The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Circus of Horrors (dir by Sidney Hayers)


About 15 minutes into this film from 1960, Donald Pleasence gets mauled to death by a dancing beer.

Pleasence plays a character named Vanet.  Vanet is an alcoholic who, circa 1947, owns a circus.  He also has a daughter named Nicole (Yvonne Monlaur), whose face is scarred as a result of wounds that she received during Germany’s bombing of London.  When a plastic surgeon named Dr. Bernard Schuler (Anton Diffring) operates on Nicole and manages to “take away” her scars, Vanet is so thankful that he signs over ownership of the circus to Schuler.  Vanet then promptly tries to dance with a bear and gets killed.  Poor Vanet.

It turns out that Schuler is a brilliant plastic surgeon but he’s also kind of insane.  He and his associates (played by Kenneth Griffith and Jane Hylton) are on the run from the police.  However, even with the cops after him, Schuler has to experiment.  His plan is to use the circus as a front.  He’ll recruit scarred criminals, operate on them, and then require them to perform in his circus.  That plan doesn’t really make much sense but I guess a fugitive plastic surgeon has to do what he has to do.  Still, it’s hard not to be amused by Schuler describing his plans for the circus as if he’s just come up with the most brilliant plan ever as opposed to just a bunch of gobbledygook.  At no point do any of his assistants point out that his plan makes no sense so I guess he must pay well.

Anyway. the film jumps forward twelve years and what do you know!  The plan worked!  The circus is a hit!  People from all over Europe come to Schuler’s circus.  The circus is famous for featuring the most beautiful women in the world.  The circus is also famous for several mysterious and fatal accidents.  INTERPOL thinks that it’s possible that Schuler is intentionally killing his performers for the free publicity.  When Schuler makes plans to take his circus back to the UK, Scotland Yard is given a call and a heads up about what Schuler’s been doing.  A nosy reporter investigates while the murders continue unabated….

Circus of Horrors is odd.  It’s as if someone reached into a bag and pulled out random cards that read, “Circus,” “plastic surgery,” and “Word War II subtext” and then did what they had to do to construct a plot out of those three elements.  Of those three elements, the World War II subtext is probably the most interesting.  The majority of Schuler’s patients were scarred as a result of the war (which Europe was still recovering from in 1960) and Schuler is played by German actor Anton Diffring.  It’s easy to see Schuler, with his German name and his love for medical experimentation, as a stand-in for Nazi fugitives like Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie. Schuler and his circus move across Europe and, in the end, it’s going to take Europeans working together to stop him.  The shadow of World War II hangs over every scene.

Beyond that, Circus of Horrors is a flamboyant mix of horror and soap opera.  The colors are bright, the blood flows freely, and the melodrama is definitely embraced.  It’s like a Hammer film, just without a Hammer cast.  Unfortunately, Anton Diffring is a bit bland in the role of Schuler.  One could imagine an actor like Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing working wonders with the role but Diffring often seems to be bored with the whole thing.  As well, the film sometimes get bogged down with footage of the circus performers doing their thing.  For instance, do we need to see the clowns and the acrobats when what we really want to see is the murderous knife thrower?  Circus of Horrors has its moments but, while watching it, it’s hard not to think about how much more fun it would have been if it had been a Hammer film.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Blood Rage (dir by John Grissmer)


Filmed in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage tells the heart-warming story of two twin brothers, Todd and Terry Simmons (both played by Mark Soper).

In 1974, young Todd and Terry go to a drive-in movie with their mother, Maddy (Louise Lasser) and Maddy’s boyfriend.  (It’s suggested that Maddy has had many boyfriends over the years.)  The twins fall asleep in the back of the station wagon but, when they wake up, they discover that Maddy is making out with her date.  This inspires Terry to sneak out of the car, grab a nearby hatchet, and walk from car to car.  When he comes across another couple making love, he hacks the man to death and then watches as the man’s naked date runs into the night.  Realizing that he’s about to get in a lot of trouble, Terry hands the hatchet to Todd and then rubs blood on his brother’s face.  As a result, everyone assumes that Todd is the murderer.

Nine years later, Terry is living with Maddy at a secluded apartment complex called Shadow Woods.  Todd, on the other hand, is stuck in an asylum and not very happy about it.  On Thanksgiving, Todd escapes from the asylum and heads off to Shadow Woods.

Here’s where things get strange.  Everyone assumes that Todd is heading to Shadow Woods to get revenge.  That’s certainly what I assumed when he first escaped.  But it turns out that Todd, despite all he’s been through, is still a gentle soul.  He just wants to be free and to see his family.  However, when Terry learns that Todd has escaped, he sees it as a perfect excuse to go on another killing spree.

