I wanted to start this review in a more political, neutral way… but fuck that. I’ll say it. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a return to form for the horror series, and it’s easily the best sequel since 2003’s Puppet Master: The Legacy. The series has gone through major transitions and repeatedly taken some lackluster turns, but the new movie – which is hailed as a reboot or re-calibration – absolutely nailed it on the Pin-head. (See what I did there?) A collaboration between RLJE Films, Cinestate, The Fyzz, Flexibon Films, Fangoria, Red Productions, Torfoot Films, Ghost Horse and Full Moon Features, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich follows a large group of eccentric puppet collectors selling and presenting their prized possessions at a convention hosted in Andre Toulon’s former stomping grounds. As night falls on the event, the puppets come to life and lay siege on the vendors, caking the venue in blood, guts and brutal depravity. Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”), Michael Pare (Streets of Fire), Barbara Crampton (From Beyond, You’re Next), Jenny Pellicer (“State of Affairs”), Nelson Franklin (“New Girl”), Charlyne Yi (“Steven Universe”) and Udo Kier (Flresh for Frankenstein) star in this fun, nostalgic, gorefest from writer S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) and directors Sonny Laguna (Wither) and Tommy Wiklund (Blood Runs Cold). Old faces, new faces, and disfigured faces collide in one of the best returns of 2018.
If you couldn’t tell from the cast and crew members listed above, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich came with fire and stepped its game up. Calling this entry in the saga a reboot is quite fitting; as it’s sure to reignite the love for all things Toulon once viewers get a look at this. The production team put together a better cast and a bigger budget, resulting in a horror film that was actually worthy of a theatrical run. Better picture quality, better special effects, and talented actors from the horror and comedy genres pushed it to the limit and smashed it out of the park. My viewing made me energized to see the puppets back at it again, and looking so great while massacring their owners! This is what film-making is all about, especially when we live in a world where fans are unhappy with reboots and new entries in “dead” franchises. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich blows that argument to Hell and shows that a popular series from the 80’s can live and breathe – and kick some ass – in 2018. Major props to cinematographers Tommy Wiklun and Joey Falsetta, editor Alex Campos, producers Derek Brown, Pam Dugas, and Foster Dugas, as well as the writer and directors for their hard work and contributions to this title. It certainly paid off ten fold!
I was never a huge fan of the Puppet Master movies… until I watched The Littlest Reich. I’ve seen all of them up until Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (lord Jesus…), but when the caliber of production dwindled to laughable standards, I stopped pursuing the series. Except for whatever clips I browsed on YouTube. For that reason, I wasn’t always aware of the connection between the puppets, their creator, and the Nazis – which has become a defining characteristic of the story-line in recent years. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich re-introduced me to this plot point, going as far as briefly taking the film back to 1989, while expanding the mythology of the devilish magic in modern times. It was done in a fluid, effortless way that won’t bore viewers or contradict itself in the future; which goes back to how great the script was written. I can honestly say, now, that I’m a fan of the saga and I’m anxious to see what film-makers will do with it in the future. I understand that Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich exists in a parallel timeline, diagonal to the other films, but I don’t see the audience having a problem following this movie, either. Same as me, I think they’ll walk away from their own viewing thinking, “damn, that was kick ass!” Enticing, intriguing and majestically bizarre, this one’s a silly ball of entrails and ashes all mixed into one.
Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, and Torch are all back for another round of mayhem, and they’re accompanied by a batch of new friends. The familiar faces from previous movies were a welcomed addition to the cast, but the new puppets left a lot to be desired. I don’t think they would exist on their own with any amount of success had they not been featured in this movie. Or, maybe, they were never intended to be Toulon puppets at all; so much as flukes inhabited by the Egyptian spell. If you’re planning on watching Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, you won’t have to way wait long to see them on screen. Once you hit the 35 minute mark, it’s a non-stop gore-filled thrill-ride that sees butchered victim after butchered victim after butchered victim. It might not always be strictly horror, but this film delivers on the goods – suspense, practical effects, and sexuality. With the last bit, all I’ll say is boobs on the window. I know I’ve been non-stop praising this movie since the beginning, so let me point out two things that I didn’t like. I felt that the dialogue was a little rough in some spots, resulting in a couple moments of bad acting. I also felt like some scenes were a little rushed and added in only to raise the body count or add on minutes to run-time. Other than that, this movie is a certifiable horror hit!
The locations manager and the prop department deserve a huge round of applause, too. Those were two integral parts that could have ruined the movie if they weren’t so on point. Using a comic book store and a convention as central locations was a cool way of using current fads and underground fandoms to reel in a bigger audience. The geeks will enjoy Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich just as much as the gorehounds. In relation to that idea, scream queen Barbara Crampton and comedian Thomas Lennon and their star quality will bring attention to this movie. They perfectly embody two crucial elements to the Puppet Master movies, and their involvement here is nothing short of money in the bank. I honestly cannot rave about this movie enough. I wasn’t expecting to get any enjoyment out of it, especially considering my distaste for the previous movies, but Little Reich made me a believer again. If the goal of this reboot was to bring the audience back to the pint-sized morgue, Littlest Reich succeeded on every account. I encourage you to see it in a theater near you or stream it when RLJE Films on August 17, 2018. A crazy, demented, smorgasbord of puppet sized destruction, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is guaranteed to make you cheer, gasp, ponder your sanity and jump out of your seat; all while taking you back to a cult franchise with a killer hook. Loved it! Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.