Edgar (Thomas Lennon) returns to his childhood home after separating from his wife. Once back in his parents’ house, he spends time going through the belongings of his deceased brother, where he finds a nightmarish puppet, which quickly fascinates him. It turns out the puppet was made by a serial killer, who died 30 years ago and with the anniversary of the killer’s death coming up, an auction of the puppets is planned. He invites his new girlfriend, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) on a romantic weekend on the anniversary of some gruesome small-town murders. Along for the ride is Edgar’s best friend and boss Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). Once back in their home, the puppets come to life and continue their master’s killing spree.
The film was introduced by cast member Barbara Campton, who described it as a re-imagining of the Puppet Master story in a new universe, which helps, as I’ve not seen the original 1989 Puppet Master or the subsequent 9 films.
The film starts in 1989 and we quickly see the demise of the eponymous Puppet Master Andre Toulon, after the murder of two women who reject him in a bar. With his dying breath he instructs his murderous puppets to stay hidden and stay in the shadows. So, just like toys of Toy Story, they stop coming to life and for 30 years are just puppets that are scattered across the US. This 1989 intro to Toulon is almost unnecessary as later in the film we get told the full history of Andre Toulon’s work with the Nazis, and women and Jews he killed after coming to America, which is far more informative than the scenes in 1989.
The film relies heavily on stereotypes to speed past the lack of depth of the characters and time to develop any. The Jewish character is wearing a kippah (traditional skull cap) so there’s no doubt why the puppets focus on him first. The blonde with the fake boobs dies with her top off half way through sex and the cop is brash, useless and pig headed. The fat slob, the uptight German, the butch lesbian – you get the idea.
The chemistry and experience of both Thomas Lennon and Nelson Franklin (Markowitz) make the film work. Nelson Franklin has by far the best line of the movie as he throws a Hitler-baby puppet into an oven and screams “see how you like it”.
This movie was never meant to be serious, the tagline is ‘World War 3 begins on your toy self”, but in some ways it isn’t stupid enough. No one, apart from Edgar seems to realise the puppets can be picked up and stopped by throwing them against a wall. In fact the lack of survival instinct and basic reflexes is irritating. It would have been better if while being attacked the character exclaimed at not being able to stop these toys.
There are 2 death scenes that are worth a mention. The first, as the fat slob character pees in the bathroom a puppet cuts his head off and it ends up in the toilet providing the audience with a first-person viewpoint of the still peeing corpse, peeing on the head in the toilet. However, when the corpse finally falls to the ground and we get a wider shot of the fat slob on the floor, his underpants and trousers are up, and his belt is buckled. Why make such a fuss of the character dying with his penis out and then follow with that shot? The second death was when a puppet crawls in to the body of a pregnant woman and bursts out of her womb alien-style and takes the baby with it as the puppet exits. Just the right level of ridiculous and gross.
The film is only 84 minutes long and there were several moments the audience laughed, but it could have been so much more, if the film had leaned in to the ridiculous idea of so many people being killed by such small animatronic creatures.
Cast: Thomas Lennon, Michael Paré, Charlyne Yi, Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund Writer: S. Craig Zahler Certificate: TBC Duration: 90 mins Released by: Zero Trans Fat Productions