Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Revisit: The Puppet Master

An Empire Pictures/Paramount Pictures release 1989
Directed by David Schmoeller
Writing credits:
Charles Band (story) & Kenneth J. Hall (story)
David Schmoeller (screenplay) (as Joseph G. Collodi)

André Toulon (William Hickey) is a puppet maker who discovers an ancient Egyptian formula for the creation of life. Holed up in a bay area hotel, he uses the ancient power to rejuvinate his puppets, but commits suicide as the Nazis seek to use his knowledge to their advantage. Flash foward twenty years later at the same hotel: four psychics (Paul Le Mat, Irene Miracle, Matt Roe, & Kathryn O'Rielly) decide to investigate the suicide of a former colleague (Jimmie F. Skaggs), along with his widow (Robin Frates). They uncover the secrets of the Puppet Master and are stalked by Toulon's puppets, who have a variety of strange traits including a drill for a head and the ability to spit up leeches.
The Puppet Master series is one of the largest horror franchises in recent history, with over 9 movies in twelve years, and yet I'm hard pressed to find anyone who's actually seen the damn thing. And no wonder - this movie is bad, bad in all the ways 80's horror movies can be bad. It's a high concept, low action snoozefest that takes itself way to seriously. There's a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo about psychics and dreams and "metaphysical" shit in there that's clearly cashing in on the Nightmare On Elm Street boom, but is irrelevant to the plot (unlike in Nightmare) and doesn't engage with any concepts of reality (also unlike Nightmare). The gore is pretty weak in terms of 80's splatter, although the deaths are fairly original. The coolest thing about this flick are the puppet effects, which only slightly improve upon Ray Harryhausen's early stop motion techniques, but there are not enough of them. I can only assume that's why they made a sequel - the people demanded more puppets, and more puppets they recieved. But I'm still pretty curious as to who exactly was making those demands...

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