Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

curse-of-the-puppet-master-movie-poster-1020540866Starring George Peck, Emily Harrison, Josh Green, Michael D. Guerin, Michael Sollenberger, Marc Newburger, Scott Boyer, Jason Dean Booher, Robert Donavan, Jason-Shane Scott

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Six Shooter, Matt, Tank

Directed by David DeCoteau (as Victoria Sloan)

Expectations: Pretty low after the last one.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
twohalfstar


After the abysmal Puppet Master 5, Charles Band wisely gave the series a few years off before coming out with film number six, Curse of the Puppet Master. It’s a definite improvement in the trajectory of the franchise, returning to the basic suspense / horror framework from the initial three films. Curse of the Puppet Master is not without its share of problems though, but thankfully they don’t detract from the fun too much as long as you’re willing to just roll with them.

It all starts on a dark and stormy night (really, it does) as a shadowy figure that looks like André Toulon shuffles past our puppet friends who are imprisoned in a large cage. He carries a medicine bag into the forest and then sets it on fire. It’s clear that something just isn’t right about all of this, but you’ll just have to stew in it a while longer before all the chips are in hand. If I give away too much of the story, the whole she-bang will unravel because this plot has been around the block more times than a French whore. As I’ve said before though, if they are able to fill in the gaps with good FX and quality filmmaking, I’m game every day of the week. Director David DeCoteau keeps the film fresh with some clever shots and atmospheric lighting, resulting in a film that provides enough fun to satisfy long-time fans, as well as introduce newcomers to the puppets and their unique brand of mayhem.

I’m not even going to try to place this film within the timeline of the previous films. I don’t think it’s possible. The puppets represented here don’t coincide with any of the previous events, and realistically they don’t need to. All your favorite puppets make appearances, with the exception of Torch, although the limited budget means that most of the puppets only show up in limited quantities. For example, Leech Woman is in a couple of shots, but does absolutely nothing other than move her arm in one of them. No leech vomiting at all! I was disappointed. Six Shooter is also only in a few moments, but he does get a quick sideshow scene. Most of the action relies on the big guns: Blade, Tunneler and Pinhead, with Jester coming in a close fourth. It should be noted that a lot of the insert shots of the puppets are actually recycled footage from the previous films, but it’s done well enough that I think most people wouldn’t notice.

Speaking of action, the kills are pretty great and bloody in Curse of the Puppet Master. The first one doesn’t happen until over halfway through the film, but fuck if it isn’t one of the most satisfying kills of the series. The resident asshole of the film works out by himself in his living room. The whole movie they’ve built up how much of a dick this guy is. He’s taunted our human hero, threatened Dr. Magrew’s daughter and almost came to blows with the elderly Dr. Magrew himself. This guy is a Grade-A douche-bag, so when the puppets come calling, you know they gotta finish him off in style. Tunneler does the deed, drilling up into his groin as the dude tries to bench press his rage away. I can’t ask for much more than that from a Puppet Master film, and frankly, I’m surprised they held that one back until the sixth film.

The FX are a lot better than I expected going into this one. As I mentioned in my Puppet Master 5 review, this is the first  Puppet Master film that doesn’t feature the stop-motion work of Dave Allen. It’s all rods and cables this time around and surprisingly I never thought about the stop-motion while watching the film. The puppets are effective in what they try to convey. Sure, moments are cheesier than they might have been designed to be, but that shouldn’t stand in your way of a good time. There’s also a couple of dream sequences where our human hero dreams he’s half puppet. The FX employed here, featuring first some wooden leg stumps and later a mechanical torso, sell the scenes to perfection. If I ever find myself in a situation where I realize I’m half-puppet, I hope it looks as interesting as this.

All in all, Curse of the Puppet Master is nothing more than an OK horror movie with a ridiculously average plot, but thanks to the fun death scenes and the interesting direction from David DeCoteau, it succeeds in returning my faith in the series. There’s also a couple of new puppets that aren’t in the film much, but add a good layer of depth usually missing from a series’ sixth entry.

Next week, I’m going to take another break from the puppet shenanigans, by jumping into Full Moon’s recent catalog as I take a look at the first Evil Bong film in preparation for the upcoming limited theatrical release of Evil Bong 3D! I have a feeling it’s gonna be pretty bad.

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