When an independent film studio stumbles upon a cult classic, chances are that they’ll milk it for all it’s worth with a barrage of sequels. Full Moon Entertainment (now Full Moon Features) had its opus with Puppet Master, so we dive into the original, the sequels, and the cross-overs to see if the milking was deserved.
Movie: Puppet Master 2 (1990)
Plot: After the events of the original Puppet Master, a team of paranormal investigators visit the Bodega Bay Inn to find out what really wiped out that old team of psychics. what they don’t know is that the stringless puppets have resurrected their original master, Andre Toulon, in the hopes that he can revitalize them with his elixir made from human brains.
Killer: The entire gang of puppets are back, including a new addition: Torch. I guess you can also count Andre Toulon as a killer, since he directs the puppets.
Critique: Not all sequels are created equal, but when “2” is hung on movie title and it doesn’t do so well, chances are a “3” won’t be hung too soon. But the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise got through their bad sequel, and that was a film series backed by New Line Cinema. The beauty of Full Moon franchises is that they have the recipe for putting out quantity comparatively cheaply and hoping something sticks. If “2” doesn’t work, maybe “3” will.
*SPOILER ALERT* That’s what happened with the Puppet Master franchise. The original was weird, but good. “2” was a step back: not weird enough, and bland. “3” ended up being the best film of the series, but we’ll get to that in our next segment.
One of the great things about Puppet Master 2 is the development of the puppets. Not only do we get a new living puppet, Torch, but we get a bit of a backstory on how Andre Toulon ended up with the gift of bringing inanimate objects to life. It’s not a deep backstory, but it’s something we can see rather than guess about. We also get some great makeup effects to create humanoid puppets. Well, maybe “great” isn’t the exact word, but the effects have that creepy, “lifeless and lifelike at the same time” vibe that you usually get from your grandmother’s collection of porcelain dolls. The continuity plot from the original Puppet Master isn’t bad, either. Not exciting, but plausible.
With such a great setup at its disposal and the franchise standard stop-motion animation for the puppets that make these movies so worthwhile no matter how bad they are, it’s sad that Puppet Master 2 falls short. The reason it does is the lack of decent acting. The original didn’t have Oscar-worthy performances, but Puppet Master 2 gave off the feeling that the cast was rehearsing lines for a scene as they were shooting. Add that to the feeling that not much actually happens during the film, and you get a bland film with some minor highlights if you’re able to keep watching.
Scene of Awesomeness: Michael runs around the hotel shirtless, fighting off the puppets one after another. It’s ridiculous that he had time to throw on underwear and pants after Torch lights up his bed but decided against a shirt. But how else would a trashy Western novel writer handle being a hero?
Scene of Ridiculousness: While fighting off the puppets, Martha the farmer’s wife stops when her porcelain doll is broken. You’d think she’d have more pressing things to worry about after seeing her husband being carved up by a puppet, having her leg cut open, and her hand burned on the stove, but no, she kneels down to mourn her doll.
Body Count: 7
1 Tunneler drill to the head (Awesomely Overkill Award, if only because of Patrick’s twitching at the end)
1 brain piece dug out of the head
2 burned alive by Torch
1 throat slit
1 face slashed up
1 death by puppet army (again)
1 pair of breasts
Actors/Actresses of Note: Nita Talbot (playing Camille) seems to be the only cast member with any star power, and that was in a role for Hogan’s Heroes. So yeah, not much of note.
Quote: “We have children to enchaaaaaaaant….” – Camille