Since there’s been like 200 Puppet Master films made over the past 30 years — goddamn, 30 years of killer puppets! — I figured that maybe I should finally sit down and actually watch one of them. I decided to go with the original film that started the entire franchise, 1989’s Puppet Master!
So, basically, this is a movie about little puppets that kill full-sized people. Obviously, there’s a bit more to the plot but let’s be honest. No one who watches this movie is going to be watching it for the specifics of the plot. They’re going to be watching it because they want to see tiny puppets go on a rampage. I have to say that the puppets themselves are pretty cute. I mean, they’re murderous and a little bit pervy but they’re still really cute. I understand that all of the puppets have their own specific names but, while watching the film, I just made up names of my own.
For instance, there’s Hooky, who has a hook for one hand and a knife for the other and looks like he should be the lead singer of an aging Prog Rock band. And then there’s Drilly, who has a drill on his head. He can be really dangerous, especially if you’re stupid enough to crawl around on the floor and just stay there, on all fours, while he’s running straight at you. I mean, if you just stood up, you probably wouldn’t get that badly injured but …. well, what do I know, right? And then there’s Leechy, who is a female puppet who spits up leeches. What’s interesting is that she never runs out of leeches but I have to wonder, if you have that many leeches, why not just send them out on their own instead of stuffing them all into some poor little puppet? I felt bad for Leechy. She seemed kinda sad. And then there’s Handy, who has big hands and Facey, who can assume several different facial expressions at once. They’re all really adorable, to be honest.
Anyway, Puppet Master is about a bunch of psychics who all spend the night in a California hotel that was once home to the “last alchemist,” Andre Toulon (William Hickey). Toulon had the power to bring inanimate creatures — like puppets! — too life but, when the Nazi spies were closes in on him, Toulon killed himself. Many years later, a psychic named Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) discovered Toulon’s hiding place in the hotel but then shot himself as well. So now, Neil’s former colleagues are all trying to get Toulon’s power for themselves. Or something. As I said, following the plot is not always easy. The main appeal here is watching the cute puppets do really bad things.
That said, who knew that a group of psychics and witches would prove to be so stupid? I mean, you would think that — when all of you are having constant premonitions of death and destruction — you would be smart enough to take extra precautions or maybe just leave the hotel all together. For instance, Dana (Irene Miracle) casts a protection spell over someone else but not on herself. Meanwhile, Frank (Matt Roe) and Clarissa (Kathryn O’Reilly) make the rookie mistake of having sex in a horror film while our nominal hero, Alex (Paul Le Mat, looking like he’s trying to figure out how he went from American Graffiti to this), wanders around in a daze.
And yet, watching the film, I could see why it became so popular. The puppets are memorable and well-designed and the backstory, with Toulon and all the rest, is actually pretty interesting. Puppet Master is one of those films that defines “stupid but fun.” No wonder the puppets came back!