Friday, 22 July 2011

Puppet Master - Terror Toys Season

Originally intended to be released in cinemas during the summer, writer/producer Charles Band felt it would make more money on the home video market and so Puppet Master was released straight to video in October 1988.  The film did well and nine sequels followed along with talks of a remake, which has yet to come to anything.

Warning, this is a spoiler based review

Unlike the Chucky franchise, of which I'd seen the comedy horror sequels, I've not seen a single instalment of the Puppet Master franchise so I'm quite excited about seeing this one.  From what I can tell, Puppet Master never really caught the same fan fever that Chucky did, though that doesn't mean it's a worse film, just probably less marketable.  I figure this to be somewhat like the Wishmaster series, the first one in particular is an excellent film with several nods to other franchises, but you rarely, if ever, see merchandise for it.

Well I'm quite excited to see this one, unlike Chucky there isn't the thought of being caught by my parents as I don't think they've heard of it so I don't feel apprehensive about pressing the play button.

The film opens on some somewhat blurry faces of what I can only presume are carved puppet heads, since this is a movie about evil puppets.  The opening credits play over these images with some music I'd describe as fairgroundish.  We transition to a beach and a huge building at the top of a cliff overlooking it, this is the Bodega Bay Inn and it's 1939.

A puppet looks out of a window as a record plays, inside the room we see a vast assortment of puppets and a man painting them....  hey, I know him!  That's William Hickey, he was in an episode of Tales from the Crypt and he played Dad's Dad in the adventures of Pete and Pete!  The puppet from the window turns it's head and looks at Hickey who shakes his head, then the puppet looks outside again.  We then get a very low, running POV shot of something on the ground dodging people and a dog as it tries to make it's way inside the hotel. 

He has a very hands on hobby
Hickey rubs the puppets head and chants 'life' a few times and the puppet spins it's head, Hickey declares this to be beautiful.  Outside, the POV camera avoids two blokes getting out of a car, wearing black trench coats and black hats.  The puppet from the window looks at Hickey and he says "I know, they're coming," the puppet he was working on spins it's head into a frowny face and he tells it not to worry, he'll take care of him.  The POV cam makes it inside the building as the two black clad men march on, the POV runs into a few obstacles as it moves around and then stops to admire a guys spats. 

In his room, Hickey removes a panel from the wall, with a large case in front of it.  Downstairs, the POV puppet is a little white faced guy with a black coat and hate and a hook for a hand, he runs after the two guys and then heads into a lift, how no one notices this I don't know, perhaps people didn't look at their feet in the 30's.  Hickey rolls an Egyptian scroll into his case along with his puppets which he places inside lovingly. 

MIB early concept costumes
One of the men speaks German to the other, my German is rusty enough so that I can't really remember what they are saying, but I do know it's like basic German.  Little puppet dude frightens an old lady and we see his other hand is a little knife, he looks a bit spooked himself and runs off.  The two guys get inside the lift and the little dude finally makes it back to Hickey's room.  Hickey picks him up and tells him not to be frightened, he'll hide him and make sure that nothing happens to him, the puppet makes a sad noise.  Hickey laments that they didn't have more time, then locks up the case and loads it into the wall as the two men come down the corridor to Hickey's room.  I guess the other puppets he has in there aren't alive as there's loads of them.  Hickey gets a gun from his drawer and the two men outside draw ones themselves and knock on the door asking for "Andre Toulon."

Hickey puts his gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, killing himself.  I have no idea why he's done this, who the guys are, why he's magic and can bring puppets to life, but I'm really sad about it.  I feel sorry for him and his puppets which makes me worry some what as to how the rest of the movie is going to go, but the movie has done a superb job of instantly getting me on their side.  I also now want those puppets as merchandise.

Then we come to Yale University, present day, which I am assuming is 1988 and not 2011, cos that would be weird.  A guy is sat in an office, asleep, dreaming about a man in a suit holding a gun to a ladies head, his shirt suddenly starts bleeding in his office which is weird, he pulls it open and there's 3 leeches stuck to him, then he wakes up for realsys.  Then we transition to a fair ground and a palm reading tent and an old fraud palm reader looks into a crystal ball telling a young couple that they will be married soon and have a little boy, then a little girl.  The woman says she likes this but asks if her boyfriend will ever get a real job.

