Tag Tiny Terrors

Leprechaun (1993)

Leprechaun (1993)

Your luck just ran out.

Ten years ago, a greedy businessman named O’Grady steals a pot of gold from a leprechaun and flees to America. The leprechaun purses him but eventually O’Grady manages to seal him away in his house with the assistance of a four-leaf clover. Years later and after O’Grady’s death, Tory and her father move into the vacant house and the leprechaun is accidentally released. Still eager to find his gold, he sets about killing anyone in his way.

 

For those of you who’ve ever seen Wayne’s World 2, you’ll fondly remember the skit where Wayne pretends to be the leprechaun to scare Garth. He does a really cheesy impression of the little Irish fellow, shouting “I’m the leprechaun! Don’t try to steal me pot o’ gold!” Well unfortunately for me, I couldn’t get that amusing caricature out of my head when I finally sat down to watch this. Leprechaun has a really silly idea which is stretched out as long as it could possibly be. Maybe a brief comedy segment would have worked as part of an anthology story but as a full feature film, it’s just too gimmicky and wears out its welcome way too early.

Leprechaun isn’t the sort of horror-comedy that everyone will like. It’s dumb. In fact it’s more than dumb, it’s brain dead. It tries too hard to play the goofball card and it pays off but at the expense of any credibility or seriousness that the idea may have generated in the first place. Think of the silly sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street where the special effects took over and the comedy aspects of Freddy Kruger’s character were thrust into the spotlight. Well multiply that by about a thousand and you’ll get how cringe-worthy some of the comedy in this flick is.

In fact Wayne’s impression was a lot scarier than this little annoying Freddy Kruger-wannabe. The leprechaun is too hard to take seriously enough as a bad guy because a) he’s a short arse and b) he’s too damned funny dressed up and spouting one-liners and limericks, most of which are offensively Irish-stereotype. Not that I’m complaining because it’s just funny seeing how low someone will go to take a pop at another culture. The Irish are completely hammered in this one. However the leprechaun has super powers as well – he can appear and disappear at will, re-grow limbs, imitate voices, hotwire cars and a lot more. Along with the bad puns, it’s a lethal combo for the wrong reasons.

With a shocking script at his disposal, poor Warwick Davis not only comes off sounding like a fool, but dressed up like one too. Truth be told, Davis is the best bit of the film and the entire franchise for that matter. He’s having a lot of fun in the role and is so convincing at times that you’ll wonder whether he actually is a leprechaun masquerading as a person. There are sight gags galore as he drives around in a toy car, spins downhill in a wheelchair and bounces around on a pogo stick (and actually kills someone in what must be a first ‘death by pogo stick’ moment in horror). The leprechaun has also got a shoe-cleaning fetish so whenever he sees dirty shoes, he immediately stops whatever he’s doing and starts cleaning, even if it means his victims get away. It’s daft but pivotal in one major chase scene.

Leprechaun was Jennifer Aniston’s first film and it shows. Her performance isn’t great but she looks youthful, hot and surprisingly, doesn’t play the exact same character that she plays in every one of her recent rom-coms. I’m amazed she got any sort of meaningful role after this one. However I’m probably only being as harsh on her for the fame she’s had since hitting it big and if she’d have just floundered in low budget drivel for the rest of her career, then her performance here wouldn’t really have been as obvious.

Something that is obvious is the blatant lack of gore. This is a cheesy, goofy horror film and yet there’s little in the way of blood and guts. This was something that would be corrected in later sequels but given that the plot is immensely daft and we are dealing with a killer leprechaun, I’m sure a rush of the red stuff would have been a most welcome addition to the cheese factor. Might as well go the whole hog and throw in some breasts! I still can’t believe that this was so popular that it spawned a slew of sequels. It’s campy and daft but not in the good sense like Jack Frost. It’s not even in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category because at times, it’s almost impossible to sit through.

 

Leprechaun is stupid, not very funny, not scary in the slightest and a complete waste of time – someone’s lucky charms clearly ran out when this was made. And what review of this film would be a review without quoting the immortal lines of Wayne once again: “I’m the leprechaun! Don’t try to steal me pot o’ gold!”

