Monday, June 3, 2013

Puppet Master

1989 was a fantastic decade for cinema. From it came timeless classics such as Batman, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The decade also ended with some Scorecard-favorable films such as Heathers, Vampire’s Kiss (Coming soon!), and, as you are soon to read, Puppet Master. This film launched B-movie maestro Charles Band’s career in making movies about murderous toys (up to and including Dollman). On your mark, get set, Scorecard!

  • We feel that more movies should start with a puppets-eye view. Wait, there are how many Puppet Master movies now – eleven? Never mind. = +3pts
  • On second thought, how is no one noticing a panting doll running underfoot? Do they think that he’s a well-dressed albino dwarf? = -3pts
  • William Hickey makes an excellent choice as a creepy old man who enjoys nothing more than to make creepy dolls and creepily talk to them. = +7pts
  • The jarring puppet movements are unsettling to behold. = +11pts
  • Germans talking without subtitles. = +2pts
  • Rather than be captured by dirty Nazis, William Hickey blows his jellied brains out all over the wall. William Hickey Suicide sounds like our favorite post-punk noiserock band. = +4pts
  • Psychic Pat Sajak has a dream that he’s attacked by leeches. That’s what he gets for watching Stand By Me before he takes a nap in his office chair. = +3pts
  • A young woman is told by a fortune teller that she’ll work in a shopping mall – as a good thing. = +9 pts in 1989, -18 pts in 2013. = -9pts
  • For the sake of the reader, we’re very glad that a machine that detects psychic fantasies only exists in straight-to-VHS horror films. +5pts
  • For a movie called Puppet Master, a plot involving psychics with bad hair getting together to have a psyche-off in an old hotel doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. = -6pts
  • Oh, the puppets are trying to kill them for some reason. That makes more sense, we guess. = +6pts
  • The psychics are attending an open-casket wake of a colleague. In an old hotel. = -7pts
  • According to the Mystical Dipstick, the corpse is a quart low on psychic energy. = -4pts
  • “Screwball,” the maid says after witnessing, through a keyhole, the fortune teller retrieving and petting a stuffed Pekinese from a suitcase. = -3pts
  • According to the sexy psychic couple, “experiencing the past” involves seeing the most ferocious of rape faces. = -8pts
  • Now the sexy psychics are reliving hot movie star fucking between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. = +5pts (It would have been higher if we could’ve watched some ‘30s missionary action.)
  • The female lead decides to wear her grandmother’s tablecloth to the fancy dinner. = -7pts
  • Uncomfortable sexy shrimp eating. = -2pts
  • When a psychic says, “Don’t go near the fireplace,” you should probably listen. = +6pts
  • The maid didn’t listen and is predictably whacked by a beefy puppet. = -4pts
  • When Sexy Psychic Wife gets off in a bathtub, Sexy Psychic Husband sees fit to put nylon over his face and scare the living daylights out of her. = -6pts (Trust us, that level of foreplay doesn’t work at home.)
  • The puppet with a drill on its head kills Sexy Psychic Wife in a predicable fashion and the lady puppet vomits leeches onto Sexy Psychic Husband to suck him dry. The symbolism is so thick that not even Ash Williams could chip it with his chainsaw arm. = -13pts
  • The corpse from the wake shows up in the fortune teller’s room. Her solution is to perform hoojoo with her Pekinese. = +3pts
  • The burly puppet gives one unforgettable Indian burn! = +6pts
  • The well-dressed albino dwarf puppet’s spring-loaded knives-for-eyes seem to exist merely as a surrogate for another spring-loaded thrusting instrument. = -4pts
  • The female lead wakes Psychic Sajak up and takes him to the attic so that he may watch her dance to carnival music. Oh, it was only a dream! = +3pts
  • You’re still dreaming, Psychic Sajak, unless those really are the severed heads of your friends sneering at you from under your blankets. = +7pts
  • Using a cat statuette to prop up a hook light. = +2pts
  • The corpse really isn’t a corpse at all, but the film’s true antagonist. While wearing a cabana tie, the villain explains at length how he used William Hickey’s puppet master mystery magic to turn himself into an evil immortal. = +4pts
  • The villain pauses his merciless pummeling of Psychic Sajak to scowl at the spinny-faced jester puppet and snap, “What are you looking at?” = +12pts (For being a dick to two characters at the same time.)
  • When the puppets turn against their evil immortal master because of the above dickery, a raucous brawl breaks out.  The villain is eventually overpowered, maimed, and then brutally murdered by his little buddies. = +6pts 
  • Psychic Sajak, why are you trying to stop the puppets from murdering the bad guy? That guy just beat the shit out of you scant moments ago! = -9pts
  • The best use of the evil immortality magic is, of course, to bring the stuffed Pekinese back to life. Happy endings for everyone (except the ones who are dead)! = +11pts

Final score = +23pts
Available: DVD, beneath your really creepy uncle's floorboards, Joe's porn stash

Despite the shambling plot and phoned-in performances, Puppet Master does have its entertaining moments thanks to the puppets, each of which is unique in a “Buy Our Action Figures” sort of way. Even so, as the later films have shown, putting more focus on the puppets isn’t necessarily a good thing. If the idea of a film about puppets killing psychic friends appeals to you, then by all means watch this movie. Be sure to bring a Scorecard, so that you can feel like a true prognosticator by predicting how lukewarm your film experience will be!

Score Technician: TJ Geise

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