The old fraud tells them he'll be in retail sales, the girlfriend says thats impossible because he's stupid and flunked out of school and starts to laugh.  I'm not sure how flunking out of school affects your ability to sell things, but hey ho.  She then tells them he's going to be the foreman of a big construction site and build a shopping mall where retail sales will take place and says he's going to be a very rich man.  Pleased, the girl says she probably will marry him then.  She asks what else she sees and the woman says her grandmother won't be around long, then the girl says her grandmother is dead already, so the old fraud says it must be the boyfriends grandmother. 

The old fraud then holds her head with her finger tips and starts moaning, then becomes breathless and starts holding her throat and we get a POV flashback to a girl on a corridor, running away from what is probably a puppet.  We see the little puppet dudes knife hand swing down and the old fraud's vision finishes.  Then we cut to the statue of liberty and shots of New York.

Then an office sporting the words "PENSA Research Inc."  They are conduction a real time thought transfer experiment on a girl called Carissa, a man tells a girl on a bed wearing a nightgown and a weird head thingy called Andrea to think about a wild, detailed sexual fantasy and I think this guy is just fucking with them.  The man starts talking about a man on the beach in the rain and asks Carissa if she's getting any of this and then looks a bit pervy. 

He gets a call from the man from Yale called Alex, he asks the pervy man what everything means and the pervy man says that someone has found the old puppet masters hiding place and has called a meeting, he tells him they also got a call from The White Witch, aka Dana, who knows the location, the Bodega Inn in California.  This is all very confusing, but I assume it will be explained. 

At the old hotel two women walk down the stairs and the asks who the people gathered in the lobby are, the young woman says they are "probably the friends Neil said would come."  The old woman, Teresa says they don't look like friends, they look like trouble.  The young woman introduces herself to Alex as Megan Gallagher.  Dana is the old fraud from the fairground, Carissa is with them and the pervy man introduces himself as Frank.  Dana makes a remark about someone marrying someone, but it's unclear as to who and why as no one mentioned anything about anyone being married.  Alex asks if they are intruding, Megan tells them that Neil said they would be coming, whoever Neil is.

Dana asks where Neil is and Megan looks surprised saying that Neil has died and shows them Neil in a coffin, according to Megan, he shot himself and left a note saying he didn't want to be buried till the others arrived.  She says now that they're here they'll bury him tomorrow and she'll sort out some rooms and dinner for them.  Frank asks if they can pay their respects alone and Megan agrees, Alex walks out in disgust.  Frank, Carissa and Dana gather around the coffin, Dana asks what the hell is going on and asks why they couldn't tell if he is dead and then gets out a huge hat pin and stabs the body to make sure he's dead.

Megan takes Alex up in a lift and asks how he knew Neil, Alex tells her that he worked on a project with him and is an anthropology professor at Yale.  Alex says that he is surprised that Neil found the time to be married as he worked a lot.  In her room, Dana waves a feather about and Teresa says that their hotel used to be a lot busier and the Queen once stayed there.  Bullshit.

Dana tells Teresa she is in grave danger and whatever she does, she must not go by the fireplace.  Then Teresa leaves the room and then spies through the keyhole as Dana opens a suitcase and talks to a stuffed dog, Dana hears something and opens the door, but Teresa runs away. 

In Alex's room, he unpacks his things and opens a folder to look at some photos, he waves his hand over them and gets a vision of the man in the suit from his nightmare, wearing a white mask and dancing with a woman in a white nightdress.  The woman is Megan and the man removes his mask and shows himself to be Neil, Alex opens his eyes and finds that he has scrunched up the photo. 

Carissa gets a vision
While going up in the lift with Frank and Teresa, Carissa says that something bad happened in the lift.  She gets the image of a man raping a woman, she says it's Neil, but the woman he's raping isn't Megan.  Teresa tells them to not talk about this, especially not in front of Megan, Carissa is very upset by her vision. 

Frank runs a white gloved finger along a table in their room whilst Carissa feels herself up, saying that two famous movie stars had a good night on their bed.  Frank tells her to behave, then starts feeling her boob, Carissa tells him that Clark Gable and Carol Lombard had sex in the bed.  Bullshit.  Probably.

This coffin comes with a tasteful depiction of the last supper
The camera zooms in on Neil in his coffin and we see a pair of hands sprout up attached to a brown jumper and a little tiny head.  For the sake of clarification, I'm going to wiki the puppets and find out their names of this is going to be a nightmare to review. 

