March 31, 2007

Cinema Macabre, Volume 1: Puppet Master

Below is my entry to the first edition of the new Blogcritics film feature, Cinema Macabre. It is the brainchild of fellow writer Ian Woolstencraft to celebrate the world of horror films. Each issue will be a compilation of horror favorites selected by its contributors. My entry to the first issue is the low budget classic Puppet Master. Be sure to check out the entire column,
Cinema Macabre Issue 1: Psycho Killers, Devil Worshipers, and Lesbian Vampires Lurk Within!

Puppet Master (1989, d. David Schmoeller)
Back in the 1980's there was one name on everyone's lips when it came to independent, low budget horror and science fiction films, or at least that is what I would like to believe. That name is Charles Band, I would also accept Full Moon Pictures. Give this guy $100 and he could give you ten full length features that may show there budgetary roots, but rarely failed to deliver some entertainment. Amongst the hundreds of films to his name there is one that stands apart from the rest, Puppet Master. One of the standby's of horror is the creepy doll, as evidenced by the recent Dead Silence, the film that inspired me to revisit the horror classic.

The story concerns one Andre Toulon, played by William Hickey in a stroke of casting brilliance. He is a toymaker who has learned the magic art of giving life to inanimate objects, which he has done with a few of his favorite creations. Unfortunately, he is found by Germans seeking to learn the secret, and Toulon commits suicide rather than tell the secret. That all takes place during the WWII era. Fast forward to the present, a group of psychics have been summoned to the hotel by a man who has learned the secret and is using it to live beyond his death. Beyond that, Toulon's puppets have gotten loose and are killing anyone perceived as a threat. And kill they do, in a variety of ways. Each puppet is specialized offering its own take on death dealing, including Leech Woman puking leeches onto people, Tunneler goring people with his head top drill, Pinhead with his throat choking hands, and Blade's blade hand.

What can I say? I love the movie. It is a little odd, and quirky, and populated with memorable puppets who have gone on to star in a number of sequels. It may not be deep, it may not always make sense, but it does deliver a vibe which is simultaneously fun and creepy. The effects are well done and all done practically. Created before the CG boom and obviously crafted with love, this is a movie for low budget fans to treasure.


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