Charles Band Spotlight (Part 1: Puppet Master)
One of the weirdest concepts I’ve always tried to wrestle with in horror is just how some things can kill other things. It seems to boggle my mind every time I hear about another strange horror movie where the killer is something totally fucking random. Take the recent movie “Rubber” for example.
When I was a kid I was definitely more forgiving on bizarre concepts, giant brains attacking people; or a videogame gone crazy. I’ve said before that there was just something about movies that came out of the 1980’s. It seems equal parts indifference and marketing genius. I get a lot of joy out of showing some of these movies to people. I know full well they are going to roll their eyes and say “you’ve got to be kidding me” Sometimes I wish I was. Sure as someone who bares a striking resemblance to an adult I would love to be part of the camp that just scoffs at these sorts of movies and moves on, but we all know that isn’t the case.
There are a lot of different kinds of horror; one of those is the just plain old “What the fuck” The kind of horror that really isn’t scary and it’s hard to imagine it was ever intended to be. I usually just assume that it all started with good intentions but the money just wasn’t there, maybe they ran out of time, or the actors they got just were terrible. They end up with a finished product that becomes art in how terrible it is.
Thankfully we had Charles Band and Full Moon productions. Charles Band is a director, writer and producer of Full Moon productions; he had some success in the 80’s with many horror movies, which are just off the wall. Honestly when I was young looking at all the crazy horror movies in a video story, I had no idea the ones that kept standing out to me involved Charles Band in some way. Here at splatterpictures, we love horror, we love all kinds of horror and we love Charles Band. It’s time to shed a little light on three of his films, first up! Puppet Master.
Puppet Master hit the shelves in 1989, and was the first film that launched Full Moon Productions. I say “hit shelves” because it never made it to the theatre. Puppet Master is a prime example about a lot of the things that Charles Band likes about horror like the Killer Doll concept. He already had some success with the movie “Dolls” and I guess he wanted to keep moving forward with that idea.
So, the big question is. What is the movie even about? Well basically there is this old man “The Puppet Master” named Andrea Tulon (William Hickey), he fled Europe during world war two with his creations but was followed by German spies to learn his secret technique of bringing his puppets to life so they could use them as some kind of weapon in the war.
How does he bring the puppets to life? It’s not totally explained, but it’s some kind of Egyptian magic.
Tulon hides the puppet in this room at the Bodega Bay Inn that he’s staying at and kills himself. Cut to the “present day” in this case the present day is 1989 and a bunch of people arrive to attend the funeral of a college of theirs named Neil Gallagher. Now the Inn has been abandoned for years and the puppets have remained there seemingly undetected. It doesn’t take long for shit to go down and we realize that it was no accident that they all came to the very Inn where the puppets have been in hiding.
Now I have to mention some of the weirdest concepts that this movie tries to get across. For starters all of the guests that arrive have psychic powers of some kind. Each one of them can use their powers at different times. One woman actually needs to be aroused for hers to work. I’m not kidding, you basically have to have sex with her or grab her boob for her visions to come through. It leads to a death that still makes me squeamish after her lover is tied to a bed.
All of the characters are pretty bland, but the real draw is of course the puppets. Each one of these guys has their own abilities and part to play in the movie. You have Blade who is totally badass, He has a knife and a hook for a hand, Jester; whose head spins around but he doesn’t actually have a weapon. Pinhead; he seems to have some kind of super strength. Tunnler; His head is a friggin drill and lastly and most disgustingly we have Leech Woman who spits out giant fucking leeches. Seriously where do the leeches come from? How are they still alive? Does she have to go to the store to get more leeches after she runs out?
The funniest thing about this movie is how the humans are all taken out by some of these guys. The puppets are all about two feet tall at best. Somehow everybody gets knocked down to the floor and once you’re on the ground the puppets can pretty much end you. They can’t ever seem to get away, or even stand up after the puppets nail em. Watching the movie is ridiculous only because you wonder why nobody just frigging stomps these things into pieces.
I will say that for such a weird concept, the film does try to take a serious tone and it works to a point. The deaths are good with a decent amount of gore to them. The final death is particularly gruesome where the puppets all gang up on one guy. Also, if murdering dolls aren’t enough it has a good amount of nudity too.
Last thing I’ll mention is the musical score; it has a killer theme that I absolutely loved. It sets the creepy tone of the horror movie while also playing with the childish concept of a puppet in the first place.
Puppet Master gained a massive cult following and spawned eight sequels and even a crossover with another franchise. In my opinion they got progressively worse. The most recent ones are not really what I would consider horror anymore (I don’t even think they would qualify as R rated).
I highly recommend anyone interested to check out this movie but you might want to leave your brain at the door.