Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by Cinestate
Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund
Written by S. Craig Zahler based on characters created by Charles Band
2018, 90 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Fractured Visions Film Festival Screening on 30th September 2018
Charlyne Yi as Nerissa
Thomas Lennon as Edgar
Michael Paré as Detective Brown
Udo Kier as Andre Toulon
Barbara Crampton as Carol Doreski
Edgar is going through a rough patch in his life, enduring a messy divorce, and now living at his parents’ house, where his ex-cop father berates him constantly for doing things like reading and growing a bit of a stubbly beard. He spends his days working in a comic shop with his snarky boss, Markowitz, who immediately sets us up with a warning for this film – i.e. don’t take this all too seriously, please – by bitching about how dumb it is that Superman can fly. Basically, if logic bothers you, it thinks you’ll have a bad time here. In some ways, this is fair enough. Slashers can be fun, and a vast number of horror fans are purely in it for the kills, the crazier and ‘edgier’ the better – and that kind of fan probably won’t be let down here.
But apart from some extremely inventive gore, there’s really not a lot else going on. Hapless Edgar, his boss, and his newish girlfriend Ashley (who walks a cat on a lead) take a trip to the Toulon murder convention (sans cat), after finding one of the killer puppets in some abandoned boxes at his parent’s house. Conveniently, lots of other Toulon fans have also brought their puppets to this convention. This is good, because otherwise how would we have another sixty minutes of brutal but ultimately pointless slaughter by a bunch of tiny but lethal little monsters? The puppets are creepy little buggers, able to smash through walls and crawl inside people, and it feels we’re expected to cheer them along as they wreak their bigoted havoc on the many unsuspecting hotel guests.
What kills the mood is how utterly underwhelmed characters behave once the murderous puppets are unleashed. There just isn't enough setup to care, either, when they puppets start to wipe them all out about a third of the way through. It also feels like some important connecting scenes are missing, such as a moment when the guests are told about the murders. It begs you not to notice as we skip to the next crazy death scene. It tries very hard to be cute, and silly, and a little crazy. A kill involving a decapitation over a toilet bowl, and a pregnant lady and...well I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises there, is pretty good.
It really rushes its kills, though, leaving no moment to either get to know the people about to die, and no moment to appreciate the bloody aftermath either. The story is so fragmented, the characters all so spread out and mostly bland, that there’s not much to get into apart from the next kill. And these repeat themselves after a while, too. It’s a relief when some of the characters actually start shooting the puppets, but there’s no sense that they’re about to run out of bullets, nothing especially tense is set up during the film’s half-assed attempt at a siege, which really goes nowhere. There’s nothing scary or unnerving here either, just a parade of guts and boobs and badly written characters.
Now again, there’s nothing wrong with paper-thin characters getting murdered in a horror film, and these kills are kind of trying to make a point, with all the subtlety of a Luger bullet in the face, about Nazis being bad. In in this climate Nazis=bad really can’t be emphasised enough. This is somewhat undermined by the way they gleefully kill all the characters who tend to die first in horror films anyway – lesbians, pot smokers, promiscuous couples...everyone gets the sharp end of a teeny but effective blade, flamethrowers, and much much worse. There’s just a little more emphasis on Jews being victims here too. It’s so desperately trying to make a bigger point, but it’s all drowned by gory slaughter, and it’s also the backbone of a shallow, pointless change to the Puppetmaster's story from the very first film.
Ultimately, Puppet Master: the Littlest Reich is a bit of a dud. it presents us with gore, nudity, stoner quips, and nothing else other than a vastly irritating, sequel-bait finale. The puppet murders are mean rather than fun, and yet murder is pretty much all it has to offer. The kills will make some great GIFs down the line, but as anything but a splattery, cynical B-movie, it falls far short of watchability.