St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Puppet Master II” (1990)

Puppet Master II.

The first film in a long, cheesy franchise is usually the worst because they haven’t figured out where its legs are yet. It’s usually only subsequent entries that get camper and camper and really start to push the right buttons. That’s what happened with the Final Destination and the Leprechaun movies, so Parker and I were both pretty excited for Puppet Master II and this series' slow descent into madness. Although this isn’t one of the four Puppet Master movies directed by David DeCoteau, he was one of the producers so I’m hoping we’re in for some fun times.

These four paranormal investigators show up at the hotel from the first movie where a bunch of psychics are known to have disappeared. What the bloody hell do they mean, “disappeared”? They were murdered by puppets, there were bodies everywhere. I’m picturing the police standing in a room full of dismembered corpses going, “Yep, no sign of ’em anywhere.”

Four paranormal investigators.

Helping them is a mad, jangly witch-woman who’s instantly everyone’s favorite character because she’s the only one with a personality. She stops to ask for directions at the side of the road, resulting in the best scene of the film. Many horror movies have some variation of this scene where the locals warn away the newcomer, like the villagers telling Jonathan Harker not to go to Dracula’s castle. Usually there’s some hissing and crucifixes involved, but in this movie we get crazy fat Ethel, who loses her shit.

Crazy fat Ethel.
“You know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from that hotel. They say Satan’s got a suite o' rooms in there, and brimstone comes out of the chimneys at night and it smells like roasting entrails! Y'ever smell roasting entrails, lady?!”

When she arrives at the hotel the witch woman seems to spend her time pontificating unhelpful mystical woo-woo while draping herself over the furniture with a glass of wine. Not to mention draping herself across the hunkier of the two investigators.

Jangly witch woman.

The investigators are skeptical of her abilities. Unfortunately for the audience she’s the first to be whisked away by the puppets, so now we’re left with the four tubs of non-fat yoghurt as the only characters still alive. But not for long — they start dying at a fair clip, which is no small relief.

Toulon channels the Invisible Man.

Then Toulon, the puppets' creator, shows up looking like a cross between the Invisible Man, Josef Mengele, and Liberace. He feeds them some story about being at a health clinic in Bucharest, but really his corpse has been reanimated by his puppets, whom he’s now directing to steal bits of people’s brains.

The puppets come for crazy fat Ethel and her husband, but she mistakes the sound of Leech Woman extracting his brain for him rubbing one out in bed. She catches Leech Woman in the act and throws her in the wood-burning stove where she gets her funk on and dances like a psychotic noodle in the flames.

Leech Woman dances to death.

Then we get our major new puppet of the movie as Torch appears and flame-throwers Ethel to death.

Torch, this movie's new puppet.

Eventually Toulon’s plan is revealed. He is collecting bits of brain so that he can create two human-sized dolls — one for him, and one for one of the yoghurts who he thinks is the reincarnation of his dead wife.

Toulon's human-sized dolls.

Toulon himself does a very passable impression of the abominable Dr. Phibes. Wait, guy with a hideously disfigured skeleton head goes around murdering people so he can rescuscitate his dead wife? This is The Abominable Dr. Phibes! What a rip-off!

Toulon channels Dr. Phibes.

But as we all know threatening women is a bridge too far for the puppets. They turn on Toulon and molester him to death. Why does this sound so familiar? Is it because… it’s the exact same plot as the first movie?

Some yoghurts get away, I guess, but the puppets don’t want to waste that lovely lady doll so they revive the dead jangly witch and put her inside it. Last seen, they’re driving off into the sunset to terrorize some small children.

The Skinny

The witch lady inside the woman doll.

“Y'ever smell roasting entrails, lady?!”

What a fun movie. It has a really strong start, I love Toulon’s spooky bandages, I love the human-sized dolls, and of course I could watch crazy fat Ethel all day long. The only thing that doesn’t quite work is the five yoghurts (they gain a fifth halfway through — don’t ask) who have no interesting qualities whatsoever. Why do filmmakers always think we care about these bland nobodies? It wouldn’t be so bad if they all died, but as Parker pointed out it’s always the least interesting ones who survive.

The Puppet Master movies are spicing up and getting more into their groove. I can’t wait for number three.