The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Puppet Master aka Puppetmaster (1989)

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For Halloween week of 2010, I had planned to do this movie along with Bloody Birthday and Schizoid, but when those other two movies got almost no response, I scrapped Puppet Master and went with the Lorenzo Lamas flick Body Rock instead. At this stage of the game though, I think I have more horror fans than I did then, so now is probably a better time to give this one a look. Let's see how it did.

Puppet Master is about a puppeteer that has figured out the Egyptian secret to giving life to inanimate objects, and he uses that power to give life to his puppets. Unfortunately, baddies want to get their hands on that power, so he kills himself and hides his puppets. Fifty years later, a group of psychics get a call that one of their buddies has died in a California hotel-- the same one the puppeteer killed himself in fifty years before. When they get there though, weird things start happening, and members of their crew turn up dead. Who could be responsible? And what was their friend up to?

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Wow, this is a tough one to call. The first hour or so is so dull I almost lost it. Talk about padding, there was more here than the shoulders of a blazer from the 80s. But then the last half-hour was some really fantastic horror, great deaths, great tension, really inspired shots and imagery. Where was this movie in the early going? I'm not saying I needed more puppets, because I understand that this was probably made on a scant budget, and also because you don't want to overuse the puppets and dull their effect later. I get that. But you couldn't have a few more people end up dead and spread them throughout? I mean, the first 12 minutes is an introduction that went seven minutes too long. Then we get a few cool things, only to be saddled with nothing until about the 55 minute mark. It was a pile of build-up and backstory that either had no effect on the end, or was repeating stuff we already knew. I can understand why this is a cult classic, because that last half-hour to forty minutes is fantastic; but it can't make up for what came before it, which put me to sleep.

I just can't see how someone read this script and didn't say "wow, not much happens here for a good chunk of this. Maybe we need to fix that." Going in, I was looking for the right combination of campy and creepy, and when we get to the end, it was all there. Again, I understand that they didn't want to overuse the puppet, both because of the budget, and to keep the effect of them potent; but how hard would it have been to add some more victims, have them offed off-screen, or maybe do it where a shadow falls down on them or something. They actually did this with the poker death, so it's not like they didn't understand the concept of it. I don't know, it's either that, or they take some of the later deaths and move them to other parts of the film to break up the monotony, because that long a period of inactivity is too much.

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One area where this padding was most evident came in the White Witch character, because she goes through all this witchcraft stuff, as if it will have some kind of protective effect, and then when the puppets attack her, she's just like every other helpless lady. Either don't waste our time with the witchcraft stuff, or have it have some purpose later on in the plot-- which is what I would've liked, because she was a great character, she just unfortunately didn't amount to anything.

Barbara Crampton has a small one-scene cameo, and she's excellent. She plays a girl who has taken her boyfriend to the White Witch, who's working as a fortune teller, to find out if he'll make a good husband. This kind of thing was great in breaking up the monotony, but it really didn't happen beyond this one scene. Crampton was funny, and carried the whole routine. On the other hand, this comes around the 15 minute mark of the film, so I didn't know I'd have a good half-hour-plus before something happened again.

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I want to finish here with a question about dating and relationships. In this scene, the main character turns down a chance to sleep with the White Witch, presumably because she carries around the stuffed a preserved remains of her dead dog with her. It got me wondering, how hot would a chick have to be for me to sleep with her under those circumstances? No matter what gender you're attracted to, I think it's a valid question: how hot does someone have to be for you to ignore the fact that he or she carries their dead dog around with them? And talks to it too, we can't forget that. I don't know, I gotta say it's not as much of a deal breaker as it sounds.

But we're getting off track here. This is roughly an hour of padding followed by 30 minutes of fantastic horror. Maybe for some (and I imagine a lot, because this is so popular) that's not as much of a loss, or maybe that padding didn't seem as arduous; but it was a bit much for me. That's too bad, because that ending was almost worth the slog.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098143/

9 comments:

  1. Totally agree with you on the huge amount of padding. Still, it has more plot than Parts 4 and 5 put together.

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  2. I always wondered about this one, but you just saved me the trouble of wasting my time. Great review!

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  3. That's a scary thought Video Vacuum-- especially since I plan on doing both eventually! And robotGEEK, I will say that the end was some really great stuff. You may find the padding less egregious. It's on Watch Instantly if you want to test the waters with little investment.

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  4. I actually like 4 better than 1 Mitch. I actually like 3 and 4 the best. This one is one we remembered being better than it was. Also it was pretty good in the beginning, until the psychics got to the hotel.

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  5. Also to answer the dating question,if she's hot not much. Crazy chicks are the best lays.

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  6. Yeah, Charles Band really dropped the ball with this one. I'm surprised it got so many sequels.

    The premise of little twisted dolls killing people is brilliant - like a horror version of Toy Story - shame the actual film is so boring.

    You're right the last 30 minutes do start to pick the pace a bit, but it's too little too late.

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  7. I don't know why I didn't think of that Kenner, but that's another reason to go for it-- though I have a feeling crazy straight guys aren't the best lays, so it might be a sign for women to run in the other direction.

    I was thinking the same thing about this one Kenner, that the ending is so good people remember it as better than it was. I'd also say that the first 12 minutes of 1939 backstory also went on too long, but you're right, right after it with the hero's dream and the Barbara Crampton scene, it's not bad-- till they hit the hotel.

    And I'm with you on this Jack, toy killers is a great idea, and I think in that last 30 minutes it hits that true potential. I think that's where the sequels come from, plus it's Full Moon, the movie didn't need to be that successful to garner sequels.

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  8. I like this series...I think it's cheesy fun!

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  9. I can't wait to check out some of the others then, if anything, they should at least provide material for a review.

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