Midnight Horror Collection
Full Moon / Echo Bridge
The first three films of the (so far) ten film Puppet Master series leave me wondering why they ever bothered making the first one.
I like a good, campy horror movie. Graphic violence, great; ridiculous villain, fine; silly plot, I’m excited. But the one thing I don’t like in a horror movie, is boredom, and the Puppet Master movies have that in spades.
I guess we should start with the puppets themselves. They’re just marionettes, with no facial expressions; slow, jerky movements; and small stature. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to consider them as a threat. It’s reminiscent of a ’50s sci-fi movie, when a very slow moving guy in a big rubber alien costume lumbers after the screaming girl who could easily escape at walking speed, but doesn’t for some reason.
Further, you never really get a sense of their character. A horror killer isn’t defined by his or her ability to kill, but their willingness to; the puppets are just puppets, with no particular goals or desires of their own. And the people who control them are likewise lifeless and unengaging.
The first movie in the series is about a group of psychics who come to an old hotel after being called (psychically) by their old colleague Neil, the Puppet Master. Once there, they find Neil’s wife with the news that the PM is dead, so the psychics stick around to be killed one by one. The victims provide bland cannon fodder and occasional nudity, and otherwise make no real connection to the audience.
The second movie is a rehash of the first, and thus isn’t any better. A group of parapsychologists comes to the hotel and find the puppets now under the control of the original Puppet Master, Toulon, whom the puppets had dug up from the graveyard outside and reanimated. Toulon has a bandage-covered head and the personality of a silent movie villain. He’s not as empty as Neil, but he’s too cartoonish to work as a scary antagonist.
The third is slightly better than the first two, if only because it tries. We’re transported back to Nazi Germany, where we meet a young Toulon, who is just on the edge of Puppet Mastery. A Nazi scientist wants to use Toulon’s reanimation skills for nefarious purposes, and causes Toulon great harm in the process, bringing on the Puppet Master’s wrath. It has a better structured story and a decent setting, but Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge still pretty boring. Like the first two, it just never rises above a loosely connected collection of scenes of puppets killing people in non-graphic ways.
I respect Charles Band, the man behind this and many other film series. He’s created a horror brand, Full Moon Entertainment, and attracted a cult audience, despite being barely competent as a filmmaker (though, to be fair, he may have gotten better after these first three).
This disc is available for really cheap, but even then, it’s hard to recommend. There are far more entertaining ‘bad’ horror movies to be seen (see the 8 movie Lionsgate set, for example). The first three entries into the Puppet Master series offer nothing new or interesting, and to add insult to injury, it’s isn’t executed well, either.