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Demonic Toys (1992)

Demonic Toys (1992)

They want to play with you.

After they are busted by the police and kill a cop, two arms dealers escape into a toy factory. One of them is shot in the process and bleeds into the floor, inadvertently releasing a sixty-six year old demon that has the power to bring toys to life to act as his minions. The demon is looking for a body to inhabit and instructs the toys to bring him the female cop, who is pregnant, so that he may possess the body of her unborn child.

 

Charles Band has some sort of obsession with little things and low budget horror films. The man who brought us the Puppet Master series was also the brains behind a slew of ‘tiny terror’ films like Hideous!, Dollman, Blood Dolls and more. It’s no surprise to delve into his back catalogue to find a whole load more miniature monsters ready to cause mischief. Killer toys are the name of the game in Demonic Toys, one of his earlier efforts released way back in 1992. Clearly one for milking an idea until it is dry, Band

Taken for the low budgeter that it is, Demonic Toys can almost be enjoyable at times: that is when the annoying demon child isn’t talking in his ridiculous deep voice. Or even when the cast aren’t doing unexplainable things which are simply there to further the plot (like lock themselves in a store room). Or the constant knack of another character getting introduced to simply fill out the body count a little more (why was the runaway girl in the film, for instance). As is the common theme with these films, you have to suspend your brain for the proceedings. This is always the case when you have to try and believe that something around an eighth the size of a fully-grown man can actually out-power one, let alone kill them. Even more so when one of these things doesn’t possess any arms!

The toys spend all of their time skulking around in the warehouse. It’s the only real set of the film which is a plus in many respects as the budget could have gone into the special effects, assuming there was a budget to begin with. Porn shoots would probably get more money than Demonic Toys did which conveniently leads me into my next point in that the cast look like they’ve just come from one. I’m not even sure whether Demonic Toys was actually just a side-project in between porn shoots. The one-location story makes for monotonous watching and the film is always dark and gloomy. There’s not even a lot happening in between random toy attacks and there’s an awful lot of padding here for an eighty-six minute film. Its hard to believe that writer David S. Goyer would go on to pen the Blade trilogy after this.

There are lots of problems with Demonic Toys but thankfully, when the title creatures are on-screen, the film is a lot of fun. Baby Oopsy-Daisy is a hilarious little bugger with a foul mouth who cracks all of the one-liners to give the film some comedy value. It may be a little crude and juvenile but the sight of such a thing verbally ripping apart the humans is a sight to behold and would give Chucky a run for his money. There’s Jack Attack, a jack-in-the-box who looks like a miniaturised version of one of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space, complete with a sadistic little laugh. These are the only two toys (to date of review) to make it through the other sequels and spin-offs. The other toys don’t fair as well, with Grizzly Teddy and Mr Static, a toy robot, making up the foursome in less memorable fashion. We know that the special effects aren’t going to be great but John Carl Beuchler works some magic on them, turning the toys, especially Baby Oopsy-Daisy into legitimate threats. It’s a shame that their screen time is limited, with the focus of the film being on the demon. Too much time is spent on this weak story and not enough time on little things killing bigger things!

 

Demonic Toys has some mildly entertaining B-movie moments whenever the toys are around but their screen time is too intermittent and the rest of the film drags like crazy. It looks like someone found these toys from a charity shop because the whole thing smacks of bottom-rung budget. Best to donate them back!

 

Ghoulies IV (1994)

Ghoulies IV (1994)

A little black magic, a little black leather… and a lot of black humour.

Alexandra attempts to raise the demon Faust but inadvertently releases two Ghoulies into the world. Jonathan Graves, who encountered the Ghoulies years earlier, now works as a police detective in LA. It isn’t long before both Alexandra and the Ghoulies come looking for him and the crystal he wears around his neck.

 

The Ghoulies were the product of classic 80s low budget horror film making. Clearly rip-offs of the Gremlins, the Ghoulies were also small, aggressive and mischievous creatures intent on causing havoc and mayhem. They looked rubbish, the films were rubbish and they should have been consigned to the scrap heap for all eternity after the first film. But there was always heart to it and I actually felt sorry for the Ghoulies because of how shoddy they looked, especially the green one who always popped out of the toilet. They tried, bless them. And someone thought that they were popular enough to spawn a couple of sequels. So they were resurrected in 1988 and 1991 and now again with this third sequel.

