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MOVIE REVIEW: 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 in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
EXTREME BIZARRO FICTION: Adolf in Wonderland (2013)

EXTREME BIZARRO FICTION: Adolf in Wonderland (2013)

Adolf in Wonderland by Carlton Mellick III ended up being more in some ways and less in others. More profound and less Wonderland to be exact. It was actually a tight little story about perfection, societal norms, and beauty as it’s seen in the eye of the beholder.

Adolf in Wonderland by Carton Mellick IIIAdolf in Wonderland is beautifully written, in an almost poetic manner that at times can be a bit tedious but for the most part, I found refreshing. It takes place in a dystopian future or maybe past? Where Hitler won and imperfection is illegal and has almost been eradicated. Two young SS officers are sent to a fringe-like village to seek out one of the last imperfect men. What they find instead is a chaotic abomination full of mutants, impossibilities, and madness. The two officers are separated upon their arrival and we follow the slightly younger one. He has lost most of his memory including what his name is but everyone he meets calls him Adolf Hitler because it’s the name written on his uniform. His only recollection is that he is on a mission to find an imperfect man and kill him. He can’t quite remember exactly what the imperfection is or who he is searching for so instead he tries to find his briefcase and a picture of the man in question. Along the way, he meets no shortage of oddball characters and gets into many unsavory situations.

Women are treated as pets and must wear a collar at all times to show they’ve been wed and have an owner. Once they produce offspring they are to be put to sleep having fulfilled their purpose. This little aspect of the story actually highlights an overlooked issue of misogyny coming from other women.

I was disappointed that other than the title and the nonsensical nature of the story, Adolf in Wonderland really had nothing to do with Wonderland at all. It was a good book but not quite what I was hoping for. This was my first attempt at Mellick’s work, and I think that although this one didn’t exactly blow my wig back he definitely deserves another try. I give this book a 3/5, and I’m eager to proceed to the next.

Posted by Candace Stone in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments
Tower Junkies Rejoice – The Dark Tower TV Show is Coming

Tower Junkies Rejoice – The Dark Tower TV Show is Coming

The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, Everything is 19 / Image: Michael Whelan

The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, Everything is 19 / Image: Michael Whelan

Last summer’s The Dark Tower wasn’t the adaptation that fans expected and was met with mixed reviews across the globe, but that’s not stopping plans to proceed with The Dark Tower TV series. Tower Junkies have been hearing rumors of a Dark Tower TV series for more than a decade, but this time it looks like those rumors might come to fruition as The Dark Tower TV show may start filming this summer. Omega Underground is reporting that filming will take place in Ireland and the UK, a smart move since they’re reportedly going to stick much closer to the books than the did. Likewise, this means we can expect different casting choices and rumors are that’s started as well.

The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, Tull / Image: Michael Whelan

The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, Tull / Image: Michael Whelan

IMDb still lists the possible series as focusing on the events in Wizard & Glass, the fourth book in the series and the one which tells us the most of Roland’s youth and his first ka-tet, so there’s nothing to be learned there. However, King himself stated in October of 2017 that the series focus had changed from prequel or background, which would’ve accommodated the leads from the film, to a complete reboot.

The Dark Tower / Image: Ned Dameron

The Dark Tower / Image: Ned Dameron

During the decade of hope, speculation, and disappointment, producer Ron Howard was behind the epic concept of a combined TV series and feature films to tell Roland Deschain’s tale, allowing for the different mediums to accommodate the various aspects of the story as well as of Roland’s world itself. Tower Junkies are hopeful that the medium will facilitate a more faithful rendering of the narrative and of Roland and his world. Without the confines of a feature film time limit, The Dark Tower TV show may just succeed where the movie could not.

The Dark Tower, The Crimson King / Image: Michael Whelan

The Dark Tower, The Crimson King / Image: Michael Whelan

Stay tuned to House of Tortured Souls for more information as it becomes available.

Long days and pleasant nights.

Posted by Alan Smithee in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, REMAKES AND REBOOTS, 0 comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three (1987)

The Dark Tower II:
The Drawing of the Three

By Woofer McWooferson

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three

Author: Stephen King; Publisher: Grant; ISBN: 978-0-937986-90-5; Media: Print (Hardcover); Length: 400 pages; Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Western; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1987

The Drawing of the Three, book 2 in Stephen King's magnum opus, the Dark Tower series, finds Roland sitting on a beach where book one ended. Roland's pursuit of the man in black has placed him in a position of vulnerability, and when this threatens his guns, he snaps out of a dream and back into reality. His guns, he has been taught, are everything to a gunslinger. Well, of course! How could one be a gunslinger with no guns? you might ask, but know that question will be answered in good time.

So worried about his guns (and rightfully so), he fails to comprehend the danger to himself from creatures that come out of the waves. After a brief encounter with the creatures, lobstrosities he calls them, he recovers himself and tends to his guns before beginning his journey up the beach. As he continues, he finds doors to New York City in various decades. Each door has a label (The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and The Pusher), and it is through two of these doors that he meets those who will become part of his ka-tet. The other reveals a new foe in a new world. On the surface, the chosen two are unlikely candidates for companionship with Roland, but Roland can see what we cannot. Roland can see the steel in them.

The Drawing of the Three gives us more insight into Roland and his quest, through his actions alone as well as his interactions with his new companions. Where The Gunslinger was sparse like the desert Roland crossed, The Drawing of the Three is as relentless as his trek up the beach and as full and rich and varied as the city which he visits in our world. He leaves his mark on everything he touches, intentionally and unintentionally, and he eventually brings out the best in his companions. Filled with the rich descriptive narrative that Constant Readers have come to expect from Sai King, The Drawing of the Three is worthy follow up to The Gunslinger and segue into book 3, The Waste Lands.

10/10 claws – Make sure you have snacks, a drink, and a comfy seat because you will not want to put this down.

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments