Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is so bad, that it has forced me to come up with a brand new rating. Before, the worst rating I give a film was a SKIP IT. But now, after seeing this nonsensical, incoherent piece of shit, films that go beyond the just plain old skip it level have reached a new summit of awfulness and that’s the rating of AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Now the absolute lowest a film can go in my self-imposed rating system. I hope to only use this rating in rare occasions, but with horror month coming up, you never know.
The trailer makes it seem like this is more of a horror comedy, possibly channeling the later Chucky films. But what we got was painfully uncomfortable and sometimes just down right cruel. I honestly can’t believe S. Craig Zahler wrote this. It just doesn’t make any sense if you look at his previous works. Bone Tomahawk, aside from being brutally violent, is also incredibly funny. Even Brawl in Cell Block 99 had a good amount of humor to it. And is a film that knew how to use its violence appropriately and effectively.
The same cannot be said about Littlest Reich. Until I see the script with my own eyes, I refuse to believe S. Craig Zahler wrote this. If he did, they must have used maybe 20% of what he wrote, possibly scrapping the rest. This movie makes absolutely zero fucking sense. The “plot” is so unintelligible and nonsensical, I feel like whole chunks were just cut from it or they didn’t have the budget to film it, so they went without it, resulting in this mess. Maybe this was just a half assed curtesy gig on his part.
I also have no idea if this is a remake, a sequel, a prequel… none of those options really make any sense as there’s still just too much missing from the plot. If it’s a sequel, which this kind of feels like, I don’t know what film in the franchise it would be a sequel to, as this makes the 13th Puppet Master film. If it is a sequel, it also has to be a sequel to one of the earlier films as the latest are all set in Nazi Germany during World War 2, which Littlest Reich is not.
It’s also easy to misremember what are the Puppet Master films and what is the other toy related horror films Charles Band has produced. Like Blood Dolls, Dolls or Demonic Toys. I didn’t even touch on his latest entries like Evil Bong, Gingerdead Man, and of course fucking Ooga Booga.
You might now be asking yourself, if Charles Band and Full Moon have produced such trash over the years, why are you even bothering to review this? You might as well review the latest Sharknado movie, since a new one of those pieces of shits just came out.
Well, this Puppet Master film stands out, as Full Moon isn’t releasing it and Charles Band is designated to only executive producer. What was Full Moon’s responsibility is now handed down to RLJ Entertainment. They’re basically a company that specializes in slightly top quality straight to video, on demand action and horror films. They’re also releasing sometime in September my most eagerly anticipated film Mandy, starring Nic Cage. I was hoping to see that one in theaters but I guess on demand will have to do, just as long as I get to see it.
Littlest Reich also has the added benefit of being written by a known director and screenwriter that I enjoy quite a bit, S. Craig Zahler. He’s directed and written both films Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. Coincidently, I am currently reading the script for Brawl in Cell Block 99. He has kind of a style I’m not super crazy for. He tends to overwrite details to a ridiculous degree. Which is why most of his scripts are about 60 pages too long.
Also in its favor, Littlest Reich has a pretty good and known cast. Two actors who are actually known for their comedic roles, one on Reno 911 and the other a whole slew of things but more recently a role on New Girl.
So right away, expectations are slightly higher for a film like this. So let’s get started as to why it was such a disappointment.
We start off at a bar, getting introduced to Udo Kier as Andre Toulon, this franchise’s main villain throughout the series. In the prequels, maybe it was in Puppet Master 3, we learn he was just a puppeteer in Germany when the Nazis force him to make killer puppets for them. If I had to pick a favorite in the franchise, I’d say 3 is probably my favorite. It also I think was the film that introduced my favorite puppet, the gunslinger with six arms.
I know it kind of sounds like I’m not a fan of this franchise, but I am. Or at least I was in the 90’s when most of them came out. I have no idea if they’ve held up at all. I’m guessing about as much as any other Full Moon release.
Charles Band was smart, he saw the rise in video rental stores like Blockbuster and profited from it, releasing material exclusively for that platform. Usually horror and most likely made on the cheap. Blockbuster and other rental places swayed me to rent a whole slew of Full Moon releases like Dollman, Trancers, Crash and Burn, Oblivion… the list goes on.
