Main cast: Thomas Lennon (Edgar Easton), Jenny Pellicer (Ashley Summers), Nelson Franklin (Markowitz), Charlyne Yi (Nerissa), Michael Paré (Detective Brown), Alex Beh (Howie), Matthias Hues (Strommelson), Skeeta Jenkins (Cuddly Bear), Barbara Crampton (Carol Doreski), Serafin Falcon (Richard), Kennedy Summers (Goldie), David Burkhart (Brian), and Udo Kier (André Toulon)
Directors: Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund
Puppet Master: The Little Reich is a reboot of the Puppet Master franchise, made by Fangoria after it was bought out by Cinestate. I’m not a particular fan of the franchise, but even I am taken aback when they made the titular character, André Toulon, into a Nazi. In the original franchise: he was the complete opposite – he opposed the Nazis during World War 2. The franchise was slowly turning him into a tragic anti-hero of sorts, with the puppets even becoming the good days towards the tail end of the franchise back in those days. Here, the puppets are relentless gore machines – Terminator-like killers in miniature forms – and the whole thing is such a departure from the original franchise that fans of the older movies may want the heads of the people behind this one on a pike.
Oh, and because people will want to know, this movie has updated but still recognizable appearances of the following puppets: Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Kaiser, Happy Amphibian, Mechaniker, Grasshüpfer, Mr Pumper, Junior Führer, Autogyro, and Money Lender. Happy Amphibian is new – it is a frog in a suit – as are Mechaniker (a knight on wheels with blades on those wheels), Grashüpfer (grasshopper with sharp claws), Mr Pumper (puppet with a coiled spring body – it uses its needled hands to extract blood from its victims and spray the blood out through the nozzle that is its “nose”), Junior Führer (puppet of a baby with Adolf Hitler’s head; it rips open its victim’s body and crawls inside to control the body), Autogyro (puppet with one arm ending in propellers, which it uses to fly and decapitate its victims at the same time) and Money Lender (it’s actually what you think it looks like, with clawed hands).
What little there is of plot here revolves around Edgar Easton, a comic book artist who has to move back in with his parents after his divorce. His parents naturally have to remind him of why he can’t get a better job that will allow him to not disappoint the woman in his life so much, and they of course do this out of love. Edgar works in his friend Markowitz’s comic store and ends up dating his childhood friend Ashley. The fun begins when Edgar discovers a Blade puppet in his late brother’s room, and when he learns that there is an auction of the late André Toulon’s relics, he decides to head over there to see whether the puppet can be sold off at a nice price. He is accompanied by Ashley and Markowitz, and their stay at the Postville Lodge becomes a party when the puppets come to life and start murdering the residents with utter glee.
Once the killing spree begins, the movie doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a gore fest. Some of the kills are particularly gruesome and tasteless, and tropes don’t hold up here as various characters are killed off despite normally having plot armor in other more tasteful variations of such movies. All that matters here is the gore, nudity, and more gore – committed by puppets that are the right blend of adorable cuteness and grotesque cruelty. Really, this movie is utterly devoid of good taste – while the gore doesn’t always hold up as it can look very fake at times, the sheer tastelessness of those scenes elevates this movie from average to a thing of beauty.
So yes, Puppet Master: The Little Reich is a terrible movie if you watch this expecting something that is more faithful to the original lore, or if you are looking for depths and quality. If you just want to cheer and holler as people get murdered the hell out of their lives by nasty puppets, though, this awesomely brutal, authentic B-grade experience will be what you are looking for.