Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (director)
19 April 2019 (released)
19 April 2019
Love them or loath them Fangoria have played an important part in the coverage of horror over many, many years and keeping up its profile. Newly invigorated they are branching out into film and this Puppet Master reboot has their particular enthusiasm for the genre all over it.
In a pre-credit sequence set in 1989 a heavily accented and scarred man (Udo Kier) is in a bar trying and failing to pick up a lesbian barmaid. Who is promptly dispatched later on in her car with her girlfriend. The killer needs no introduction, nor does the scarred man.
Coming up to date Edgar (Thomas Lennon) returns home after a divorce to a judgemental father and to take care of his recently deceased brother’s belongings. Finding an evil looking puppet, he does some research and finds out that it’s one of the Toulon puppets and has some value and that there’s an auction of these things up at a convention that’s commemorating 30 years after the Toulon murders.
He takes off for the convention with Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and old friend he’s reacquainted with and Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) the owner of the comic shop that Edgar works in. Arriving at the convention they meet a number of other guests that all have puppets ready for auction.
They are promptly given a tour of Toulon’s house by Officer Carol Dorefski (Barbara Crampton) and no one is left in any doubt that Toulon was a Nazi. This is also a good chance to catch up on what has been going on before and Dorefski’s tale works nicely with the illustrated opening credits.
Back in the rooms and guests notice that puppets have gone missing. This then leads onto a sequence of killings that are bizarre, distasteful and very nasty. It doesn’t take too long for the convention goers to work out what is going on and what the killers are.
Writer S. Craig Zahler with directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund have rebooted this franchise by bringing together some old favourites and new puppets as displayed in the auction brochure. They’ve also gone full blown Nazi with them as they lay waste to Jews, lesbians and frankly anybody else within their pattering range.
There’s some attempt at bad taste humour with the set-piece killings - some which have to be seen to be believed – it’s just totally flattened by the sheer foulness of the puppets and their unrelenting attacks. They try to redress this viciousness when Markowitz throws the absurd Hitler baby puppet into an oven saying ‘see how you like it’ that doesn’t really come off as too much has gone on before.
One can’t help thinking that this was designed to be wilfully offensive, and some undoubtably will find much of it unpalatable. There’s a lot to be said for trying to push the boat out both with the imagination of the killings and tackling difficult subject matter in an original way. But it fires off in several different directions so there’s a lack of coherence about it and for much it just becomes a grinding sequence of unpleasantness.