For the longest time I always thought Robot Jox was Crash and Burn. It is the mantra they yell out constantly in Robot Jox, so it goes to reason that’s what they’d name their movie. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Charles Band also produced both films. Sometime around the early 90’s giant fighting robots must have been a thing. I’m guessing the release of RoboCop had a lot to do with that.
With the fall of video rental places, Full Moon didn’t completely vanish as some have thought. In fact they have their own streaming website where you can stream just about every film Full Moon ever released. I know this because a friend of mine’s film had the streaming rights bought by Full Moon and with a slew of other films, premiered exclusively on the site. Of course the biggest issue I was left with after subscribing was the countless spam emails I’d get every day.
I remember not liking the first Puppet Master film all that much, but enjoyed the later films considerably more. At some point, I think about 3, they made the puppets more like antiheroes. That appealed to me more. I think that’s true for the newest films as well. Killer dolls going after Nazis, now that’s a winning recipe.
After being disgusted by their sexy lesbian kissing, Udo Kier leaves and goes home to his mind control device for the puppets. He turns his killer puppets loose on the lesbians as they drive home, killing them in their car.
The police arrive at the scene and then we immediately cut to them showing up at Udo Kier’s house, guns a blazing. I have absolutely no idea why they’re there or how they came to the conclusion he was behind these murders. They just immediately show up at his door and start shooting. He used puppets, killer fucking mind controlled puppets, so how the hell does that at all connect to him?
They find tiny bloody footprints at the scene of the crime, but they think it is raccoon feet or something. There’s no line to suggest they followed the footprints anywhere. Plus when they show up at his house they’re in a car, so it isn’t like they were following the bloody footprints back to him.
It makes no goddamn sense at all.
So after busting into his house for no reason they gun him down, killing him.
Now we go to the present where we meet our lead I guess, played by Thomas Lennon, who is a screenwriter himself. He also I believe wrote a screenwriting help book. If you’re the kind of person that reads those kinds of things, there’s a good chance you might have his book. I know him obviously from Reno 911.
In Littlest Reich, he plays Edgar, who is moving back in with his parents after a nasty divorce. For some reason his dad is incredibly mean to him. It’s never really explained why, I guess he’s just an unlikable asshole for no reason.
Also just randomly, we learn Edgar had a younger or older brother who died. But we aren’t given any details as to what led to his death. Usually, you’d have some kind of flashback setting all this up. That’s why I thought maybe the dead brother was from a previous film and this is now 20 years later… usually if that’s the case, they feature a flashback or a scene from the film it was referencing. There was nothing like that, so we’re left or at least I was left confused.
We learn the dead brother owned one of the killer dolls, Blades if I remember correctly. He’s the sea captain looking one with a hook and knife for hands.
Edgar learns that the doll might actually be worth something and wants to take it to this auction where other collectors are selling them off.
But before that, we are introduced to Edgar’s love interest Ashley. We spend maybe 30 seconds with them talking, then the next scene they’re dating. I think we did get one additional scene of them walking in the park, but that’s it. There’s no scene of them going on a date or showing a hint of a relationship budding.
All they really needed to have was a scene of them having dinner, maybe move it to the couch where they can sip wine like a couple of assholes, talking about themselves, so we can learn as to why exactly Edgar is a lead character. Or this could be the perfect time to have him talk to her about his dead brother so we can learn what the fuck happened there. Then sexy time. That’s all you needed. Add that and maybe it wouldn’t feel so out of nowhere when we see them suddenly madly in love in the next scene they’re together in.
We learn that Edgar works at a comic book store, which sponsors the hell out of The Goon. Either the creators of The Goon are friends with the people involved with this movie or they’re backers… I don’t know. Seeing Goon references all over the place seemed strange, mainly believe it’s kind of an obscure comic, right? I know a few years back they tried and failed at getting a movie made for it, even putting together a really great CGI trailer, but… they don’t still make Goon comics do they?
Anyway, Edgar’s boss is played by Nelson Franklin. Who has been is a ton of things. He was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a few indie films you most likely haven’t heard of and of course played Robby from New Girl.
He is here as our comic relief character, even though he never really says anything I’d consider funny. His only characteristic is that he’s into thrash metal, that’s all I really know about him.
