Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich follows recently-divorced Edgar (Thomas Lennon) as he, his boss/friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin), and Edgar’s new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) make their way to a convention commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the Toulon Murders. What could go wrong?
Let me start by saying that what I liked most about Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is that directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund were able to maintain some of the same surreal qualities of the David Schmoeller original, while succeeding at telling its own story. It’s a loose reimagining of Schmoeller’s 1989 film that manages to hold its own and make a case for why it should exist. The new film is definitely not perfect but it’s also not a shameless retread or a pointless cash grab.
One thing that works well is that the film has a primarily good cast of characters. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich isn’t necessarily a horror comedy, but there is certainly a strong comedic element to the production. Thomas Lennon and Nelson Franklin are both very much known for their comedic roles but each of them does well with more serious subject matter and both provide a hefty dose of comedic relief when things get heavy.
In addition to a couple of prominent comedic actors, the film also boasts appearances by two fan favorite horror stars. Both Barbara Crampton (Dead Night review) and Udo Kier (Blade) pop up as Carol Doreski and Andre Toulon, respectively. Both Crampton and Kier are in their element here. Each turns in a great performance–Kier doing so under a substantial amount of makeup.
Relative newcomer Jenny Pellicer is great as Edgar’s new girlfriend. She is quick-witted, likable, and exudes an air of confidence. I suspect we will be seeing more of her in the not-so-distant future.
The rest of the performances are a mixed bag. A lot of the tertiary characters are a little stiff and come across as inexperienced. However, most of them are little more than cannon fodder, so the up-side to that is that they don’t stick around long.
Expounding upon that: Characters are routinely introduced to the audience only to be killed off moments later. Their deaths serve a purpose in the grand scheme of the plot line but it gets a little tedious watching scene after scene of newly introduced characters slaughtered. Shifting the timing of some of the death scenes would have been a benefit to the film’s pacing.
On that same note, multiple core and supporting cast members are dispensed of within mere minutes of one another in the third act. This was also a bit detrimental to the pacing. Nearly no core cast members are killed in the first two acts and then, out of the blue, multiple primary and supporting characters start dying back-to-back. It feels a little unbalanced and takes away from the gravity of losing a key player.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is chock full of brutal violence and features beautifully-rendered, perfectly grotesque practical effects. The filmmakers were certainly pandering to what horror fans actually want to see, which is refreshing. It’s also noteworthy that the flick opted to forego CGI puppets and instead treat viewers to some incredible animatronic effects. In a lot of ways, this film feels like it could be a product of the 1980s. It goes back to basics and I hope that’s a trend that continues in the coming years.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a good time and it offers a lot of what horror fans have been clamoring for. There is real merit to this redux. Does it do it better than the original? My vote is no. But, the remake is still a noteworthy offering that warrants a rental (or a purchase for the die-hard fan).
The 4K release has some noteworthy special features that include a behind-the-scenes featurette offering a look at the epic FX in the film, as well as other aspects of the production. Also included is a (very) brief bit showcasing the puppets from the storyboard phase to their actual creation, a featurette on the cast, a 40-second look at the creation of the comic book within the film, and a still gallery. The picture and sound are certainly the best we’ve seen from a Puppet Master film.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is available on 4K Ultra UHD beginning September 25th.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund
Writer(s): S. Craig Zahler
Stars: Thomas Lennon, Jenny Pellicer, and Nelson Franklin
Release: September 25 (4K Ultra)
Studio/ Production Co: Cinestate, Ghost Horse, Zero Trans Fat Productions, RLJE Films
Sub-genre: Killer Toys