Back in the day Puppet Master was a movie me and my friends loved to watch again and again. The original 1989 movie written by the cult creature Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall, and directed by David Schmoeller who also made the terrifying Tourist Trap, was a gore-tastic horror featuring crazy killer puppets each with their own individual look, wicked weapons and murderous method for dispatching a stream of screaming victims.
A terrific twelve movies and nearly 30 years later we are getting treated to a reintroduction to the malicious marionettes with Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich a reboot of the original franchise made to hook in a whole new generation of horror lovers.
Usually this would be a terrible thing but thankfully in the hands of directors Tommy Wiklund and Sonny Laguna (Wither, Blood Runs Cold) and writer S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Dragged Across Concrete) the reworking is perfectly in keeping with the sick spirit of the originals.
Featuring some fantastic cartoon credits detailing the origins of the death dealing dummies during World War 2 we open in 1989 where we meet Andre Toulon, played by the excellent Udo Kier, a Nazi occultist hiding out in Texas who lives in a creepy mansion with his even creepier puppets and also happens to murder people.
Flash forward to modern day and down on his luck comic creator Edgar (Santa Clarita Diet’s Thomas Lennon) is looking for a way to make some quick cash and get out of living at home with his parents. Edgar just happens to own one of Toulon’s puppets and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the infamous killings the maniac committed an auction is taking place of the madman’s many mannequins.
Traveling out to a hotel near the murder house with his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and nerdy annoying best friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin from New Girl and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) Edgar has no idea what awaits him as all hell breaks loose when the collection of evil puppets come to life at the convention and start slaying everyone in sight.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is as dumb and fun as it sounds and its ability to not take itself too seriously while still delivering some truly disturbing scenes of mutilation is what makes the whole film work so well. It’s the sort of film you either go with or go against and those willing to enter into the foul fantastical fun will most definitely be rewarded.
The script is full of great jokes and genuine laughs with many of the best lines coming from Nelson Franklin who is on fire throughout. Lennon makes for a likable lead alongside Jenny Pellicer’s Ashley and their relationship is comically constantly correctly commented on seeing as the pair seems a peculiar yet passionate couple. There are also some excellent turns from Charlyne Yi, Michael Paré and horror queen Barbara Crampton all playing unhinged characters losing their shit in the surreal scenario.
Although packed with horror clichés there is a surprisingly interesting subversive element to the story when the leading players work out the real reason certain guests in the hotel are being slaughtered and others are not. This fresh element adds an edge to the schlocky sex and violence making you stop and think for a moment about real life issues but not too long thankfully.
The puppet design is brilliant referencing some of the original characters many of which who also echoed a Nazi theme such as the skull faced gestapo styled Blade, the muscle bound Pinhead, flame throw wielding metal faced Torch and drill headed Tunneller as well as some crazy new additions with equally horrific enhancements they are all too eager to use on the humans in the hotel.
It is a credit to the movie that many of the puppets are genuinely disturbing and the effects very well done. Although the gore is totally over the top several of the stalking scenes scattered amongst the carnage are truly tense and guaranteed to cause jumps and jitters in any audience.
Throw in a score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi and Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich contains all the elements you need for a respectful and rip roaringly entertaining reboot combining enough throwbacks to the original series to keep seasoned horror heads happy while bringing in some great new ideas and plenty of puppet led splatter for a new viewers to enjoy.