Puppetmaster Blu-ray Review
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by Charles Band, Kenneth J. Hall and David Schmoeller
1989, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 20th August 2012
William Hickey as Andre Toulon
Irene Miracle as Dana Hadley
Jimmie F. Skaggs as Neil Gallagher
Robin Frates as Megan Gallagher
Matt Roe as Frank Forrester
Kathryn O' Reilly as Clarissa Stamford
A cross between Agatha Christie and Small Soldiers as cooked up by the one and only Charles Band. A convention of highly sexed psychics meet at a hotel where their recently deceased friend is waiting for them, resting peacefully in his coffin. Not so peaceful: the Puppetmaster's toybox full of homicidal horrors.
Puppetmaster is the film that put Charles Band and his independent film company, Full Moon Entertainment, on the map. While Mister Band and his studio's output can be described as mixed at best, Puppetmaster is one of its few well-received successes. It's a film which has spawned nine sequels so far. To think that many were dubious when it was announced that Pixar were making Toy Story 3. This Blu-Ray re-release was my first exposure to the franchise. While I can't quite fathom how they managed to get that many sequels out of such a thin concept (although that never stopped Saw or Friday the 13th) it's a wonderfully trippy little horror film. The nightmarish tone and atmosphere are much like Phantasm, with the surreal imagery coming in the form of the film's strange puppets and cruel death sequences.
The puppets are undoubtedly the main attraction, and the designs are all fantastic. Blade is the best of them – he's a stylish, stabby little toy with some of the best accessories (not necessarily a choking hazard, but still very unsuitable for smaller children). But the others aren't exactly substandard goods either. Particularly memorable are Pinhead (no relation), a guy with a drill bit on his head and a hot female doll who vomits leeches onto her victims (who somehow manage to remain oblivious to the horrifying retching sounds she's making as she goes). To think I thought the Ghostbusters toys of the nineties were the best thing ever – ten-year-old me would have been overjoyed to see Puppetmaster merchandise in Toys R' Us. No Buzz Lightyear style existential crises for these playthings – they're perfectly content to murder a hotel full of guests without even pausing for thought. On the basis of this, I would love to see what Full Moon Entertainment could bring to a Child's Play movie (it could hardly be any worse than Seed of Chucky) or even an adaptation of RL Stine's Night of the Living Dummy. Heck, I'd love to see Charles Band make his version of Toy Story (probably starring Gary Busey as Woody).
Puppetmaster is an archetypal Charles Band/Full Moon production, but in this case, the film's little idiosyncrasies are largely successful and not overdone in the manner of Gingerdead Man or Decadent Evil Dead. Despite its gimmicky concept and occasional lapses in logic, it's surprisingly worthwhile. Just don't expect me to be quite so enthusiastic about all those sequels. You can have too much of a good thing, you know.
Video and Audio:
The film is given a very sharp visual upgrade, holding up a lot better than one might expect from a Full Moon feature from the late eighties. It sounds fantastic too, its eerie score up there with the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.
Disappointingly little, aside from a few trailers.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are publicity stills and not a reflection of the Blu-ray image.*