St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Puppet Master” (1989)

Puppet Master title card

Even though Parker and I have only recently finished all the Leprechaun movies, I had a hankering for another camp horror franchise. There’s something very reliable about knowing exactly what you’re going to get. With the Leprechaun franchise you get eight whole movies of a leprechaun that doesn’t have an Irish accent and makes wise-cracks as he murders people in ironic ways. Quality cinema, and usually reliable for a small snort, chuckle, or occasional grumbleblort. By the end of eight films, however, you do start praying for an early death. With the Puppet Master franchise, we get no less than fourteen installments, the most recent of which is called The Littlest Reich! The only franchise I can think of that went longer was the Carry On films, which had a staggering thirty-one movies that so far no-one’s agreed to watch with me. So in lieu of Carry On, let’s delve into the diminutive world of Puppet Master (1989).

Acting
“Brenda, put down that tea trolley and come show the kids what real acting looks like.”

In the 1930s an old man who looks surprisingly like one of his own creations is making a variety of puppets that range from cute to sinister. He’s got some ancient scrolls or something which he’s used to bring them to life. For REASONS. I guess he’s intentionally evil because why else would you make a puppet that’s basically a skeleton with a knife for a hand (creatively named Blade) and a sexy woman that vomits leeches (Can you guess? Leech Woman).

Blade

Cut to 1989 and a bunch of psychics are getting together to verify that their recently dead frenemy is in fact dead so that they can dance on his grave. This lady, easily my favorite psychic, decides to stab the body with a hatpin just to verify that he has given up the ghost and shrugged off his mortal coil.

A psychic stabs the body with a hatpin

Never mind the fact that she doesn’t own a hat. She’s just carrying that hatpin around in her arse in case there’s any bodies that need stabbing. I’m not sure what would happen if you stabbed a real body, but I do know they plug you up to stop you leaking so I imagine that stabbing a body would result in a geyser of formaldehyde or farts or something.

My favorite psychic shoos away the chambermaid with incense
Her other superpower is she can frighten chambermaids using only incense and giant ’80s hair.

The psychics experience a lot of sinister visions featuring the dead guy.

The dead guy gets rapey.

And then there’s this bird. I SEE YOU, BIRD. FUCK YOU.

Fuck you, bird.

Then of course the puppets show up and start killing everyone, because the dead guy was in league with them all along! The movie’s been entertaining and suitably ridiculous up to this point, but this is where we get into proper goofy slasher territory with diminutive puppets whacking people on the head with fire pokers, drilling into people’s mouths, and sucking their nipples before vomiting up a swarm of leeches.

Leech Woman vomits leeches onto a victim.

It turns out the dead guy killed himself so he could come back as a puppet himself, but then he punches a woman I guess and the other puppets think this is just not cricket, so they turn on him and molester him to death.

The Skinny

Jester

“You brainless little pinhead, get out of my way!”

Easily the most entertaining movie night we’ve done in a while. We were surprised to learn that this movie was a straight-to-video release even in the ’80s. Usually these things have one or two cinema releases at the start of the franchise and then go straight to video as they get cheesier, but this one just started cheesy. The picture quality is rather soft, which gives the impression it might have been shot on 16mm film, but I didn’t think that detracted from the movie. The puppets look great and there’s lots of juicy murders, so what else do you need? Puppet Master is good old fashioned stupid fun the way mother used to make.