Monday, August 20, 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

As horror fans, we all have series that are our favorites. For me, Halloween comes first. Then there's Romero's Dead series. After that, it has to be Puppet Master. I don't know what drew me to the series at first. Maybe it was an article in Fangoria or Gorezone. Maybe it was the VHS covers that featured puppets and promised mayhem. Maybe it was just because I was a sucker for Full Moon films. While they first two films had the puppets as the antagonists and murdering those who came to stay at the Bodega Bay Inn with stop motion goodness, the latter films turned them into heroes and used them to fight off Nazis. It was an interesting change and resulted in the best film of the series, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. But something for me was lost. While I enjoyed the new direction, I missed the puppets being the little bastards that they were built to be.

Fortunately, it seems that someone else felt the same way and graced us with a reboot to the series in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Ditching the bogged down continuity the films had created until now, the movie finds us in America, where Toulon (now a Nazi) is hiding out and using his puppets to continue the horrible work he had started in Germany of killing those who do not fit into the master race and also to keep himself alive. He runs afoul of the law after they catch wind of the murders he is committing and dies in the ensuing gunfight. Fast forward to thirty years later where Edgar (Thomas Lennon), his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) attend a convention celebrating the anniversary of Toulon's death in the hopes of selling a Blade puppet Edgar found in his late brother's possessions. Things are going swimmingly until the puppets are reanimated by a mysterious force and all hell breaks loose.

Working from a script by S. Craig Zahler, director's Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund give us a fun ride that gives us some great character performances and some room to breathe and get to know then before bringing the bloody good fun of puppets vs. people. They don't shy away from showing the puppets doing what they do best, and while there isn't as much stop motion as in previous entries, they look good and believable. The new designs for the puppets are great, too. Blade has has a complete overhaul, with his trademark albino face now a more skull-like sculpt and shines as the leader off the puppets.

Lennon shines in the part and I don't understand why he doesn't get more lead roles as he is often the best part of the movies he is in, and this is no exception. He plays a man who is broken and with a tragic past, trying to find happiness again while dealing with a story so ludicrous it could be in one of the comic books that he writes. His co-stars are equally impressive and the trio form a tight knit group that forms the heart of the film. As if that wasn't enough, we have Udo Kier in a flashback as Toulon, Barbara Crampton as cop and Michael Pare as a detective showing up to breathe even more life into the film. There's also a character played by an actor I'm not familiar with who really steals the show. You'll know who I'm talking about when you see it.

Did I mention that Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombie 2, City of the Living Dead) did the score for the film? His work is as good as ever and his new theme for the series is fantastic and I hope to hear more of it in the inevitable sequels as it is never overpowering and complements the action on screen nicely.

It's a fun flick that hits you fast and furious. There are a few missteps here and there, namely some plot questions that go unanswered, but it's a solid entry that has breathed new life into a series that has grown slightly stale over the years. If you're a fan of the OG puppets, fear not, as Charles Band is still making new movies featuring the old favorites. But with this reboot we have a new world to play in and the promise of a sequel is great and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Check it out.

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