All righty, folks. I’ve got another film franchise review for you. This time around I’ll be reviewing all 11 Puppet Master films. It will include the Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys which, technically, isn’t really part of the timeline but was thrown in somewhere in the middle. So…you’re welcome.
Wasn’t someone supposed to stop me from doing this franchise review shit? Who’s responsible for me, dammit?!?
I haven’t seen all these films so some will be falling on fresh eyes! I know these get a lot of shit from people but I ADORE them. So watch your fucking mouths around me if you decide to bash them.
Again, a reminder – I will probably throw around a few spoilers as my editor is currently at the bar hitting up some hoochie mamas for their digits. But seriously, the last movie came out 5 years ago so it’s not my fault if you’re a lame ass punk bitch and haven’t caught up.
Yes, I just said I’m technically not caught up but I’m the one watching them now so…just shut up.
First film is the 1989 original, Puppet Master. It opens in 1939 where an older gentleman is hand painting a Jester puppet while a half a dozen other puppets are spread around the room. Within the first few minutes, we discover that there’s a reason the man is speaking to them all as if they’re his children – they are alive! As he finishes the painting, he speaks a few magical words while waving his hands over the Jester and VOILA! It comes to life!
But just as this happens, the sentry puppet warns the man of two men approaching the hotel. The man, Mr. Toulon, hides his creations in a steamer trunk within the walls of his room and proceeds to blow his brains out just before the two men break down the door. Our guess at this point is these men are Nazis and are after the secret of imbuing life to inanimate objects, perhaps even the secret of immortality from Mr. Toulon, to use for nefarious purposes.
Flash forward to the present day where the hotel has been purchased by Neil and his wife, Megan. Neil used to be part of a group of people who studied what would be considered unusual abilities – psychics, telekinesis, reading past occurrences through objects, etc. But at his death, his wife contacts the former coworkers (Alex, Dana, Frank, and Carissa) to invite them to the hotel. Apparently he discovered the secret hidey-hole of the Puppet Master (wow, dirty), and his formula for immortality, so naturally they all fly out to see what’s what.
And that’s when the shit hits the fan. The puppets from the opening scene are here and are now running amok among the guests, killing them off one by one. Let me break it down for you: Neil did actually die (killed himself) but used the power of resurrection to come back to life. He can’t have any of these folks still around to spill the beans about it so he uses the puppets to tie up all the loose ends – that includes the housekeeper and the wife.
The real twist? The puppets realize what a fucking douche canoe Neil is and turn against him, basically saving Alex and Megan from certain death! Alex returns to his life as a college professor and Megan…well, she embraces the ancient magic and remains at the hotel, with a now resurrected dead dog for a companion. Woohoo!
Right off the bat, yes, this film is SUPER dated. It looks and feels straight out of the 80s, even though the opening scene takes place 50 years earlier. But aside from that everything else, I think, holds up well.
The animation for the puppets is awesome. From what I can tell there’s no CGI. The puppets moving around on their own is done through stop motion. Although there is one scene where you see the puppeteer’s hand up Blade’s backside as the puppet climbs up on a chair to spy through a hotel room keyhole. Heh. Where most movies give us one main killer to love/hate, Puppet Master gives us a gaggle of them – Blade, Pinhead, Jester, Leech Woman, and the Tunneler. There were 2 others but for the first film, they don’t really do much.
There’s a lot of talk about the evolution of the puppets – how they start out as the bad guys then become antiheroes then heroes. But I don’t agree. The puppets were NEVER bad from the start. Neil uses them to commit murder and mayhem for him, they don’t choose to hurt anyone. Until they realize what Neil has done and then they mete out justice.
At least that’s how I see it and that fuckmeister Neil gets what he deserves. Which, by the way, is an awesome kill!
Let’s talk about the kills. Sure, scary dolls were not new but can we talk about the ingenuity of Leech Woman. Hello? Where does she keep them? How does she carry them around and is able to dispense them when necessary? The Tunneler has a built-in drill bit, as Blade has a knife and a hook for hands. They don’t have the problem most human killers do of always dropping their instruments or having them knocked away. Genius! I don’t really know at this point what the Jester can do but I’m sure I’ll be reminded soon enough.
The kills are creative and fun, savage and unrelenting. And that’s the thing about dolls as killers. You can’t really hurt them. Even when Pinhead’s head is pulled off, he just pops it back on and continues about his day. Sweet.
The music is actually really good. It fits the mood and atmosphere perfectly. The puppet characters are much better than the human ones, save for Toulon. He and his creations are really all the audience should care about. And since the human characters are rather disposable, we don’t mind their destruction (especially since the acting is less than stellar – except, again, for Toulon played by William Hickey). And puppet cam is hilarious.
Watching this I don’t know how many years since my first viewing, I’ve fallen in love all over again. I love the concept, the puppets, the magic, and the darkness. I’m hoping the rest of the franchise is just as satisfying.