Only they didn’t resurrect them. This time there’s no sign of the creatures that plagued the university in the last instalment or wreaked havoc at the fair apart from a few flashbacks (no doubt to remind you that you are actually watching a sequel). This time the Ghoulies are played by two very small actors with ridiculous troll masks and jive talking accents. They look like they just walked off the set of Troll or are a couple of kids on their way to a Halloween fancy dress party. They have changed their ways too, now siding with good against evil. They’re not the main focus of the film and are more of a side act for the majority of the running time. They’re not in it that much which is a good thing or bad thing depending on whether you assume more of them would have made the film more enjoyable (it wouldn’t, believe me). This whole film would have probably worked better as Troll 3 to be honest. The ‘black humour’ apparently featured in the film is mainly restricted to the antics of these two creatures as they attempt to find a way back to their own dimension. It’s about as funny as getting a wisdom tooth removed.

The film is one of those films that is literally unwatchable because of how atrocious it is. It’s boring and plodding. It’s got a lousy script which goes for the ‘buddy cop’ feel instead of little creatures causing havoc. It’s got terrible overacting from some people and drama school acting from others. The special effects consist of the usual low budget 80s bright lights and smoke machines. This one tries to compensate for the lack of Ghoulies by linking in with the first film and pretending that the last two didn’t happen. It does mean that there is a bit of story present but I’m sure that the handful of people (and I mean handful) who ever watched the original wouldn’t really have cared if they continued the story or not. It hardly feels like a Ghoulies movie at all.

The ‘highlight’ is the constant sigh of that chick on the front cover wearing a PVC costume. She’s the villainess but how could any warm-blooded male actually want to dislike her? She does look like a porn star or stripper in the outfit and it’s easy to see why she was cast. Peter Liapis reprises his role from the original in the attempt to get some continuity into the series. Though they forgot to bring back the original Ghoulies, instead settling for some ridiculous alternatives.

 

Ghoulies IV is helmed by a hack director notorious for his terrible films (many of which I’d watched!) and filled with the sort of inane film making that I’m sure would give guys like Rogert Ebert living nightmares. The previous three films may not be classics but at least they had actual Ghoulies in them and despite them looking like toys from a junk shop, at least they were entertaining in their own way.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008)

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008)

Freshly Baked Terror!

Kevin attempts to keep his late father’s floundering movie studio afloat by making a sequel to Tiny Terrors, one of its infamous trashy low budget horror films. Unfortunately one of the crew resurrects the evil Gingerdead Man who then proceeds to slice and dice his way through the cast and crew in an attempt to find a human host body in which he can transfer his soul.

 

I’ll give you the good news first. This is better than its awful predecessor. But that’s about as far as the good news goes. Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust should not exist as a feature film. It’s a sequel for fans only but I didn’t realise the first film had any! It was utterly dire. Gary Busey aside, there was nothing to distinguish it from the millions of little puppets/dolls/monsters/demons films that Charles Band and Full Moon took it upon the world to monopolise. However someone decided a sequel was necessary and they have unleashed this abortion of a sequel onto the unsuspecting horror genre. Someone hand me a bin as this gingerbread has gone well out of date.

One of the first things I need to address is the running time and how liberties are played with the paltry eighty two minutes. It’s over six minutes before we get any new footage in this sequel as it begins with the obligatory flashback to the best bits of the previous film (including some token shots of Gary Busey to remind us he has a better agent now). Get a good look at him because he’s not around this time, not even the presence of his vocals. Following this, there’s a lengthy title credits sequence which only serves to pad out as much time as possible. Couple this with the overlong credits at the end (another four and a half minutes) and you’ve got a film which runs for little over an hour. When the new footage finally begins, one of the initial sights you’re greeted with is that of a haunted dildo.

