Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

MOVIE REVIEW: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

I had the opportunity to watch Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and jumped at it. Those puppets hold a special place in my heart, much like the Cenobites do, and thus I will always watch the next installment in the franchise. After 2017’s dismal Puppet Master: Axis Termination, I didn’t hold much hope for the latest entry – especially after I saw the redesign of Blade and heard that Six Shooter would be entirely absent. But then I learned that Fangoria, Thomas Lennon, Barbara Crampton, and Udo Kier were involved, and my interest was once again piqued. Could this be a return to the kind of Puppet Master awesomeness that was the best parts of the previous entries?

Udo Kier as Andre Toulon in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Udo Kier as Andre Toulon

If you’re unfamiliar with the timeline of the Puppet Master movies, that will not be a problem. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a complete reboot of the series set in an alternate universe. Fans of the franchise need not fret either as the reboot retains several of our favorite puppets – Blade, Tunneler, Pinhead, and Torch (aka Kaiser) – while introducing some interesting new ones.

Nelson Franklin, Jenny Pellicer, and Thomas Lennon in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Markowitz (Nelson Franklin), Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and Edgar (Thomas Lennon)

The movie begins with a brief glimpse 30 years into the past when an evil Toulon (Udo Kier from Mark of the Devil) was found and killed by local police. From there it moves to the present and primarily follows Edgar (Thomas Lennon of Santa Clarita Diet), a recently divorced and struggling comic book artist who becomes mixed up in Toulon’s return on the 30th anniversary of the Toulon murders. Edgar, having moved into his parents’ house, also works as a comic store clerk and decides to auction off his dead brother’s Blade puppet at a Toulon convention. He invites Ashley (Jenny Pellicer of The Bridge TV series) along, his boss Markowitz (Nelson Franklin of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) invites himself along, and the trio set out for what they hope will be a fun and somewhat profitable weekend.

Barbara Crampton as retired officer Carol Doreski in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Barbara Crampton as retired officer Carol Doreski

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich uses the convention to reveal Toulon’s past in this universe, primarily via the tour of Toulon Mansion as led by one of the officers from the original case 30 years earlier, retired officer Carol Doreski (Barbara Crampton), who outlines the details of the events surrounding the Toulon Massacre. Here’s what we learn of Toulon’s past on the tour: He was born in France in 1907 and eventually entered the family business of manufacturing, selling, and performing with puppets. At this point, Doreski points out that three of the museum’s puppets are missing – Kaiser aka Torch, Pinhead, and a new puppet called Amphibian. In this universe, Toulon fled to Germany after arrests in Paris, Norway, and Luxemborg and likewise fled to the US after the Third Reich surrendered. Toulon’s Nazi roots are underscored by his choice of victims as well as the paraphernalia and the remains of his library, a library that includes three books from Adolf Eichmann, author of the Reich’s “Final Solution”. After a pass through Toulon’s workshop, the tour concludes with an exterior shot of Toulon’s tomb, complete with spikes on top that do not go with the rest of the architecture.

Toulon's tomb in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Andre Toulon’s tomb

And that’s the basic set up for the puppet mayhem.

Nelson Franklin and Charlyne Yi in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) and Nerissa (Charlyne Yi )

Once the puppets are in town, they’re let loose on everyone. Primarily targeting people the Nazis did, the puppets do what they do best. I’ll not go into details about the kills, but I will say that they are a lot of fun. There are some creative kills with both the old puppets and the new additions, and the effects are a delight. Fear not, gorehounds, you will be satisfied. While I miss the older puppets that have been omitted, I’m pleased with the results of the new ones as well as the differences in how the traditional puppets are portrayed – something I honestly did not think I would like.

Alex Beh and Michael Pare in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Hotel manager Howie (Alex Beh) and Det. Brown (Michael Paré)

The performances were top notch, and Udo Kier’s Toulon oozed skeeze and evil. Lennon, Pellicer, and Franklin are all excellent in their roles. Lennon’s performance is understated, but that works well for this story. Pellicer as the tough but sexy girl next door is both believable and likable, making the blossoming romance subplot less annoying than they usually are. Franklin holds his own with both and, to both Franklin’s and the movie’s credit, he’s not a caricature. Barbara Crampton (We Are Still Here ) is, as always, awesome and crushes every scene. Michael Paré (Village of the Damned (1995)) plays Detective Brown, the unlucky officer investigating the disappearance of multiple puppets brought to town for auction, and nails the role. In a delightful twist to the usual fare, when faced with puppets acting on their own, Paré’s detective goes with it. Rounding out the main cast are Alex Beh (Sugar) as hotel manager Howie, Charlyne Yi (House – TV series) as comic fan and waitress Nerissa, and Skeeta Jenkins (Summer of ’67) as bartender Cuddly Bear. All work well with this script and as an ensemble.

Skeeta Jenkins as Cuddly Bear in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Skeeta Jenkins as Cuddly Bear

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich was filmed at the same time as Puppet Master: Axis Termination, but the two could not be further apart in tone and execution. While Puppet Master: Axis Termination follows Toulon’s story as an opponent of the Nazis, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich places Toulon in the Third Reich for this alternate universe. Written by S. Craig Zahler and directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund from characters created by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a worthy entry in the franchise. Indeed, given the last few movies in the original universe, this was a wise move and offers an entirely new storyline to explore. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Blade, Happy Amphibian, and Tunneler in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Blade, Happy Amphibian, and Tunneler

8/10 claw scratches for this alternate universe Puppet Master reboot

BONUS: Puppet Gallery




Posted by Alan Smithee

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