So, while Todd is sneaking around the complex, Terry is killing Maddy’s latest boyfriend and all of their neighbors.  Everyone who sees Todd asumes that he’s Terry and almost everyone who sees Terry assumes that he’s Todd.  It’s an intriguing premise that has a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, Blood Rage never gets as much mileage out of the idea as it should.  It’s not until the last few minutes of the film that it really digs into just how messed up Maddy and her sons really are.

Every by the standards of an 80s slasher film, Blood Rage is brutal.  Hands are hacked off.  Heads are separated from necks.  One unfortunate victim is chopped in half and spends what seems like several minutes feeling around for the lower half of her body.  As opposed to emotionless killing machines like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Terry Simmons seems to get real kick out of what he’s doing, which makes him all the more disturbing.  Interestingly, it’s not just the killing that Terry enjoys.  Terry also seems to enjoy knowing that he’s specifically going to get Todd in even more trouble.  He’s the ultimate bad sibling.

Mark Soper plays both Todd and Terry and he does a good enough job in the role that you can tell the two twins apart.  Occasionally, Soper does occasionally go a bit overboard as Terry but then again, most murderers aren’t known for their subtle personalities.  The film is pretty much stolen by Louise Lasser, who gives a memorably eccentric performance as Maddy who is, in her own way, just as unstable as her sons.  Some of the performances from the surprisingly large number of victims are inconsistent but, in the end, everyone dies convincingly and that’s what really matters in a film like this.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, Blood Rage was filmed in 1983 and sat on the shelf for four years.  Apparently, several different versions of the film have been released.  There’s a version called Nightmare at Shadow Woods that has almost all of the gore cut out.  The version that’s on Shudder is apparently uncut but it also opens with a title card that reads Slasher.  Blood Rage is a bit of a generic title but it is appropriate.  There is a lot of blood and there’s a lot of rage.

In the end, Blood Rage is an effective, if uneven, slasher movie.  Though the budget was undeniably low, the gore effects are convincing and the whole twin subplot allows from some unexpected moments.  The low-budget look of the film actually works to Blood Rage‘s advantage.  The grainy images occasionally give the film a rather dream-like feel.  At its best, it looks like a filmed nightmare.  At its worst, it just looks like another low-budget slasher flick from Florida.

Blood Rage may not be a masterpiece but it is a good film for the Halloween (and, given the film’s set-up, Thanksgiving) seasons.

 

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson (dir by Daniel Farrands)


Last year, I was one of the few people willing to defend The Haunting of Sharon Tate, which I felt was an effective film despite its rather icky premise.  I thought that the film managed to maintain a compelling atmosphere of dread and I also thought that, though somewhat miscast, Hilary Duff gave a good performance in the lead role.  Finally, I felt that, despite the exploitative nature of the film, the film was firmly on the side of Sharon Tate and the other victims of the Manson Family.  Though the title may have been offensive, the film itself was better than it had any right to be.

I really can’t say the same for The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, which is from the same production team as The Haunting of Sharon Tate and which imagines the final days in the life of another famous homicide victim.  Mena Suvari stars as Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of football player OJ Simpson (played, in a hyperactive manner, by Gene Freeman).  The film follows Nicole as she deals not only with her abusive ex-husband but also with shady friends like Faye Resnick (Taryn Manning) and slightly less-disreputable friends like Kris Jenner (Agnes Bruckner).

In the film, Nicole also has a short-lived affair with a handsome but unstable drifter named Glen Rogers (Nick Stahl).  In real life, Glen Rogers is currently incarcerated in Florida, where he awaits execution for a series of murders.  Rogers has confessed to killing people all across the country, though there’s some doubt as to whether or not Rogers was being honest when he did so.  (Rogers later recanted the confession.)  Rogers’s brother has claimed that Glen confessed to murdering Nicole Simpson and Adam Goldman, saying that he was actually hired to do so by OJ Simpson.  (Technically, Glen Rogers said that Simpson hired him to steal some jewelry but also gave him permission to kill Nicole if he felt that it was necessary.)  The film presents Rogers’s story as being fact, complete with a scene of OJ meeting with Glen shortly before the murders occur.

Other than making the case that Glen Rogers murdered Nicole and Ron, the majority of the film is just Mena Suvari walking around Los Angeles and talking to her friends about how she has a feeling that something terrible is going to happen.  Whereas The Haunting of Sharon Tate was willing to challenge the audience’s expectations by, at least briefly, changing history and presenting an alternate version of what could have happened that day in 1969, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is pretty much a grim march towards death, with each scene bringing the audience closer and close to the night of the actual murderers.  If the film actually presented Nicole as being a fully-realized character as opposed to just a doomed victim, the story’s fatalistic atmosphere would work on an existential level but since the film doesn’t seem to care about who Nicole was before she died, it all just feels very sleazy.

