Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Franchise Review: Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

Apparently taking a cue from another famous horror film franchise that claimed to have a "final chapter," this sixth Puppet Master film, Curse of the Puppet Master, may have brought the series back to life but it really didn't do a good job of it. Once again, I'm left hoping that there are still better things to come.

Andre Toulon's puppets have a new master named Dr. Magrew, who owns runs a roadside attraction called Magrew's Marvels (Wikipedia says it's the House of Marvels, but the sign totally says Magrew's Marvels so I'm just going with that) with his daughter Jane. After finding out that a local boy named Robert has a gift for woodcarving, Magrew hires him to help him create a puppet of his own - one that he will try to bring to life just like Toulon's puppets.

Looking back, Curse of the Puppet Master isn't really all that bad - it just has a much different feel from the rest of the films, and at times feels a bit out of place from the series as a whole. Magrew became the new puppet master by accident basically when he purchased Blade and Co. from an auction. And it becomes pretty clear as the movie goes on that he is not really a worthy master, as his intentions are much more sinister than just showing the puppets off as sideshow freaks for profit. Jane also seems to love and care for the puppets, especially Pinhead, but at times she treats and talks to them like pets rather than the people they actually are. It was a little annoying sometimes.

Robert, nicknamed "Tank" because of his size, is a bit like Lennie from Of Mice and Men - he's far too trusting of others, and simple-minded, but physically strong. This becomes important when he and Jane have to deal with the requisite band of town hooligans who threaten them because they have nothing better to do with their lives. In turn, Magrew has to deal with the local asshole sheriff who is just beyond annoying with his smug demeanor. So when you know that Puppet Master movies don't usually have that many deaths, you can at least count on the fact that jackholes like this will probably be on that short list.

And indeed, Curse of the Puppet Master has one of the best kills scenes of the franchise thus far. Hooligan crew leader Joey (who gets extra hatred points by threatening to rape Jane) is working out his buff bod on the bench press when Magrew sends Blade and Tunneler in after him. Aww, yeah. After listening to Joey talk smack to absolutely nobody, Blade shuts him up by slashing at this face, and then Tunneler of course does his tunneling thing - STRAIGHT INTO JOEY'S CROTCH. Fantastic. Later on, Blade and Jester team up to slash the shit out of the sheriff's face, which is also pretty fantastic, and Tunneler takes care of that other cop guy who isn't important enough for a name.

Curse of the Puppet Master actually manages to get pretty dark at times. The movie opens with Magrew apologizing to the puppets and saying something to them about how it'll be different next time, and then he's taking a cage covered in cloth to the woods and burning it - and faint screams of pain can be heard from the cage. Hmmmm. The dreams that Robert has where parts of his body have been replaced by wooden puppet parts are also clues as to what is going on. Well, it seems that Magrew is trying the whole "putting a human soul into the puppets to give them life" thing but he really sucks at it. The little guy in the cage at the beginning was Magrew's old assistant Matt and apparently his puppet transformation didn't go so well. It's pretty horrific when daughter Jane finally figures out what daddy is up to and finds the half-burned doll body in the woods - and the poor guy is still alive in there and obviously in a lot of pain. Then the ending gets all kinds of messed with Robert and Magrew... damn, Puppet Master. You're not supposed to end movies like that.

The story in Curse of the Puppet Master (WTF, that title doesn't even really make that much sense) is an okay one, but it's too individualized, and works mostly as a stand-alone film than one that is really a part of the series. The next Puppet Master takes us back to near the beginning... can't wait!


  1. too much stock footage killed this entry for me. Not even the groin drilling made it up ...

    1. You mean the stock footage at the beginning? Or did they use other footage through the rest of the movie and I didn't even notice?

  2. Yup, there is stock footage all over this. I think the scene where MegaDouche is drilled through the crotch is one of the few puppet-scenes in the film which did not lean on old special fx shots from the previous films.

    Interesting fact- CotPM is basically a remake of the 70's snake-horror film Sssssss with the puppets replacing the snakes. Watch the two back-to-back. The resemblance is undeniable.

    1. Really? I've seen Sssssss before and I never would have made that connection. Now I'm curious...