Here's the thing. My next piece in this ongoing Full Moon Fever series was originally going to be Blood Dolls by request, but then I recently listened to a horror podcast do an entire episode on Puppet Master II in which the hosts spent an entire hour more or less shitting on the film, pointing out all of the things that are "boring" and/or "stupid." I decided to change gears. I don't mind that these podcasters don't like Puppet Master II, even if I don't agree with them, but the nature of their criticisms rubbed me the wrong way. It's one of these shows on which, week after week, the discussion consists of recounting the plot of a given movie beat for beat with the only editorial interjection being something like "It's so stupid." The failure to try to see any good in the movie or to appreciate it on its own terms just makes no sense to me, and it's something I'd like to rectify with this column.
Puppet Master, released two years prior, the follow-up felt like a sequel that offered only more of the same -- another group of parapsychological investigators, another hotel, another round of killer puppets. I didn't dislike the movie, but I did find it to be more of a lateral move than evidence of the series really moving forward. Revisiting the movie years later on Blu-ray, more than 20 years' worth of Full Moon movies and eight or nine more Puppet Master sequels behind me, I had a whole new appreciation for the sequel and now consider it maybe the best entry in the long-running franchise.
Puppet Master II opens with the puppets -- Blade, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Jester and Pinhead -- digging up the grave of Puppet Master Andre Toulon and pouring the life-giving formula he invented on the corpse, reviving their creator. Cut to a new team of psychic researchers arriving at the Bodega Bay Inn to investigate the claims of murderous killer puppets made by Alex Whitaker, the only survivor of the original film (played by Paul Le Mat). Once there, they are attacked by the puppets and killed off one by one, all leading to the return of Toulon and the creepiest man-sized doll ever committed to film. To call it the stuff of nightmares is an understatement; this is the shit that keeps nightmares awake. While the idea of a human Big Bad revealing himself at film's end only to have the puppets turn on him will sound familiar to anyone who saw the original Puppet Master, the second film improves on that idea and does it in a way that's more interesting and memorable -- an apt description of the entire sequel, actually. It's basically the first movie redux, only more ambitious and inventive.
I'm legitimately excited for the upcoming reboot, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, partly because it's being written by Bone Tomahawk writer/director S. Craig Zahler but primarily because it's starring Barbara Crampton, whose participation in any movie is reason to celebrate. I have no idea what to expect from a Puppet Master movie being made in 2017 but mostly without Charles Band (who is still credited as executive producer). The cast list, which includes comedian Thomas Lennon and martian vampire Udo Kier, makes it appear that the film will embrace a kind of camp. I don't know. Maybe that's the way to make this material palatable to a modern audience? We'll see. In the meantime, I can always get my fix of O.G. Puppet Master with Puppet Master II, a movie that is neither stupid nor boring no matter what some podcast claims. I dig it.
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