That said, this opening sequence is rather amusing as it pokes a lot of self-deprecating fun in the direction of Full Moon Productions, Charles Band and his reputation for producing scores of these ‘tiny terrors’ horror films in which people have dealings with pint-sized creatures (Puppet Master, Demonic Toys, Blood Dolls, Skull Heads, Doll Graveyard, Hideous!, etc). The haunted dildo is one of these said creatures along with a wizard doll, a pirate wench puppet and coffee pot with machine guns mounted on its side. These creatures are all originally props on the set of ‘Tiny Terrors 9: Purgatory of the Petite’ but they’re brought to life at the end of film as the Gingerdead Man sets about trying to resurrect himself as a human. I’d rather have seen more of them on their own in a standalone film to be honest. It’s this horror film set which makes up the bulk of the story or lack of it.

The Gingerdead Man is more like a passenger in his own film and the rest of the running time is filled with the satirical day-to-day happenings of low budget film studio. Effeminate make-up artists. Horny mature actresses desperate to relive their glory days. Disgruntled special effects artists. Angry actors demanding to get paid. Directors so into their own vision for their film that they’re unable to see how poor it is. You know: he stereotypical characters you’ll see in any such film-within-a-film. Anyone with a vague knowledge of Full Moon and their vast film library will at least find some amusement in what they see here as it’s all essentially one big in-joke.

Oh yeah and every so often the Gingerdead Man will pop up and kill someone. No attempt is made to explain just how he’s still alive or how he came to be at the studio. I can’t remember how the original ended and nor do I have a burning desire to sit through it again to find out (the flashback at the beginning here hardly helps matters) so I’m going to go with the flow and assume that something cool, original and totally out of the book of horror resurrections happened. He’s more annoying and irritating than ever before, spouting off some truly banal one-liners and acting like a mischievous kid (albeit one who kills adults!). He does get the best line of the film when he sarcastically quips “who writes this s**t?” and I’m guessing it’s up to the viewer to decide whether it’s a direct joke at their expense. But, as I’ve already said, he’s an afterthought in the film and the ‘hilarious’ hi-jinks of the fictitious film crew take centre stage.

Veteran low budget horror director David DeCoteau makes a cameo. It’s especially funny as he’s known for his horror films which feature homo-erotic undertones. Cue the sight of him here directing a film with semi-naked men dressed up as angels. Long time special effects man (and sometimes director) John Carl Buechler also cameos. Their appearances are arguably the highlight of a really depressing film but unless you know who they are, the jokes will be lost on you.

 

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust is a truly juvenile flick which you’ll most likely hate with a passion or absolutely love depending on your frame of mind and mood. I’ve never been a huge lover of gingerbread and close contact with this one will rot your teeth…and brain.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Gingerdead Man, The (2005)

The Gingerdead Man (1995)

Out of the oven… and into your heart!

In a small diner, deranged killer Millard Findlemeyer opens fire on the Leigh family and kills them all except for the daughter, Sara. During the trial, Sara testifies against him and he is sentenced to death via the electric chair. In a vow of revenge, Findlemeyer’s mother mixes her sons ashes with that of a secret gingerbread cookie mix and sends it to Sara’s bakery. When one of her employees cuts his arm and bleeds into the mix, Findlemeyer is resurrected as a murderous gingerbread man, intent on getting revenge against Sara!

 

Yes that is the plot, as silly as it sounds. I can’t even begin to imagine how the writers pitched this idea to the studio but Charles Band has a fetish for small killer things (eg. Puppet Master, Hideous!, Demonic Toys, et al) so anyone with a killer miniature will immediately get their film authorised! It’s a silly reworking of Child’s Play with a serial killer’s soul being transferred into something small and sinister so you would at least expect this to be campy, corny and a little bit fun? Right? Wrong!

This is one lame film. It doesn’t help that it only clocks in at a paltry seventy minutes but then you’ve got the handful of characters (and I mean handful, there’s only about five people in this film) milling around and doing pretty much nothing for the majority of the running time. It’s dull and dialogue heavy and dying for some serious gingerbread man action. After all, isn’t that the only appeal that this film has? Don’t tell me you’re here to watch one of those brilliant actors doing their thing? Or maybe marvel at John Carl Beuchler’s special effects for the gingerbread man himself?

