One of my all time favorite film franchises is the Puppet Master film franchise. I love the first six films, and I’m very protective of them. I was highly anticipating the new reboot of the series coming from the filmmaker behind one of my favorite recent genre films, Bone Tomahawk. This is because the recent 7th through 11th installments in the Puppet Master series were various degrees of quality. A reboot wouldn’t hurt the franchise. And it sounded like we were in good hands.
I’m sure you already know where I’m headed with this. So I’ll just come out and tell you out right. I hated this film. Every once and a while, a film comes along with the power to cut to the core of a film fan, positive or negative. This one felt like a personal attack. Before the red staters stand up and shout, “you just didn’t like it because you were offended, you snowflake”, I have to point out one of my biggest problems with the film was that I WASN’T offended.
All of the marketing for the film taunted how messed up and offensive this movie was, and that’s what I was signing up for. See, the biggest difference in this reboot is that the puppets are the nazis this time, not the creation of someone fleeing the nazis. So the puppets start off killing people that the nazis killed (Jewish people, gypsies, ect). It’s tasteless, yes, but it’s satirical or smartly written or even brazen, because they immediately renege on that plot point at the point at which they introduce it as the puppets just start killing everybody anyway. I just watched Troma’s Return to Nuke Em High Vol 1 right before watching this film. THAT’S how you do offensive comedy! The producers here can only dream that they’re as smart and clever as Troma.
I’m getting too far ahead of myself here with the movie because it takes a good 30 or so minutes for the puppet “action” to start. After a tacky and rather cheap looking intro with an obviously bored out of his mind Udo Kier, we’re introduced to Thomas Lennon’s lead character. Why is he, and a couple other comedians, in this movie where they look like they are completely forbidden to be funny in the film? I’m not criticizing the humor in the film, there just literally is none. I was hoping this film would be fun like the first few films. It’s so void of any personality that I sat in utter disbelief for the duration of the runtime. The film bothers so little with character development, that Lennon’s character is already dating somebody he (and we as the audience) just met in the scene prior. Yet, it’s 30 minutes until the puppets start killing people.
The puppets kills start happening when we arrive at a “Andre Toulon Murders” convention where people are bringing they’re Toulon puppets they’ve collected to…trade? Show off? I don’t know. I don’t care. Neither do the filmmakers. Now the puppets are all in one location. That’s when the kills start. The thing is, the puppets, much like their human co-star are so devoid of any personality, don’t even get any good kills. The film decides to dump on us tons and tons of rather boring looking new puppets and some cheap redesigns of some old favorites. Thus, negating any of them being able to stand out and be memorable. Plus, the deaths look terrible in the film. The only kills the puppets seem to be able to do is cut throats or cut off heads at the throat. Besides being boring after the third time it happens, the practical effects look so bad and cheap here. No joke, the effects look better in the recent films Full Moon has been cranking out. Screenwriter Craig Zahler’s penchant for bro-violence just doesn’t work when it involves dolls.
Within the hotel, we are introduced to utterly wasted Michael Paré and Barbara Crampton. They have nothing to do, and they look like they don’t want to be there. They deserve so much better than this since they’re both still incredible actors. They know it too. You can see it on their faces in every scene they’re wasted in.
When all the hi-jinks spill out of the hotel, the movie just decides to end. Were you holding out for a satisfying conclusion? Too bad because the movie just ends after most of our lead characters are dispatched, and nothing has happened to Toulon and his puppets. This is one of the worst offenders of a non-ending I have ever seen.
To recap, characters who we know nothing about take 30 minutes to get to a hotel where were introduced to more characters who look like they don’t want to be in this movie. Then puppets kill some Jewish people and gypsies, but then just decide to kill everybody including some of our main characters. The survivors then just sit and watch as Toulon and the puppets get away. Credits. Give me a break. Couple this with almost purposeful boring performances, cheap looking effects, consumer camera level cinematography, and an admittedly good score that is comically out of place in the film, and you get this shit soup.
I’m embarrassed for all those involved in this film, especially the actors, because they look so embarrassed to be in it. I’m going to put in my copy of Puppet Master Axis Termination now to wash the taste out of my mouth.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD/Blu-ray Combo tomorrow, September 25, 2018