There is something wonderfully sinister about puppets. Little creatures, created to be manipulated by humans, are really just exaggerated versions of ourselves. This is part of the reason we love the campy classic franchise, Puppet Master. That, and the ridiculous plot line, gory but hilarious death scenes, and the quintessential B-movie dialogue and acting.
In light of the recent news of the all-new Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, hitting theaters in August, Portal 13 offers you some tidbits and fun facts about the films in the franchise – all (soon to be) 13 of ‘em. Follow along with us to get your bloody, gory, goofy fix of all things demonic puppetry before the August release.
Puppet Master is Full Moon Productions’ first feature film. This direct-to-video movie probably was a well-known VHS cover at your local Blockbusters when it came out in 1989. Demonic toys, dolls, and other inanimate objects were all the rage, and Puppet Master aligned perfectly with the era, and it’s straight to video release cemented its cult status.
It’s 1939, and André Toulon, aka the Puppet Master, resides at a hotel called Bodega Bay. He is getting ready to shoot himself in the head because the Nazis are coming. But first, he’s got to hide his immortal, inanimate animated children – puppets he’s handcrafted and brought to life via some sort of magical Ancient Egyptian magic. No one shall find out his secrets!
Cut to 50 years later, where someone has found out his secrets. Neil Gallagher, the asshole psychic, alerts his other psychic friends via visions that he has, indeed, discovered the spell for immortality. Lead by Alex Whitaker, their group of four head to Bodega Bay, only to discover Neil has committed suicide – but why?
Because puppets kill people, that’s why. Really, that’s all that matters here. Just go with it.
Blade: The defacto leader of the puppets, Blade has a name that is aptly fitting. With a hook for a left hand and knife for the right, his weapons of choice are pretty obvious. His gothic, ethereal like appearance just add to his charisma.
Pinhead: He might not be the smartest of the bunch, but he makes up for it with his brute strength. His weapons are his two giant (by comparison) hands, allowing him to choke, punch and pretty much drag a human being without issue.
Leech Woman: The only lady of the bunch, Leech Woman’s power is in her sex appeal. Nah, not really, it’s the fact she can unhinge her jaws and projectile vomit leeches from her mouth. Slowly killing her victims with supernatural blood-sucking insects and keeping her hair perfectly coifed is not just a skill, it’s an art.
Tunneler: What else would you do with a drill for a head? Tunneler runs at your full force AND with a smile on his face, drill going at full speed as he pretty much obliterates whatever he’s aiming for. He seems like the quiet one of the bunch, but he’s a great ally for getting out of tight situations.
Jester: The joke — or is he? Most likely the lookout, Jester doesn’t seem to have any particular powers of his own, but the other puppets seem to have a deep love for him. Messing with Jester just might turn the whole gang on you or against you.
While we don’t know much about their background and their personalities yet, that’s certain to change with 12 (!) more films to watch.
Best B-movie/Horror Plot Devices
This whole movie is a beautiful mashup of horror tropes – Attack of the Killer Creepy Inanimate Object controlled by the Marionette Master with an Agenda. Overlooking the obvious, each film has some specific gems that just make them that much better. We’ll highlight a few of them here.
Sex Equals Death
Sexy psychic with psychic sex visions. Not exactly the young couple doing it in their doom, but pretty classic plot device here.
Gory Discretion Shot
Sometimes implied gore is better than straight out bloodiness. The death of Carissa Stamford by Tunneler under the bed left a little bit to the imagination, and we know that she was still alive for a few moments after he stopped doing his tunneling thing. The single outstretched hand covered in blood on the crisp white bed sheets was perfect, and all you needed to see to understand what happened. Of course, when you see her corpse later on, you realize the extent of the damage.
8 total, 6 on-screen. Megan’s parents are implied but not shown, and Neil Gallagher dies twice, as the first death sets up the plot of the movie and occurs offscreen.
Best of the Bunch
Each of the puppets has their moment of glory. Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman and Tunneler all demonstrate their unique abilities in at least one kill a piece. And Jester? Jester gets thrown on the ground, but it’s enough to spark the others into action.
Winner? Even though Neil Gallagher’s death is the most brutal and has really excellent sound effects, we’re going with Frank Forrester’s death at the hands of Leech Woman. The fact that he is blindfolded at first and the slow, disgusting vomiting of leeches out of the puppet’s mouth was pretty unsettling but highly gif-worthy.
Lines worth quoting
Carissa Stamford: “What would you do with the power, Frank?”
Frank Forrester: “That’s easy, I’d rule the world!”
Neil Gallagher: “Metaphysically speaking, I killed myself.”
Neil Gallagher: “I’m tired of experimenting with silly wooden puppets.”
- You may think you are in control of others, but you can only push people (puppets?) so far.
- Pinhead is reverse T-Rex and it’s creepy.
- Stop motion is and always will be awesome.
- Campy horror makes for a good time. Don’t overthink it. Just watch it.
Stay tuned for our weekly feature for all things Puppet Master until the release of the new film. Next week, Puppet Master 2. They’re back. No strings attached.
Images: Full Moon Productions