A group of psychics attend a funeral for an old colleague, only to be attacked by murderous sentient puppets.
This movie sucks.
I could probably end my review right there and save us all some time, but hey, I guess this is my life now; I spend my free time watching a slew horrid movies and reviewing them so I might steer others away from my misguided attempts to find hidden gems. Well, this movie is not a hidden gem; it’s a big pile of burning trash. Really, the only reason I had the slightest desire to see this movie was because of a trailer I’d recently seen for “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich”. The trailer for that film is so delightfully bonkers that I thought to myself, ‘Why have I never seen a puppetmaster movie?’ Intrigued by the latest entry in the franchise, I checked Wikipedia to find that this movie was the THIRTEENTH installment in this series. And I thought, ‘Wow, if there are twelve sequels then the original must at least be okay.” WRONG. This movie is as stiff as a corpse... or a wooden puppet.
"I'm the master, and you're the puppet!"
So clearly I didn’t care for this movie, but why you ask? When I review horror films- in particular b-movie horror films- I’m usually pretty lenient with my ratings. I approach b-movies the way I approach blockbusters; I don’t expect these movies to follow all the rules of logic, I don’t expect them to revolutionize the way I watch movies, what I do expect is for the movie to follow the rules it sets up in its own universe and to be entertained. The biggest problem with this film is it’s just plain boring; it takes an interesting concept and then looks at the most boring elements of that concept and focuses the entire film around that.
Within the first ten minutes of the film, I already knew that I was in trouble. The opening scene concerns the maker of the puppets as he’s making them, and men in suits coming to do something (the opening scene is very vague and very long, and it could’ve been done in two minutes instead of twelve). During this scene there’s an extended sequence of ‘puppet-vision-‘ the POV of the puppets- meaning that about five of the first ten minutes of this film are just shots of people’s feet walking past the camera. Throughout the film, puppet-vision is used repeatedly- I’d venture to guess that upwards of ten minutes of the movie is shot like this, and the whole film is only an hour and a half. The footage looks cheap and gets tiresome rather quickly; we have nothing interesting to watch, and there’s no sort of tension that’s built at all. However, after the puppet maker kills himself (Oh, spoilers… don’t see this movie, I’m doing you a favor by spoiling it) we meet our main characters, a group of heartless psychics.
Now, I don’t know about you, but normally, I need at least one character that I can sort of connect with in order to even slightly get into a film. There was no character that I could connect with even a little bit; all of them are rather horrid people. The psychics all arrive at their friend’s funeral, and then almost immediately stab his corpse to make sure he’s still dead. Now, I could see this working if the friends were all remorseful about their friend Neil’s (Jimmie F Skaggs, “Lethal Weapon”) death, but instead, the woman that stabs the corpse is almost gleeful about it. Why should I care about a group of friends that shows no sadness for the death of one of their own? From there, however, it gets even worse. There’s a psychometrist woman named Carissa (Kathryn O’Reilly, “Jack’s Back”) in their group that starts needlessly insulting Neil’s widow, Megan (Robin Frates, “The Arrival”), while they’re all eating dinner. I never cared about any of these characters because they’re all cruel to each other; in fact the only characters in this movie that were cool were the puppets. Acting was another factor in my inability to connect. These actors aren’t fit for a TV commercial for breakfast cereal, much less a motion picture. Everyone is more wooden than the puppets that are onscreen.
So now we come to the only redeeming bit in this film; the puppets themselves. These puppets are never really scary or spooky, so as far as a horror film this film fails spectacularly, but the puppet designs are all rather interesting. This movie spawned a dozen other sequels and I believe the sole reason for that was because of these puppets- they’re diverse and interesting as far as design, and some of them have more personality than their human costar counterparts. The problem is that this film doesn’t make the puppets the main focus of the film. We see puppet-vision throughout the film, and we see actual puppets here and there, but the primary focus of this film was on the unlikeable and boring humans. Let’s be honest, the reason people come to see schlocky b-movie slashers is for the body count and bizarre kills. While the first suicide happens within twelve minutes of the opening, the next kill doesn’t happen until almost forty-five minutes into the film. That’s thirty minutes of slogging through totally joyless, horribly written and performed expositional dialogue before we’re ‘rewarded’ with a lackluster, unimaginative kill.
Another issue is writing and story structure. The dialogue, as I’ve already mentioned, is quite horrendous throughout the entirety of this film, and it’s made worse by the incompetence of the actors. But the actual story itself is really boring, and filled with situations that feel forced or gratuitous. There’s a lengthy sex scene in this film that has almost no purpose until the very final moments of the scene. It’s totally unnecessary and you can tell that both actors are rather uncomfortable, which makes it so much worse. I guess I’ll mark some spoilers here, if you really don’t want the ending ruined skip ahead to the verdict. (SPOILERS) The other issue is the huge plot hole at the end. It’s revealed that Neil killed himself so he could reanimate himself using the same method used to bring the puppets to life, and thus, he’ll live forever. In the end, though, the puppets murder him by stabbing him to death. First off, Neil was already stabbed in the heart, and that was before we knew he’d come back to life. So why does it make any sense that stabbing an already dead man makes him deader. By the film’s logic, Neil is living through the use of magic; his physical body has nothing to do with being alive, so why would stabbing an empty husk of a man and then vomiting a leech into his mouth kill him for good? Couldn’t he just have his wife reanimate him again? He’s already dead anyways, does it matter how many times he dies and comes back? Does the leech have special magical powers that kill you twice? Come on movie; stick with the rules you’ve established. (SPOILERS END)
This movie is garbage. Don’t see it. It is easily the worst film I’ve reviewed for 31 Nights of Thrills 2018 (so far, there’s still time for worse movies).
I still have interest in seeing “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich”, because that trailer is pure schlock gold. Also, that entry in the series is the best reviewed of all of them; I guess the thirteenth times the charm. I don’t understand why it’s called ‘the Littlest Reich’ when in this film the magic spell used was some Egyptian method, but I’ll give the series the benefit of the doubt. I suppose I might have missed something by skipping entries two through twelve.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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