The only thing I knew going into this chapter of the Puppet Master series was that it was a prequel. Ah, the dreaded prequel! I don’t believe this carried such a negative stigma prior to George Lucas pissing all over the original Star Wars trilogy, though I could be wrong about that. However, don’t let that word bring you down, not every prequel dumbs down its story to the point of a “force” suddenly being bacteria, or Jar-Jar! Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at this film and I dug it much more than part two, maybe even more than the original! This was quite an entertaining addition to the Puppet Master mythos and I must say it was well done.
This installment takes place during 1941 in Berlin, Germany. The story begins with us meeting a creepy dude in black, named Major Kraus (Richard Lynch), as he pays a visit to a Dr. Hess (Ian Abercrombie), who is conducting some nasty experiments for the Nazis. After the credits, we are brought to a show by the Puppet Master himself, Andre Toulon (Guy Rolfe), who is entertaining people using a six-armed cowboy hero taking on Hitler. This was damn ballsy, don’t you think? Talk about character development! An ambitious young Nazi, Lt. Eric Stein (Kristopher Logan), is in the audience and he snaps a few shots of the show to provide to the higher-ups. When he leaves – after not so subtly threatening Toulon – he spies into a window and sees Toulon and his wife, Elsa (Sarah Douglas) interacting with some of his puppets that happen to behave as if alive.
Yeah, you knew that was coming. Since Nazis had severe ego-problems, they go to kill the Toulon’s, yet Dr. Hess manages to convince a higher-ranking fellow to spare Toulon so he can learn his secrets of re-animation. They kill Elsa and take Toulon, but they are stupid enough to leave him with Tunneler and Pinhead, who help him escape. The story turns into a cat and mouse game between Toulon and his Puppets versus the Nazis, as Toulon starts taking them out, one by one. Toulon finds his wife’s body and shortly thereafter she is brought back as a puppet the fans know as Leech Woman. Toulon finds himself a place to hide out so he can make his plans and he is accidentally discovered by young Peter Hertz (Aron Eisenberg) and his father (Matthew Faison). Peter was in the film earlier, during and after the puppet show and greatly admires Herr Toulon. They all stay in the same ruins, hiding out from the Nazis, and while Peter is growing more attached to Toulon, his father goes to turn Toulon in to Kraus in exchange for his Polish wife that was taken prisoner during a raid.
As the film goes on, we learn a bit more about the ancient magick that is at work and also the birth of the most famous puppet of the series, Blade. You have to pay attention for that aspect to actually make sense. The rest of the film shall be left alone, for those of you that may actually be interested in watching it for yourselves.
The story was written by C. Courtney Joyner, who certainly came up with a great addition to the Puppet Master reality that was executed with genuine respect for the fans, as far as I can tell. The director, David DeCoteau, also did a fine job as no part of this film feels phoned in. The foley work is a little silly, but I can mostly ignore that. Too often the sounds come out as if they were all driven through an Echo-Plex. I’m simply adding a touch of criticism for the sake of balance. Another element I noticed was the evil chuckle that comes out of the puppet, Six-Shooter, which reminds me very much of Dwight Frye’s performance of Renfield, from Tod Browning’s Dracula. David Allen’s production team is still here and the Puppets are just as awesome and creepy as they were before and that is another element to be respected. If anything, once you get through their origin, they are lovable heroes, as well as unsettling killers. Much more cozy than Jason Voorhees, if you will.
After sitting through this film a few times, I am convinced of its glory, yet, I do still have fears for what may happen as it all moves forward. I have six more films to go and we all know that it only takes one to flush potential radness right down the bowl. Interestingly enough, the next film is directed by Jeff Burr and I did like his work on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, even if his attitude about it is a little strange. It may work out okay, it may not. I am learning to keep my expectations low, which makes life as a Horror-addict a little easier. Stay tuned, folks!
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