PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)
(Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund)
(Written by S. Craig Zahler)
(Starring Thomas Lennon, Jenny Pellicer and Nelson Franklin)
Plot: Andre Toulon (Udo Kier) was a mysterious, Nazi, Puppetmaking, serial killer, who perished in 1989. Thirty years later, a Toulon-themed convention is held, where his ‘puppets’ will be auctioned off. But these aren’t any ordinary puppets, they’re…NAZI MURDER-PUPPETS!!!
When I heard that there was not one, but TWO, “Puppet Master” movies in production at the same f@cking time, I felt something cancerous sprout within my body. Past trauma resurfaced with vengeance as I was forced to relive horrible memories of…binge watching the entire “Puppet Master” franchise…I cry, I yell and I scream, but no word or sound leaves my mouth as I sit still in front of my television…stiff as a corpse…waiting for the end credits or starvation to save me from this hell that Charles Band had created…I then remember…I could’ve turned it off at any time- OH MY GOD, I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS! I CAN’T GO THROUGH THIS SUFFERING AGAIN. My ‘Post-traumatic Puppet Master Disorder’ began to rescind when I learned that one of these new projects would be a remake, produced by an entirely different studio, crafted by legitimately talented filmmakers. I didn’t know anything about the directors, but S. Craig Zahler had previously written the stellar “Bone Tomahawk“. The cast, which included cult favorites such as Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton and Michael Paré, suggested that the movie was making a genuine effort to seduce genre fans, although I only really jumped into bed with it when I learned that Fabio Frizzi (“The Beyond“) was composing the score. Positive word of mouth- Oh f@ck all of this set-up, “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” can’t undo all of the emotional damage that the brand has inflicted upon me…Nothing can…But it is a pretty fun B-movie, designed to entertain bad people such as myself.
Slit throats, stabbings, torchings, decapitations, drillings and disembowelings are among the…tamer…ways one can die in “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich“. I was taken aback by how f@cked up some of the death scenes were, which I won’t even spoil, because they boast a deranged imagination that keeps things a little unpredictable. The filmmakers not only pushed the boundaries as to what they could get away with, but in some cases, I think they specifically sought out taboos to defile. Now even though “The Littlest Reich” likely had the biggest budget of all of these movies, it does lack some of the polish of the earlier entries. There are a few moments of bad lighting and the effects are as hokey as they are gruesome…albeit in a way that was clearly deliberate. The filmmakers obviously wanted to make a silly B-movie, so part of the appeal is inevitably going to be seeing characters turn into mannequins as they’re burned alive. I was personally fine with most of this, as I prefer judging a movie based on how it wants to be judged, but I’m sure a lot of viewers will roll their eyes. While “The Little Reich” is amusing, it’s not as hilarious as I thought it would be. The funnier lines seemed ab-libbed, but it often felt like the cast was sticking to the script. The humor, if anything, is very dry and I suspect part of the joke is how the actors will deliver lines such as “Who would create a Nazi Puppet!?” with straight faces. I’m not holding any of this against the movie, as I did chuckle, but I’m warning you that everyone is going to have a different reaction to the tone. Is it too silly? Is it not silly enough? I thought it was just right, but an argument can be made either way. The Puppet designs were cool, even if I prefer the original classics. There are a lot of new creations and they all had unique and twisted gimmicks. Puppetry is used to bring them to life, with CGI only being used when practical effects were impossible, which I appreciated. Fabio Frizzi’s score is very reminiscent of his works from the 1980’s, with a dash of the original “Puppet Master” theme sprinkled on top. His music complimented the mayhem perfectly.
There are some flaws that keep me from fully embracing “The Littlest Reich“. There’s something…let’s just say “unsatisfying”…about the movie, even if it’s fun. Most of the screen-time is dedicated to killing off characters who are introduced specifically for their death scenes, so there’s no real emotional investment during the middle block. I know that sounds like a pompous thing to say for this kind of film-going experience, but the majority of the 2nd act is dedicated to the removal of extras, so it’s easy to grow numb to the carnage. But even worse, the ending feels like the filmmakers ran out of money, even though it blatantly sets itself up for a sequel. As it was, I thought the conclusion was too abrupt, anti-climactic and even a little depressing for this kind of story. The finish just…sucked…While this is a completely different point, I also thought Thomas Lennon’s performance was sometimes too deadpan. The cast is great and he has chemistry with everyone, making his romance with Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) adorable and his banter with Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) the funniest parts of the movie, but a few scenes demand a real emotional reaction from him…and his delivery is just as dry as it is when he’s making a quip. Nevertheless, I’m going to forget about these flaws within a week or two, whereas I don’t think the crazier kills will be leaving my memory anytime soon. “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” is a hardcore splatter flick and entertains as such, warts and all.
Nudity: The movie certainly has its fair share of sex and nudity.
Overall: “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” is not for everyone, even amongst those who like the original film series…But if you want to see some tasteless gore, then this is your movie.