On Friday, June 15th, the Portland Horror Film Festival played host to the Pacific Northwest premiere of Cinestate and Fangoria’s newest release, PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH.
What is there to say about a film that digs back into a well-loved narrative? Usually, one would hear the familiar tropes and groans of fanboys/girls echoing in the aisles as the credits crawl. I didn’t hear that in the late-night musings of the audience, nor did I feel it myself. Quite the opposite in fact. This film terrorized the audience with nostalgia-laced 90’s horror, avoiding the need to explain itself entirely too much or be overly referential to the Charles Band 89′ classic, Puppet Master.
Set in Dallas, Texas (*hometown of yours truly, and the new home of Fangoria) an ageing comic book store owner (Thomas Lennon, Reno 911) finds himself divorced and living with his parents. One night, while rummaging down memory lane in his childhood closet, he finds a vintage Toulon creation. When it is discovered that there is a 30 year anniversary in a local hotel with an auction of rare Toulon items looking to fetch high figures, he packs it up and heads out with his gal pal (Jenny Pellicer) and best friend (Nelson Franklin) to collect his riches. This particular hotel, filled with Toulon puppets and those looking to collect are in for a big shock. The puppets reanimate, much to the chagrin of the deadpan ex-cop (Barbara Crampton, Re-Animator) and local police force, resulting in a total murderous spree at the control of a metaphysical guiding hand.
This film is not a reboot, it’s a re-imagining of the cult classic. It is transformative and not overly derivative, taking only what was needed to craft its own vision of the Puppet Master universe. It has abandoned the “witchy” vibe of the original in exchange for a horror comedy approach, with over-the-top gore and absurdly accurate political commentary. I couldn’t help but feel giddy when I saw the Fangoria title credit in the opening moments, accompanied by Fabio Frizi’s wonderful orchestration. Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental, but I feel as if I witnessed the birth of a new era in horror cinema, and boy was it bloody.