So knifey hand is called Blade, spinny head puppet is called Jester, the tiny headed guy we've just met is called Pinhead.  Other puppets which pop up in this film are apparently, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Indian Puppet and Oriental Puppet. 

Megan joins everyone in the dining room as a table and she tells them the hotel has been in her family for years.  She says she met Neil when he was staying at the hotel and they became friends, he comforted her when her parents died.  Dana says it doesn't sound like the Neil they all knew and they all look at her because she's being a bitch for no reason.  Dana says the only reason Neil married Megan was because he wanted something.  Megan says Neil wanted to renovate so they shut the hotel down and really tore up the hotel.  Then a year before, he suddenly stopped all the work and locked himself up in his room with his work.

Dana makes another comment and Megan tells her to say to her face if she has something to say, Dana decides she does have something to say, despite Alex telling her to shut up.  Dana tells Megan that Neil married Megan for her money and Neil was a greedy bastard and she intends to get even.  Megan walks out and Alex follows behind her, apologising for Dana's behaviour. 

Megan asks Alex to explain who they are, Alex tells her that Neil brought them together as a group as they all have some sort of psychic powers.  He then explains that Neil and Frank began studying ancient Egyptian methods of giving life to inanimate figurines and the secrets were passed on to a select few.  Dana used her powers to help locate the last true alchemist, a puppet master from the 20's, Andre Toulon I'm guessing.  Carissa was brought in because she's a touch-know, to use a much shorter explanation from Rose Red.  Alex explains his dreams are pre cognitive. 

Not the Pinhead I am more familiar with
Later, Teresa stokes the fireplace, she hears the sound of a piano and goes to see what made the noise, she finds nothing there.  She then goes back to the fireplace, but hears the piano again this time making more noise, when she looks again there's of course nothing there, she closes the lid and we see Pinhead pick up the fire poker.  Teresa notices it's missing, then Pinhead hits her with it. 

The diners hear a scream and go to see what's making the noise, they find Alex placing Megan onto a sofa and reveals Neil sitting in a chair with his eyes open, Carissa and Frank look surprised, Dana looks obnoxious.  Dana says Neil is definitely dead.  They place him back in the coffin and Frank says that the next day they will hunt for Andre Toulon's secret.  They then speculate about what could be going on.

Megan wakes up and finds Alex sitting next to her, she asks if it was a dream, Alex says it wasn't.  She asks who it was and Alex says it was probably Teresa because she's missing and they can't find her.  She asks why he came and he said he had to because he had a dream and wanted to make sure it didn't come true. 

Cut to Carissa in the bathtub in a gratuitous boob shot, enjoying herself because two ladies once spent an entire evening in it together.  Bullshit, it's a really small tub.  Frank tells her that as long as she's picking up on stuff that she should try and pick up on Neil and his wife.  Creepy pervert.  We then move to Megan, mourning over Neil's coffin, a puppet pops up in the shadows behind her, I believe it's jester as it has a jester hat thing, but it's in silhouette.  Back in Frank and Carissa's room, Frank says that if they found the puppet master's power he'd rule the world, Carissa asks him if he thinks Megan is pretty, but he's walked off and doesn't answer. 

Carissa gets out of the tub, wrapping herself in a towel, and Frank jumps out at her, scaring her, having put a pair of her tights on his head and tries to strangle her with the other one.  She calls him a jerk and he sees this as a signal to get their sex on. 

Returning to his hotel room, Alex sees Dana casting a spell with flash paper, she rubs a bloody chicken foot on his hand, but he's not that grateful.  In Frank's room, he records on a Dictaphone that he's about to sex up Carissa in order to try and pick up Neil.  Carissa ties Frank to the bed and tells him...  actually I don't want to describe this anymore... 

Alex finds that Dana has nailed a human shaped candle to his door and a note, he goes inside his room and lights the candle then helps himself to a drink.  Dana must be a bit crap at the protection malarky because there's a puppet running about inside his room.  He hears a knock at the door, but there's no one there when he goes to see, the puppet follows him out, of course he doesn't notice it, then it runs away. 

