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|
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|
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 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.
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|
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|
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|
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.
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|
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|
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|
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.
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!|
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?|
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