Edgar finds a creepy puppet in an old box at his parents house. He discovers that the puppet was made by Andre Toulon, a puppet designer and Nazi war criminal. He also learns that an auction for Toulon’s puppets is soon to be held, and travels there with some friends. Strange incidents occur the night before the auction, and before dawn the hotel guests are terrorized by Toulon’s murderous creations.
The original Puppet Master was a rip-off of the original Child’s Play movie from 1988. It was a dumbed down version that compensated its lack of plot and tension with a creative assembly of murderous puppets. Almost 30 years later Puppet Master itself gets a remake in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. The script was written by Craig S. Zaehler who received some acclaim with the glossy exploitation movies Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 13. Arguably he is an expert for making schlock look good, so let’s have a look if he also succeeded in this with Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
The outline of the movie follows that of the Puppet Master series as being very light on plot but with plenty of puppet mayhem. In addition to the kills we also get a lot of talking. There’s many funny off-the-wall dialogues, which by themselves already provide plenty of entertainment value. One noteworthy item is that the characters in the movie generally behave quite nonchalant, even in the horror scenes. This ironic detachment makes the overall vibe of the movie strangely relaxed, but is starkly contrasted by the extreme violence that is exerted by the various puppets on the unsuspecting hotel guests.
The murder scenes take up a fairly large part of the movie, almost half of it. The quality of the special effects is fairly uneven, some scenes look very convincing, whereas others are just visibly cheap. The puppets and their movement themselves look equally cheap across the board. This is intended I believe, to preserve (or mock?) the style of the original Puppet Master. Some kill scenes are so extreme and vile that gorehounds will certainly love the movie just because of this.
A nice ensemble of accomplished B-movie actors was collected for the movie including Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton, Michael Paré and Matthias Hues, even though they only get supporting roles. Fabio Frizzi, who worked with Italian horror mastermind Lucio Fulci on many of his movies, composed some music for the movie. While he delivers a great soundtrack, it just doesn’t work here very well. The hypnotic and nightmarish sequences in Fulci’s movies that Frizzi’s music helped to intensify are absent in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. So whenever one of his pieces shows up, it seems literally out of tune with what’s going on on the screen.
Occasionally it feels as if Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a simulation of a horror movie, made by people who have never seen one but are very good at making comedies. This certainly cannot be true considering the involvement of more or less experienced people in the directing and writing department, so it just seems that the movie is a little to much in love with its post-modern attitude. I think the makers were very conscious of the seeming inconsistencies and occasional crudeness in an otherwise fairly slick production. The combination of all these elements makes it a fairly unique feature, for better or worse.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich may polarize viewers opinion due to its uneven composition and extreme violence. I found it to be an interesting blend of nostalgic references, oddball humor and post-modern playfulness, that for sure is a lot better than the original Puppet Master movie.