Welcome back to another weekly edition of Late to the Party, the review series where iHorror writers finally get around to watching horror classics that have admittedly flown under our own personal radar. This week, I watched Puppet Master.
Puppet Master is a 1989 direct-to-video cult classic that somehow spawned eleven sequels (with a twelfth currently in production – written by S. Craig Zahler of Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 brilliance… frankly, I’m shocked).
In the film, a group of psychics collect at the home of an old colleague after they are summoned for vague reasons that I admittedly wasn’t paying close attention to. Their recently departed colleague, Neil, had been working with them to find a method of giving life to inanimate figurines – a technique supposedly created by the Egyptians.
After a suspicious radio silence from Neil, the psychics gather to “settle the score” and – of course – discover a deadly collection of unique dolls. Then things get messy (as they are wont to do).
This may be a controversial opinion, but really the only parts of this movie that actually held my interest were the killer puppets. Everything else was pretty “meh”. Actually, I’m going to assume that’s probably not outlandish considering that’s kind of the point of the whole franchise, right?
The puppets are certainly (somehow) effective at their murderous goals. This is – admittedly – somewhat strange since they don’t look particularly menacing or strong or capable. It’s hard to find them genuinely frightening or threatening (aside from the fact that they move on their own and one pukes out live leeches).
The puppets are a little silly (predictably, surely) and their design is a wee bit baffling at times. That being said, I understand that the subsequent films (many of them prequels) flesh out the character designs of each puppet.
I certainly respect that dedication to build the characters of each puppet, but it doesn’t help the absurdity of seeing the toys out of context. When you’re starting a film with no franchise in mind, it’s something you should probably be mindful of.
Overall, I found the film to be underwhelming. I had high hopes, given the wild popularity of the franchise and its now iconic puppet characters (particularly the “leader” puppet, Blade).
While Puppet Master is by no means a great film, I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. If nothing else, it’ll give me a reason to watch the sequels. I get the sense that this is one of those horror franchises that is more than the sum of its parts.
I’m not confident that the sequels are technically better films, but I’m just genuinely curious about the prequels at this point. I want that character development!
I’m also pretty sure the sequels caught on to the actual selling point of the film and decided crank up the puppet presence for an overall more satisfying bloodbath. So, silver linings, people.
Keep an eye out for more from Late to the Party, or click here for previous reviews!