Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Puppet Master (1989) - 2/5
The film opens with a our puppet master André Toulon on the run from Nazis. While staying at the Bodega Bay Inn, he hides his magical puppets in the wall and commits suicide. Flash forward to 1989.We are introduced to a handful of psychics who are having disturbing images and dreams of a former colleague. They are then all given notice to come to the Bodega Bay Inn for a meeting only to find out there old colleague is dead. Well not really as he has a plan to kill off all his old colleagues with our killer puppets as they will be the only people who know that he found the secret to Toulon's power to re-animate inanimate objects.
Not surprisingly the real stars of this film are the puppets. The puppets are all unique and have individual personalities despite they don't have the ability to talk. We've got Blade, a ghostly faced Klaus Kinski caricature that loves to slash with his blade and hook hands. We've got Pinhead, the muscle of the group that uses his little hulk-like figure to strangle. We've got Tunneler who has a monstrous drill on the top of his head. We've also got Jester who doesn't do much other spin his head around making different faces depending on the emotion of the scene. Ah but what's a group without a feminine presence and we get our lady puppet in the form of Leech Woman, a sexy little thing that regurgitates giant leeches onto victims. Giant leeches? I find that a little stretch but then again I am watching a movie about killer puppets. These cool little characters are brought to life with some real nifty stop motion effects provided by the late great David Allen.
Sadly beyond the puppets though we are left with a slow moving plot, some bad acting, and an EXTREMELY dull male lead. Paul Le Mat has to be one of most boring leads ever, especially in a horror film! His bad hair, even for the 80's, doesn't help. I actually saw him in an episode of 80's The Twilight Zone recently and I about shut it off because of his presence. The rest of the cast is tolerable and some of their characters are interesting, especially the psychic that can tell the history of any object by mere touch. Despite it all director David Schmoeller keeps the film together and even gives the film some style, especially having the camera run across the floor at the eye level of the puppets. He also gives the film a few interesting kills, and the one that has always suck in my head since I was young was when our puppet Tunneler drills a girl in the mouth when she's looking under the bed whilst her lover is blindfolded and tied to the bed making him fodder for the slaughter by Leech Woman. Gore fans will find little carnage but overall this film is light on the blood
There you have it, a below average horror film with a slow plot, a ridiculous ending and horrible male lead that is still being talked about today only for the fact of its novel idea of killer puppets. Killer dolls was nothing new to producer Charles Band as he also produced a film entitled Dolls two years prior that was a far more fun yet Puppet Master is a much more recognizable title among horror aficionados. It was such a big video hit for Full Moon Pictures that it inspired a franchise that is still going on today with 9 sequels. That's quite a feat for a small, low budget direct-to-video horror film so I have to give it credit for having staying power.
Bonus Rant: The Puppet Master box set I have has the title changed to "Puppet Master I" on individual box art. Duh, you think Full Moon? Do you think all your fans are absolute morons and can't figure out the film without a number is the first entry? Also it annoys me the on-screen title has Puppetmaster as one word. They couldn't even decide whether or not to make the title one or two words? All the films to follow would have Puppet Master as two words until they reached seventh entry Retro Puppet Master which again made it one fucking word. Title inconsistencies just drive me nuts.
Written By Eric Reifschneider