Starting to loose count of the number of different occult items Dana has used from conflicting systems
In her room, Dana talks to her stuffed dog and reads some Tarot cards.  Meanwhile, Alex has a bad dream and Frank and Carissa do things I don't wish to describe, whilst the puppet POV cam, of Blade I believe, runs about the place before eventually pulling a chair up to a door so he hand reach the handle.  Blade spies on Dana through the keyhole, then moves along to Frank and Carissa's room so he can watch the least sexy sex scene I've seen in a long time.  He's joined by another puppet with a spikey head who I think must be Tunneler. 

Carissa notices the door is open and tells Frank that she thinks someone is in the room with them, Frank tells her to untie him.  She doesn't and instead gets off the bed to have a look underneath.  She sees Tunneler run towards her and makes no effort at all to move and lets him use his drill head on her, killing her.  Frank, who is blindfolded has no idea what's going on.  Leech woman, I'm guessing, climbs up and starts....  sucking bits of him, then she regurgitates a leech and places it on his body.  The leech sucks on him and as he struggles his blindfold slips and he sees the puppet put a second leech on him, then third.  Like Alex's dream. 

In the morning, Dana drinks from a bottle of Dom and talks to her stuffed dog, she runs into Alex who is tired from all the noise made by Frank and Carissa having sex and then being murdered, though he doesn't know about the murder bit.  Dana comes onto Alex, but he declines.  Oh wait, it's not the morning, it's night, but they keep using day time exterior shots for some reason. 

Up and down more times than a kangaroo in the mating season
This bit is genuinely creepy, Dana returns to her room and while talking to her dog, doesn't see that Neil is sat poised in a chair with a glass in his hand.  If Neil is dead, genuinely dead, then I can only see two reasons for this.  One, he told the puppets to do this to fuck with people or two, he's now a puppet or this is actually a puppet of Neil and he's alive, or he's dead and another puppet master is using him as a puppet, to fuck with people.  Megan could be a puppet master I suppose. 

When Dana notices Neil she looks happy, rather than surprised, he looks like he's steaming a bit.  She says he can't fool her and starts shaking some feathery maracas.  She waves her hands about a bit and he closes his eyes.  Then she is grabbed and thrown onto the bed by Pinhead.  She falls off the bed and he grabs her from behind, strangling her, she struggles with him and throws him into a wall.  Her leg badly hurt, she crawls outside of her room and shuffles up the hallway, while Pinhead gets up and follows her outside.  She sees and shuffles away while he catches up, he punches her a couple of times, but she grabs him and throws him down the stairwell.  Blade then appears and runs towards her, but she shuffles into the lift and she manages to keep him out long enough to activate it.  This also mimics Alex's dream from earlier.

As she reaches the bottom floor, Pinhead runs into the lift and punches her again, she throws him away, but Blade opens the lift lid and drops down and cuts her throat. 

Farewell, Dana the bitch
Alex tries to go to sleep, but is woken up by Megan knocking on the door, by my estimation, they're the only ones alive in the hotel.  He pulls on some trousers and a shirt and answers the door, Megan tells him she wants to show him something and he grabs his shoes.  She tells him to hurry, she's wearing the white nightgown from his dream. 

She tells him that she never thought before about the old puppet master's death and Neil's being connected, but now she's been thinking and things have started making sense.  She leads him to a clutter-filled attic area which Neil used to spend time in, she hands him a flash light as she unlocks a door and leads him into the ballroom from his dream. 

Neil appears from behind a pillar wearing the white mask and Megan joins him as they begin to dance to the weird fairground music.  Alex just walks around and doesn't bother to comment on this.  Neil removes the mask and tells Alex that he can't save Megan, Neil pulls a gun out and, dammit movie!  It's a fake out, Alex wakes up in bed.  He turns on the light folds back the bedclothes. 

Unintentionally hilarious
He see's Frank, Dana and Teresa's head on the bed, Frank asks him what's happening.  It's funny, but I get the feeling it's not supposed to be funny.  Goddammit, movie!  Alex wakes up after the second fake out and turns the light out again.  He hears a knock at the door and it's Megan waking him up.

He answers the door and she says she has something to show him, he gets his shoes again.  Goddammit, movie, how many times are you going to make me watch the same scene?  So, yes, we get the exact same scene as the dream scene.  She unlocks the door again and this time it leads to a cob webbed office room, she shows Alex, Andre Toulon's diary.  She reads from it, describing the puppet master bringing puppets to life using the Egyptian ritual.  The puppets mirror the soul of their master, so if the master has nothing but good intentions the puppets will be harmless.  Though one wonders why he decided to give Blade a big knife if that was the case.  Alex struggles to breathe for a moment and we go back to the ballroom, whilst Megan asks what's wrong.  We See Neil with Dana's stuffed dog on his knee, he says Hi and then shoots Alex.  Alex wakes up and grabs Megan and they run down the stairs, presumably so they don't find Dana yet. 

