Let’s talk about Puppet Master.
It just might be my favorite Full Moon Feature. If not, it’s definitely in the Top 3. I think I recall correctly that it’s the first Full Moon flick I watched specifically because it was from Full Moon. By now, most horror fans are likely aware of the whole André Toulon story. Just in case you aren’t, here’s a quick recap:
In 1939 (actually 1941 as we discover later but okay) Bodega Bay, a couple Nazi spies bust in on Toulon’s apartment. Before they can get to him, he manages to hide his magically animated puppets and commit suicide. Then we jump to the present. Four psychics have been telepathically “summoned” by a mutual frenemy named Neil Gallagher. Apparently there’s a good amount of mistrust among the group and for the late Neil who appears to have committed suicide.
Each member of the group has their own specific ability. Dana is a fortune teller/psychic who can locate missing people and objects. Alex sees the future through dreams. Carissa can touch objects and “read” their past events. And Frank. Well, he and Carissa are able to see the past through some kind of weird ritualistic sex thing. Cuz Full Moon, Charles Band. Gotta have some gratuitous boobs and sex.
Anyway, through events that will surprise absolutely nobody, people start gettin’ iced, and this is where our little puppet friends get to shine. The body count rolls out as follows:
Theresa- bludgeoned by Pinhead with a fire poker
Carissa- drilled through the face by Tunneler
Frank- exsanguinated by leeches spit all over him by Leech Woman
Dana- leg broken by Pinhead, throat slit by Blade
Neil- the big finish as he’s descended on by all the puppets. Blade cuts his fingers off as he tries to escape from an elevator, Tunneler drills into his leg and the side of his head, Blade holds his mouth open so Leech Woman can bark a leech down his throat, and finally Pinhead snaps his neck.
Along with their look/construction and distinct personalities, what I love most about the puppets is their morality. Here’s how Letterboxd describes it:
Toulon, a puppet maker, discovers an ancient Egyptian potion and uses it to bring his creations to life. His puppets become murderous little demons and escape. Distraught, the master takes his life. Years later, psychics tune into the existence of the monstrous marionettes and set off to stop them.
But I disagree. Toulon spends much of his life throughout the franchise on the run from Nazis and anyone/anything else that tries to obtain the secret that enables him to bring his puppets to life. Plus, if we take the first movie on its own, the puppets are in fact the heroes.
Well, for the most part I suppose. I mean, on one hand they’re more or less under the command of Neil who is quickly established as The Big Bad. See, he committed suicide but had already discovered Toulon’s secret and, spoilers, brought himself back to life. His plan was to do the same with his colleagues.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving, really.
In terms of the human characters, they’re all pretty unpleasant. They’re not really evil, but they aren’t very nice either. You’re generally not sorry any of them end up deep-sixed. Okay, the housekeeper Theresa didn’t really do anything, but she’s mighty disagreeable. Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that Toulon first hides the puppets from Nazis, the ultimate bad guys. That kinda de facto makes the puppets the good guys.
It’s also worth pointing out that one of my perennial Full Moon favorites, Barbara Crampton, puts in a brief appearance in an early scene. And as always, the movie closes with the ol’ tried and true open-ended ending as Megan brings a stuffed dog to life. Ooo.
Streaming- Fubo, Full Moon, Hulu, Sling