Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Puppet Master (1989)

Directed by:
David Schmoeller

Psychic researchers (led by Paul Le Mat and his awful haircut) are lured to the beautiful, ocean side Bodega Bay Hotel by the death of a colleague (Jimmie F. Skaggs) and come to realize that the puppet creations of long dead scientist Andre Toulon (William Hickey, who appears in a brief 30s period flashback) are still alive... and killing. The five stringless killers include Pinhead (a doll with a tiny head but large hands and human strength), Tunneler (who has a drill on his head), Jester (a depressed clown with a knife), Leech Woman (leeches come out of her mouth) and Blade (probably the scariest looking one - with a skull face and razor and hook hands). Using their special talents, the puppets make mince meat out of the interlopers. The David Allen stop motion effects, which bring the puppets to life, are excellent. They're combined with some less effective puppetry, but all-in-all, they did a fairly good job on the overall effects. The gore make-up and Richard Band's atmospheric score are also very good. The surprise ending features a guy that must be related to Morpho from THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF! With Robin Frates as the widow, Irene Miracle as the bitch, Matt Roe and Kathryn O'Reilly as kinky "sexual psychics" and Barbara Crampton in a cameo appearance.

This was a very big video hit for Full Moon (a division of Paramount), so a slew of sequels were made for the video market. This one and the first two sequels (1990's PUPPET MASTER 2 and 1991's PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE) are worth checking out, but the series pretty much went into the toilet after that. The first five or six (can't remember) films were released in a limited edition box set from Full Moon that quickly went out of print. They now sell for hundreds of dollars on ebay.

Score: 5.5 out of 10

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