Obey your master...master
I've reviewed a few movies courtesy of Full Moon Entertainment, including Demonic Toys, Decadent Evil, Evil Bong, and Meridian. While all three were different, their similarities were obvious. All were made on the cheap and were completely balls-out insane. I mean, a talking bong that kills people? A Beauty And The Beast knockoff horror movie? Whatever the fuck Decadent Evil is? When a movie with murderous toys is the least batshit insane movie out of the bunch, you know there's something wrong. Full Moon did actually have a breakout hit amongst all their stealing piles of crap: Puppet Master. The Puppet Master franchise has spawned over ten movies, comic books, and toys. If a movie franchise has lasted this long, the original has to be great, right? Of course not, this is Full Moon we're talking about!
Puppet Master is a 1989 direct-to-video horror movie written by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall. The movie stars Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti, American History X) as psychic Alex Whitaker. In 1939, puppeteer Andre Toulon (William Hickey, Tales From The Darkside, The Nightmare Before Christmas) is tracked down by two Nazi spies. Toulon had discovered the secret ability to give life to inanimate objects and bestowed the gift on his puppets. As the Nazis are about to break down his door, Toulon shoots himself before they could get his secret. Fifty years later, a psychic named Alex Whitaker begins to have strange, violent dreams involving both the past and the future. At the same time, fellow psychic Dana Hadley (Irene Miracle, Midnight Express, Inferno), has a vision of getting her throat cut. Alex and Dana, along with psychic couple Carissa and Frank are summoned to the Bodege Bay Inn where their former colleague Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs, Cutthroat Island, Leathal Weapon) is staying. They meet Neil's wife Megan who informs them that Neil has killed himself and before his burial, insisted that the four psychics were present. As the day turns into night, Toulon's puppets come to life and begin to wreak havoc on the guests. Soon, only Alex and Megan are left alive. To their shock, Neil turns up alive and well. How is this possible and what does Neil have in store for Alex and Megan?
"Ain't I a stinker?"
As with any killer doll movie, you have to take the plot with a grain of salt. Done correctly, the killer doll genre can be quite scary and very entertaining. Child's Play and the Talking Tina episode of The Twilight Zone are proof. Puppet Master gives us different dolls with unique attributes, like knives for hands and spitting up leeches to keep things interesting. Sure, it's utterly ridiculous to see a plastic doll spit out multiple leeches, but hey, at least it's different. The puppets look good with some nice detail put into each one. The use of stop-motion gives the puppets semi-believable mobility and multiple first-person camera shots for the puppets' point of view is fun and mixes things up. There are some fun kills and the usual amount of violence and nudity expected in a Full Moon movie.
The problem with Puppet Master is that the over-the-top violence and action doesn't come in until the last third of the movie. Instead, we have to sit through a story that must have been dipped on molasses before it was made. I had literally zero interest in the psychics and their screwy dreams. It has very little to do with the killer puppets, which is stupid because the entire point of the movie is to see the puppets kill people! I didn't watch the movie so I can hear about psychics and the barely-their connection to Toulos. The dream sequences were ridiculous time killers that had a high unintentional comedy factor. I didn't care about Alex, which is a problem because he's the fucking main character. If I don't care about him, why should I care about anything else? On top of that, his hair was a ridiculous amalgam of Meatloaf and Dennis Miller hair. The acting is downright painful, though it's not like they had a lot to work with.
Yeah, this makes sense
When I watch a killer doll movie, I want to see killer dolls. I don't want to have to sit through some unnecessary blather about psychic. You wouldn't watch a zombie movie if the focus was on the main character's golf game, would you? The first 40 minutes are painfully dull and almost completely useless. When the dolls finally start killing people the movie actually becomes fun and entertaining. The variety of dolls kept things interesting and the first-person camera shots were a nice touch. The violence was decent and distracted from the plot holes and filming mistakes like an elevator clearly going up while the numbers go down. While I wasn't expecting Citizen Kane, I figured that a movie that spawned 10 sequels would have at least been decent. Demonic Toys was a better movie. DEMONIC TOYS! If you're morbidly curious or a completest, I'd say check out Puppet Master. If you're looking for a good movie, check elsewhere.