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  Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich Sooty Had Nothing On This
Year: 2018
Director: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Stars: Thomas Lennon, Jenny Pelicer, Nelson Franklin, Charlyne Yi, Michael Paré, Barbara Crampton, Udo Kier, Alex Beh, Matthias Hughes, Skeeta Jenkins, Anne Beyer, Victoria Hande, Betsy Holt, James Healy Jr, Laurie Guzda, John Walpole, Grace Montie
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Way back in 1989, it could have happened this way: in a Dallas bar one night, the barmaid was dismayed to see her least favourite customer walk in and take a seat, ordering a soda water he squeezed his own lemon into. This was Andre Toulon (Udo Kier), a scarred, older gentleman who claimed to hail from France, or Germany: Europe, anyway, but he kept making suggestive comments to the barmaid which she hated. To teach him a lesson, she and her girlfriend began making out in front of him, and he departed in disgust, but when the ladies drove home later that night, he had sabotaged their car, for something was in the back seat that cut off the barmaid's head...

You never know which franchises are going to last, and though many of them stubbornly hang around way past the point their welcome had been worn out, others sputter after part three, despite there always being a fan or two who wanted more. Long past Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees' stumbles in their reboots, the Puppet Master series trundled on, as piffling yet unstoppable as the little monsters which populated these often straight to video efforts, and The Littlest Reich represented their own reboot, rewriting their origin to make Toulon no longer a fervent enemy of the Nazis to perhaps the more convincing, plotwise, Nazi scientist himself, considering his creations.

After all, it had been a bizarre quirk of producer and writer Charles Band's puppets that although they were death-dealing menaces, they were born of a desire to rid the world of the Nazis, not assist them, odd when they were intent on slaughtering as many folks as possible, almost none of whom displayed fascistic tendencies. Kier was always good value, but evidently still had a too-high price for some of his projects to allow him to appear in too many scenes, so he disappeared after the first ten minutes as we flashed forward to the present day to follow a strangely humourless protagonist played by comedian Thomas Lennon, hence why it was strange he was so sober-faced throughout.

Obviously it was not too shocking when the murders began, but Lennon gave no hint as to why he signed on, exuding a joylessness that was part and parcel of the whole endeavour. The only elements that anyone came across as embracing with anything like enthusiasm were the gory death sequences, fair enough, those were what the fans and newcomers alike were here for, but there were sparse examples of why anyone thought this would fly. That said, there was one, and it was a biggie: S. Craig Zahler was on writing duties, and you imagine the entire cast were keen to perform in a movie penned by the man who gave the world Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. Was this justified? Eh, kind of, as the cartoonish violence of his directorial efforts was present here in buckets.

Yet while there was some novelty in the deaths handed out by the puppets, including returning favourites like the knifey one, the smallheaded superstrong one, the one with a drill for a head and so on, Zahler skimped on everything else. There were jokes, but it could be they were fumbled by the static direction, so it was not the writer's fault when they failed to land, however there remained issues with the Nazi subject matter in that now the puppets were allied to Adolf Hitler, it was less amusing to see them succeed in killing off minorities which they did quite a bit. The main Jewish character (Nelson Franklin), who played Lennon's comic shop boss, should really have been both more likeable, and let's face it, the hero: give him some funnier lines and pursue that can-do attitude and there was ample opportunity for a World War II revenge horror that may have been bad taste, but could have had more oomph than what we saw here. For a Puppet Master entry, it was not too bad, it was nice to see original star Barbara Crampton and the effects were presented with minimal CGI and maximum gusto, it was just everything else that was lacking. Music by Richard Band and Fabio Frizzi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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