Writer’s note: I apologize in advance, because I will be reviewing all 10 Puppetmaster movies in fairly short order. There will probably be a few non-Puppetmaster reviews sprinkled in, but I figured I should give you fair warning.
They aren’t dolls, they’re
action figures puppets. So the plot is actually surprisingly convoluted for a low-grade horror movie, but here is what you need to know: there are puppets that can operate on their own accord, psychics investigating a suicide and lots of murderous intentions. I am watching this entirely because I got nominated for the Erik Anderson Puppetmaster Challenge, and I don’t mind doing it, either; I’ve watched all of the Saw movies as well as the entirety of the Hellraiser series, so I am fine with having another property under my belt.
It’s fun to watch the entirety of a horror series in the span of a couple of weeks; because it remains so fresh in your mind, you can really get into the mythology of it all. I’ve never seen the Chucky series, so this is purely conjecture, but being that Child’s Play came out one year prior, I’m guessing this was an attempt to capitalize on that same market. Watching this, I can tell you they have their work cut out for them to give depth to these characters and puppets. The thing that immediately stands out when you watch this is how distractingly wooden the acting is, even by horror movie standards. It seriously drags the movie down; since you don’t care about anything anybody has to say, you obviously don’t end up being concerned if anybody survives or not. It also doesn’t help that almost all of the kills (with the exception of one) is completely due to slow reactions; if you just cover face with your hands instead of dodging an incoming knife, you’ve undoubtedly sealed your fate.
The film itself is a terrible full screen transfer (sorry, Erik, I’m not springing for Blu-ray), and almost every single production value leaves a lot to be desired. All that said, this does have a couple of things going for it: 1. the puppet POV camera is pretty cool, and the forced change to your perspective is always welcome because it involves no spoken dialogue, and 2. there’s a leech scene that is actually really effective, and it gave me a reaction in my gut. My experience with horror movies is that the first one is usually far and away the best of series, and upon watching the original Puppetmaster, this does not bode well for the next nine.
Puppetmaster (1989) **1/2
– Critic for Hire