Edgar wants to go to this auction he found where they are selling off these dolls made by our killer, Andre Toulon. The auction of course is taking place at some hotel, because all these films take place at a hotel. Again, it was most likely what Charles Band had access to at the time.
Edgar takes his overnight girlfriend with him along with his boss for some reason. Before the auction, I guess they visit the house Andre Toulon lived, now turned into a tour. And for some reason the tour guide is one of the cops that night that broke into his house without cause and shot him to death.
But she’s still wearing her beat cop police uniform. So is giving tours to the house where you murdered someone like a day job? Very weird. While on that tour they see the mausoleum Andre Toulon is buried and also where he can control the puppets.
And now that the puppets are back in town, the toys are brought back to life and start killing everyone. But in the later Puppet Master films we learn that the puppets are alive because of a serum. Though that might not have been canon until the second or third movie.
And that about does it for plot, as the rest of the film is just the puppets killing people in the hotel for an hour. That’s all we are treated to after that, just one after another kill scene.
Some of you horror fans might be thinking, well what’s wrong with that? This is a horror film after all, it’s good we actually get some kills. And I agree, to a point. There’s a film I can’t stand called 100 Tears, it’s a 90 minute movie of nothing but a clown going around killing people. That’s it. There’s a paper thin plot involving two reporters after him, but mostly it’s just scene after scene of a clown killing people.
I feel these films don’t represent the best horror has to offer. It feels like they focus on the wrong things and put aside anything that isn’t a knife going into a skull. Important things like characters, a plot… you know, shit like that that usually makes a film worth watching. You need a balance, tipping the scale in one direction like nothing but gore will get boring and dull. Especially if you don’t give a fuck if a character dies or not.
As for the special effects, they look good but other times they’re so laughable I can’t believe they looked at it and thought it would be okay to include it into the movie.
There’s a scene where the blowtorch puppet sets a couple on fire, on one angle they’re standing there as normal looking people, then they switch angles and suddenly they turn into obvious puppet miniatures of themselves. It’s hilariously poorly executed.
The only kill I enjoyed was the guy taking a leak when his head gets cut off and falls into the toilet. Now this also segues into another issue I had with the film. The humor. For the most part it is nonexistent. And other times, like during the child and infant murders, it’s played off like this is meant to be funny. But trust me, it is not.
They also should have stuck with the classic puppets, as some of the, I guess newer ones, look kind of stupid. I’m talking about the baby Hitler one and the frog… a few others that just seemed silly. I’d stick with the classic set, Pinhead the one with a tiny head but giant body, blowtorch, Blades, the drill head one… maybe the jester and my favorite, the gunslinger.…
Edgar also sucked as our lead. He’s mostly this sad sack through most of the film who seems about ready to jump off a bridge. He also doesn’t really do much to step up as a hero. We get some half assed throwaway dialogue that his dickhead dad was a cop, so… what? Because of that he knows what to do when killer puppets start attacking?
Edgar isn’t alone in his lack of character as Edgar’s girlfriend Ashley is mostly just there to take her shirt off. Her only defying characteristic was she walks her cat.
The only one I kind of liked was the bartender who calls himself Cuddly Bear, but I didn’t quite understand what he said his name was, so to me it sounded like he was saying Colored Bear. It made me wonder why the hell he would call himself that. Out of everyone in the movie, I’d say he was the most interesting, he also is the one who gets less screen time.
Eventually Edgar realizes that the strange tomb Andre Toulon’s body is buried is what’s controlling the puppets. So he and his girlfriend Ashely crash their car into the tomb, stopping the killer puppets but also freeing Andre Toulon from his grave. I believe in the second film he was freed because his puppets used the serum keeping them alive on him, I don’t know what is keeping him moving this time. Plot convenience maybe.
The end, but not really as it is revealed that all of this was just one of Edgar’s comic book stories he wrote. Or is it? Seeing as the film ends with a TO BE CONTINUED. That’s right, there was just so much left to tell they needed to split this up into two or more films.
Thankfully, this review will not be continued as I’m done talking about this crap. If they do release part two, I won’t be reviewing it. I’d rather watch Show Dogs again than see a continuation of this “story”. This gets the new rating of AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
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