Towards the end of the film, there’s an odd scene where an unseen force suddenly starts to violently throw Nicole across her bedroom, sending her against the walls and, at one point, pinning her to the ceiling.  It’s a weird scene because it comes out of nowhere and it’s never explained whether it really happened or if Nicole was imagining being attacked.  It doesn’t belong in this film and yet, it’s also the only moment when this film feels in any way unpredictable.  Is the film trying to suggest that death, as a paranormal entity, was stalking her even before the night of her murder or was the scene just tossed in to liven up what is otherwise a rather slowly paced movie?  Who knows?  Again, if the film had really explored the issue of whether or not fate is predetermined and inevitable, it would have made for a far more interesting story than the rush job that this film appears to have been.

Mena Suvari and Nick Stahl are two actors who probably deserve better than this.  Stahl is especially effective as the creepy but handsome Glen Rogers.  Visually, the film is full of Hollywood glamour and ominous shadows.  It’s not a bad-looking film, at all.  Technically, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is well-made but, at the same time, it’s all just so astoundingly pointless.  The memory of Nicole Simpson deserved better.

 

6 Trailers For Halloween


Happy Halloween!

Well, the big day is finally here and that means that it’s time for a special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers!  Below you’ll find the trailers for some of my favorite horror films!  Let’s take a look!

  1. Suspiria (1977)

That I picked this trailer to start off this special edition should come as a surprise to no one.  While I don’t think the trailer really does the film justice, Suspiria is still one of my favorite movies of all time.  Don’t talk to me about the remake and we’ll get along just fine.

2. Zombi 2 (1979)

Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters!  This is the Lucio Fulci-directed classic that launched the Italian zombie boom!

3. The Beyond (1981)

And, as long as we’re talking about Fulci, there’s no way that I could possibly leave The Beyond‘s trailer out of this post.

4. Martin (1978)

Some people, undoubtedly, will say, “Martin but no Night of the Living Dead?”  Well, we’ll be featuring Night of the Living Dead later today.  Martin is one of George Romero’s best films and it’s still criminally unknown.  Check out the trailer but definitely be sure to track down the film as well.

5. Halloween (1978)

Naturally.

6. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King might not like it but Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made.  It’s one of the few films that continues to scare me after multiple viewings.  (It’s those two little girls in the hallway.  They freak me out every time!)

Happy Halloween!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Dead Night (dir by Brad Baruh)


Hey, I’ve got an idea!  It’s Spring Break so why don’t we spend it in a cabin in the middle of a snow storm!?

Great idea!

Let’s go!

Oh, look — we’re at the cabin now and there’s some strange woman passed out front.  What should we do!?

Hey, let’s bring her inside!

Good idea!

Uh-oh, the woman’s inside and she’s alive but she’s acting kind of weird!

Hey, let’s eat dinner!

Now, in all fairness to the characters in 2018’s Dead Night, things are a bit more complex than that.  It’s not just that they decided to go up to a snowy cabin for Spring Break.  The cabin is actually supposed to be a therapeutic location.  James Pollack (AJ Bowen) is dying of cancer and it’s felt that the cabin will not only ease his pain but perhaps increase his life.  If nothing else, the wilderness will bring some sort of inner peace.  Accompanying James are his wife, Casey (Brea Grant) and their two teenage children, Jessica (Sophie Dalah) and Jason (Joshua Hoffman), and Jessica’s best friend, Becky (Elsie Luthman).

As for the mysterious woman who shows up out front of the cabin, they’re just trying to be nice when they invite Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) to stay in the cabin with them.  Even though Leslie can’t tell them how she ended up at their cabin, the Pollacks are not the type to just allow someone to die in the snow.  Really, we should all be more like the Pollacks, I guess.

Still, Leslie does turn out to be really obnoxious.  She makes inappropriate jokes.  She rudely asks which member of the family is dying.  She blows kisses at Jason and smirks when Jessica announces that they can’t eat until they’ve said grace.  In fact, the family is on the verge of kicking Leslie out when …. well, things happen.

What things?  We get some hints from a terrifically over the top true crime show, segments of which appear throughout the movie.  Hosted by Jack Sterling (Daniel Roebuck), the show deals with the question of how a perfect wife and mother like Casey Pollack could eventually go insane and chop up her family and friends with an ax.  Sterling tells us that, even though Casey called several people and told them that she had found a strange woman outside the cabin, the police were convinced that this was all just a part of an elaborate lie.

