie, and wrong with the original as well, deals with the motivations of the puppets. They seem to be ok with stalking and killing innocent people until the plot demands them to revolt. But this flip isn’t presented in a way that is organic to the story, or even really makes sense. This series really needs to decide if the puppets are the antagonists or not. I see this getting only more muddled and problematic in the future installments.
All in all, I think this is probably a worse movie than the first as far as story goes, but the characters are less annoyingly unnecessary, and it ramps the WTF quotient up several degrees. So I’d say that regardless of the issues with the story, it’s still a much more fun movie to watch. The cracks in the series are definitely ALREADY starting to show, though. We will have to wait and see if these issues are corrected in part three.