Alex gets another vision at the bottom of the dining room, they run to it and find Dana, Carissa and Frank all propped up at the table.  Then Neil appears and the puppets show their faces.  Neil walks across the room and confirms that he is, in fact dead.  He asks Alex to explain to Megan, Alex stays silent so Neil decides to explain.  He says he killed himself then brought himself back to life.  Why?

So I can be immortal of course!
Of course.  Makes total sense.  (The actors so change positions and expressions between shots, btw.)  Oh and the bringing your friends to the hotel and killing them, all part of the master plan was it, Neil?  Neil says that he is much stronger now that he's dead and it would take totally destroying his body to kill him, so in fact, he is just as mortal before, except now he's probably been embalmed and will leak embalming fluid everywhere.  He killed everyone because they were all joined by their thoughts and eventually one of them would figure out he'd learned the puppet masters secrets. 

He picks up Jester and throws him, this pisses off the other puppets.  Neil says that his first experiment was on Megan's parents and he killed them.  The puppets seeing Neil being a dick all ready their weapons.  Neil punches Alex a few times till he starts bleeding and Megan smashes him over the head with a glass jar.  She leads Alex to the front doors, but they're locked, Teresa turns up with a fire poker and Neil punches Alex again.  Megan tries to stop him and he throws her and Neil and Alex get into a scuffle,which ends with Pinhead trapping Neil in the lift.

Pinhead grabs Neil and Neil can't believe what he's doing.  Neil pulls his head off, disabling Pinhead.  Tunneler turns up and drills Neil's leg, Neil pulls him off and throws him and Pinhead searches for his head to pull himself together. 

Why did you betray me, puny, stupid, puppet?
Neil tries to jump through the opening in the lift Ceiling, but Blade turns up and chops off the fingers on one of Neil's hands, Neil falls down and indeed, he does bleed embalming fluid (from his fingers, not his leg though, ho hum.)   Pinhead gets a hold of Neil to hold him still and Blade and Tunneler take turns in drilling and stabbing him and Leech woman drops a few leeches too for good measure.  Alex actually feels sorry for Neil and tries to open the lift door to stop them, but he can't.

Eventually Megan gets a bit upset too, but he's dead by then so, boo hoo.  He did murder several people and reanimate himself back from the dead and killed her parents, so not a nice guy really.  The next day, Neil is leaving the hotel and tells Megan to visit if she gets to Yale anytime.  She strokes the stuffed dog which has been left behind and carries it up the stairs where it becomes alive again.... ok.  End of movie. 


Ok, well I enjoyed it I suppose.  A few tense or creepy bits which is good.  The puppets were excellent, although Pinhead fails a bit because it relies a lot on stop-go animation which is quite dodgy and not done all that well. 

I'm not sure what the end of the movie means, did Dana transfer herself into Megan?  Did Megan use the puppet master tricks?  She knows the dogs real name too, so an explanation would help here, movie. 

Obviously, Alex is the only really decent character in the movie, but only by the default that he was disgusted by the antics of the others disgusting acts, not that he really did anything himself.  In fact he does just about the least in the movie.  Megan did more by the sheer number of dream sequences and even then she was doing the same thing three times. 

Dana's the default bitchy, cannon fodder character, Carissa's the horny one, Frank's the pervy one, Teresa's the disapproving one, Neil's the already dead one.  Obviously the more interesting character is the nice puppet guy at the start of the movie as he manages to gain complete audience sympathy in about 3 minutes of screen time. 

Though they never did explain who those German dudes were and why he shot himself.  Also on the list of not explained, how Neil managed to bring himself back to life whilst he was dead?  Why did finding the book need so many psychic people in the first place when he never really used anyone?  (Except for perhaps Dana I think, mentioned finding the hotel).  Who was the random woman that Neil was raping in the lift and why did that scene need a boob shot when rape is not supposed to be sexy? 

I'd say it's worth seeing, I'm not sure if I'd watch it again, at least not soon as although it's first act moves quickly, the second drags a bit and to be honest, not much happens. 

6 &1/2 out of 10


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