Hmmm….so, I guess we know what’s going to happen, right?

Well, no,  Not quite.  It turns out that the true story is a little bit different from what we might have seen on television.  For instance, Jack Steling’s show says nothing about the weird incident that happened in the early 60s, when a young woman got lost in the wood and was apparently impregnated with a piece of a tree….

If you go over to this movie’s imdb page, you’ll find a lot of angry reviews from people who felt that this movie didn’t have a real plot and that it was too gory but I don’t know.  I kind of liked it.  I mean, it’s a horror movie about people stuck in the middle of the woods.  What exactly are you expecting to get other than some nonsensical ax murders?  I mean, yes, the film doesn’t make complete sense but the cabin and the woods are both wonderfully creepy locations and the film also featured the great Barbara Crampton playing a …. well, I won’t spoil it.  Plus, I watch a lot of true crime television and I can tell you that this film’s satire of the particular genre is spot-on!

So, what can I say?  Suck it, imdb.  I kinda liked Dead Night.

6 Trailers Designed To Bring Out The Beast In Your


St. Larry, patron of werewolves

For today’s special Devil’s Night edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers, we pay tribute to the werewolves!

Sadly, werewolves have been kind of overshadowed lately.  Everyone loves the zombies.  Everyone loves the vampires.  Everyone loves the weird little creatures that secretly control the Dark Web.  But, werewolves — those brave lycanthropes — have not been getting the respect that they deserve.

So, to correct that, here are 6 trailers for the wolves!

  1. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Oliver Reed as a werewolf?  Hey, it makes sense.  This classic Hammer film brought new fame to the werewolves of London.

2. The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

The movie has its issues but that is a great title!

3. Werewolf Woman (1976)

This is an Italian film, starring Annik Borel as a woman who thinks that she’s a werewolf.  And, depending on which version of this film that you see, she might be right.

4. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Meanwhile, back in London, a young American backpacker discovers why American tourists are not universally beloved in Europe.  They have a bad habit of wandering out to the moors on nights when there is a full moon.  This classic film features perhaps the best scene to ever take place in a sleazy porno theater.

5. The Howling (1981)

1981 was a good year for werewolf films.

6. An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)

It’s not a very good film but …. hey!  Look!  Paris!

Have a howlingly good Halloween, everyone!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting (dir by Louis Morneau)


What the sweet Hell is this crap!?

So, the 2003 film, The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, is a sequel to the original Hitcher.  That’s the film where C. Thomas Howell plays a dumbass who picks up a hitchhiker played by Rutger Hauer and then kicks him out after a few miles because Hauer’s like totally insane.  So, Hauer responds by murdering random people and framing Howell.  The Hitcher‘s a pretty good film, largely because of the terrifying performance of Rutger Hauer as the title character.

The Hitcher came out in 1986.  It got terrible reviews and didn’t do well at the box office but it found an audience when it was released on video.  In fact, The Hitcher became a bit of a cult favorite, which is what it deserved to be.  Then, 23 years later, a direct-to-video sequel was released and….

Seriously, this movie is so bad.

C. Thomas Howell returns, playing Jim, the same character that he played in the first movie.  Jim is still haunted by what happened in the first movie.  He’s a cop now but he fears that his encounter with the original Hitcher may have contributed to him using excessive force on a kidnapping suspect.  Seeking some time away from the stress of it all, Jim decides to visit a friend in Texas.  He and his girlfriend, Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) hit the road and, as they drive through the desert, they see a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road….

Now, I know what you’re saying.  “Oh, come on!” you’re yelling.  “There’s no way Jim would be make the same stupid decision twice!”

Well, you’re right.  Jim doesn’t stop to pick the guy up.  Instead, Maggie is the one who decides to pull over.  Apparently, Jim has never bothered to tell Maggie about any of the terrible stuff that happened during the first film.  Considering that Jim is apparently waking up constantly with nightmares and he’s on the verge of having a mental breakdown, you would think that all of this would be something that he would share with Maggie but no.  Maggie is totally shocked when Jim later tells her that he had a bad experience picking up a hitchhiker.

Anyway, in this case, the hitchhiker is named Jack (Jake Busey) and …. wow, shock of shocks!  He’s totally fucking crazy!  That’s right — it’s happening again!  So, Jack is chasing Jim and Maggie across the desert, murdering people and framing Jim and Maggie for the crimes.  Does this sound familiar?  Jim is eventually killed, giving C. Thomas Howell an excuse to never have to appear in another direct-to-video sequel.  Can Maggie beat the new Hitcher at his own game?

