A comic book writer travels to a convention where he hopes to sell a rare puppet, but the puppet has other intentions.
So, I watched this film without any real hope of it being ‘good,’ but what I had hoped for was something entertaining. I stumbled upon the trailer for this film and thought that it would be right up my alley; a horde of Nazi puppets slaughtering people in the most graphic ways possible? It sounded like it would be in the vein of other splatterfest movies; campy, gleefully gory, and a little tongue in cheek. Honestly, when you get into horror, sometimes a splatterfest is exactly what you’re in the mood for. For those that come just for the graphic kills and cool puppets, this movie might satisfy you (it kept me entertained enough that I finished the movie at least), but for people looking for a real movie where people make logical decisions and have actual depth to the characters, you can absolutely pass this one by.
“Why would anybody create a Nazi puppet?”
Our film opens with Andre Toulin (Udo Kier, “Suspiria (1977)”) arriving at a bar; he realizes that his bartender is a lesbian, and sends his puppets to kill her, soon after Toulin is murdered. Recently divorced comic book writer Edgar (Thomas Lennon, “I Love You, Man”) moves back in with his parents while he readjusts to single life. He has an interest in the Toulin murder case, which has garnered a sort of cult following because of the strangeness of the details. Edgar has a run in with Ashley (Jenny Pellicer, “Cocaine Godmother”) and the two quickly start a relationship. A Toulin convention is planned to happen in a nearby town and Edgar asks Ashley to go with him so that he can sell his puppet, their friend Marowitz (Nelson Franklin, “Scott Pilgrim Vs The World”) goes with them. As the trio prepare for the convention, the bodies begin to pile up, and they begin to wonder if they’ve made a mistake in coming there.
So, I watched the first “Puppet Master” in preparation for this one (I don’t recommend that one either), and that film was totally and completely boring. This movie is better than that one, but that’s not saying much. In total, this is the thirteenth entry in the series (spinoffs and prequels included). I skipped all the other entries because I’m not completely insane (crazy enough to watch two of these movies, though). First, there are a bunch of inconsistencies between the first and thirteenth entries, but I’d venture to guess I might have missed something important by skipping entries two through twelve. That’s alright, this series isn’t something I’d ever (ever, EVER) go out of my way to watch. There are some similarities between the first film and this one, and almost none of the comparisons to be made are good, except one:
The best parts of this movie and the first one were the puppets. There were a couple really cool designs, and some of them were genuinely creepy. If there were a reason that this series has made it to thirteen entries, I’d venture to guess the puppets and the concept are the only reasons. Like with the first movie, I find the concept of this film to be really entertaining; murderous occult (or Nazi) puppets? That’s awesome! The problem is with the execution- in the first one the way the story was approached was just plain boring; in this film there was no tone. Between the first and thirteenth entries, the producers must’ve finally figured out that their idea was slightly stupid and kind of funny. There are some moments of humor in this film, but most of the time the humor is approached in a deadpan way. While the slaughter on screen is wonderfully over the top, the actors approach it as if everything we’re seeing should be taken seriously, even if the dialogue is funny. One of the best examples of this is when a character is dying, and he asks another character if he had lived, would she have gone out with him. The girl responds that there was a good sixty percent possibility. That dialogue and the ridiculousness of the question, paired with how the man was killed, could’ve been absolutely hilarious, but the execution was completely off. Instead of amping up the campiness in that scene, they try to play up the emotional elements. I’m sorry, but I didn’t come to a puppet slaughter movie to be emotionally connected to the characters, I came to laugh at the bizarre concept. There are other issues with some of the moments that are clearly meant to be humorous, sometimes because the humor just doesn’t work, and sometimes because the humor is slightly off-color, bordering on offensive. There’s a scene when a puppet that looks like a baby Hitler (with the mustache and everything) gets shot, and then a Jewish character picks up the puppet and tosses him in an oven, telling him to “See how you like it.”
Just like the first one, one of the bigger problems was the acting. Besides our three lead actors, everyone was absolutely horrendous. I found myself wondering if the script had just been handed out the morning before the shoot, as many of the actors seemed to be reciting their lines for the first time. The three leads were fine; they weren’t remarkable, but they far outshone the other actors.
I think my biggest problem with this movie was that it didn’t care at all about any sort of storyline after the puppets began murdering people. Near the center of the film there are three or four scenes in a row show a character we’ve never met before in a hotel room, and then a puppet comes in and murders them. This happens multiple times throughout the film- the storyline involving our three heroes probably only takes up about fifty minutes of the hour and thirty-minute runtime, the rest of the film is just random people getting murdered. As far as the effects go, they all look pretty good, and some of the kills are more fun than others. The problem is that the film doesn’t build any sort of emotion (fear or humor) around these scenes, it simply shows us a kill and then moves on to the next one. Some of the kills are a bit tasteless too (there’s a scene when a puppet kills a pregnant woman by entering her, killing her baby, then popping out of her stomach and walking away with the unborn fetus in its hands). Though, I suppose when you sit down to watch a movie about puppets committing hate crimes, you can’t really expect it to shy away from taboos. There were also a few scenes of unnecessary sex and nudity in this film. I have no problem with sex or nudity in a movie if it’s meaningful and important to the story, but when a film has multiple sex scenes that are gratuitously long and don’t do anything to advance the plot, I find myself irritated and uncomfortable.
While I never expected this to be amazing, I had hoped for a bit more fun than this. Sadly, what we got with this movie was nothing special or memorable. It seems that the Puppet Master franchise is doomed to stay at the b-movie level on which it was conceived. It must be working for some people, because this has more entries than most horror franchises, but for me, this was a total flop.
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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