Oh, who cares?  This version of The Hitcher basically has none of the weird subtext of the first film.  Unlike Rutger Hauer’s Hitcher, who seemed to be almost erotically obsessed with Jim, Jake Busey’s Hitcher doesn’t have much on his mind beyond killing people.  If Rutger Hauer was all about quiet menace and charismatic intensity, Jake Busey is loud and in your face and so obviously crazy that it’s hard to have much sympathy for anyone stupid enough to pick him up.

The main problem with The Hitcher II is that it gets so damn repetitive.  I lost count of the number of times that a cop showed up, refused to listen as Maggie shouted, “STOP!  HE’S A KILLER,” and then got gunned down.  Seriously, this film featured the stupidest cops that I’ve ever seen.  The same thing keeps happening for 90 minutes or so, at which point we get a pithy one liner and then big explosion.  And then the movie’s over!

Yay!

6 Trailers For The Sunday Before Halloween


It’s a holiday and you know what that means!

Or maybe you don’t.  Sometimes, I forget that not everyone can read my mind.  Anyway, I used to do a weekly post of my favorite grindhouse trailers.  Eventually, it went from being a weekly thing to being an occasional thing, largely due to the fact that there’s only so many trailers available on YouTube.  Now, Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers is something that I usually only bring out on a holiday.

Like today!

So, here are 6 trailers for the last week of October!

  1. Last House On The Left (1972)

“Two girls from the suburbs.  Going to the city to have …. good time….”  Wow, thanks for explaining that, Mr. Creepy Narrator Dude.  That classic tag line about how to avoid fainting would be imitated time and again for …. well, actually, it’s still being imitated.  This was Wes Craven’s 1st film and also one of the most influential horror films of all time.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Speaking of influential horror movies, the trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is almost scarier than the film itself!

3. Lisa Lisa (1977)

I  have actually never watched this film but I love the trailer.  Can you guess why?

4. Ruby (1977)

Ruby, starring Piper Laurie!  I’m going to assume this was after Piper Laurie played Margaret White in Carrie.  Don’t take your love to town, Ruby.

5. Jennifer (1978)

Jennifer was another film that pretty obviously inspired by Carrie.  In this one, Jennifer has psychic control over snakes.  So, don’t mess with Jennifer.

6. The Visitor (1979)

Finally, this Italian Omen rip-off features Franco Nero as Jesus, so it’s automatically the greatest film ever made.

Happy Weekend Before Halloween!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (dir by Hèctor Hernández Vicens)


Hey, it’s another zombie film!

Eh, who cares?

At this point, there’s been so many zombie films that I’m a bit burned out on the whole genre.  I can still get enthusiastic for zombie films that attempt to put a new spin on the material and I still love the classic zombie films of the past.  But, for the most part, new zombie films just leave me bored.

2018’s Day Of The Dead: Bloodline is technically a remake of George Romero’s Day of the Dead but, then again, almost every American zombie film that’s come out over the past twenty or so years has been a remake of something that Romero did earlier.  The whole idea of an isolated military compound where soldiers plot to kill zombies (or rotters, as they’re called here) while scientists try to understand and maybe cure them has been done to death.  Once again, we’ve got a fascist army guy (Jeff Gum) and, once again, we’ve got a dedicated scientist who doesn’t like taking orders from the military.  The scientist is named Zoe (Sophie Skelton).  She was a medical student when the zombie apocalypse began.  Now, five years later, she’s trying to find a way to end it and blah blah blah, wake me when it’s over.

A good deal of the film centers around Max (Jonathon Schaech).  In life, Max was a pervy stalker who was so obsessed with Zoe that he craved her name into his arm.  In death, he’s a rotter who has retained some of his personality and bits of memory.  For instance, he’s still obsessed with Zoe and spends a lot of time saying, “You are mine, you are mine….”  However, Max’s blood potentially holds the cure for the zombie plague.  And, to be honest, that’s kind of an interesting premise.  In life, Max was the worst that humanity had to offer.  In death, he might hold the secret for saving the world.  Even as a rotter, he remains obsessed with Zoe and Zoe has to decide whether or not to destroy the man who tried to rape her or to keep him functional for the good of the world.

But …. eh.  I mean, it’s intriguing but the film doesn’t really do much with it.  It just becomes another zombie movie with a bunch of hardass soldiers and some scientists who don’t understand why the soldiers keep shooting everything.  Who cares?  We’ve already seen all of this in a hundred other movies, not to mention on shows like The Walking Dead.  Neither the script nor the characters in this film are interesting enough to really justify seeing it again.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Puppet Master (dir by David Schmoeller)


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!