No you’re here in the hope of catching a glimpse at the rarest of rare serial killers – a twelve-foot tall gingerbread man – slicing and dicing people. Well you best take your binoculars elsewhere because you’re not going to see much of him. The ‘special effects’ for the gingerbread man aren’t too bad. I mean it’s not like he’s on screen a lot for you to get a good look at him but when he is, he looks like a gingerbread man gone wrong. He does things that all gingerbread men do like drive cars so prepare to be amazed! Unfortunately his only real shining moment is when he comes to life for the first time and the novelty value soon wears thin. With such a unique and cheesy premise, it’s a total travesty that it ends up the way it does.

Gary Busey stars and although he’s apparently a bit of a nutter in real life and has a history of playing slightly psychopathic characters in his films, it’s a pity he hasn’t held down a decent A-list career. The man has the psycho role down to a tee (all of that real-life experience!) so it’s a crime that his human form is only in this for about two minutes of screen time right at the start. His voice does the rest of the acting and despite the Gingerdead Man having some decent one-liners, you’d be mistaken for thinking Busey wishes he was somewhere else. I don’t care for any of the other actors present. The script just has them running around this bakery (which only seems to have two or three big rooms) for most of the time but the mute button would have done me a lot more favours.

 

The Gingerdead Man could have become one of those low budget horror franchises like Puppet Master which had a great cult following. With a strong DVD cover, laughably-promising plot and general goofiness it could and should have been better. However it’s poor application of a truly unique premise is just appalling. It’s fifty-five minutes of pure tedium, shoddy writing and a total lack of imagination from all involved. Please spare us the inevitable Gingerdead Man Vs Puppet Master!

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

Four Years Ago, the Puppets of Andre Toulon Vanished Without a Trace. Now The Puppets have Found a New Home, And a New Puppet Master.

The puppets are being looked after by their new master, Dr Magrew. He is trying to unlock their secret of life by experimenting on the young men he hires to carve puppets for his children’s show. He comes across Tank, a down-on-his-luck gas station attendant who is only too happy to work for Magrew, unaware of the danger he is now in.

 

After Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter did such a great job of killing the franchise, Curse of the Puppet Master waited four years to spring itself into the sequel market but with even worse results than before. This one gets off to a bad start by ditching any continuity with the series, forgetting about Rick from the previous two films and replacing him with the new character, Dr Magrew. We don’t get to find out much about why the puppets are now under his care and are willing to kill for him. Not only that but puppets that were killed off in previous films are also resurrected here without any explanation.

To be fair, you won’t really care because the film is too predictable. There’s the Lawnmower Man-style character of Tank who is just too thick for his own good and immediately falls in love with Magrew’s hot daughter. This girl must have been really popular at college because she’s all over Tank within days of meeting him. However this love story is rather forced and dull because it’s all bait for the ridiculous finale where Magrew reveals his true intentions and his daughter is forced to choose between her love or her father. The ending is the worst part of the film bar none. It ends so abruptly and pointlessly that it seems like a reel is missing. If it isn’t then someone really needs shooting for such a terribly crude editing job. It makes no sense whatsoever and there are too many plot threads waiting to be wrapped up which aren’t even acknowledged. I know that some of these Puppet Master films have had open endings to pave the way for direct sequels but this is not the case here as the follow-ups simply forgot anything that happened here and proceed like it never existed.

The puppets were once the stars of this series but with ever-diminishing budgets, the special effects have become too costly and now they’re little more than side attractions. Those expecting to see plenty of Blade, Tunneler, Jester and co. will be grossly disappointed in the amount of screen time they get. Most of the shots of the puppets seem to be culled from stock footage from the other films – I’m sure that at one point, footage from Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge is shown with 1940s Germany in the background! Any stop motion effects have long gone out of the window and now the puppets are just, well, puppets, with limited movement and a complete lack of personality. They don’t do much at all and only kill a handful of people in cheap and nasty ways. Gone are the six-shooting, flame-thrower wielding antics of the past. The feeble body count here is rather bloodless and shows a lack of creativity not just in the killing sense but in the series overall. The puppets were once bad guys but now they’ve been turned into the good guys and can happily co-exist with the family, only killing when they are forced to. They were so much more interesting as devilish little creatures that killed for fun.

 

Not much puppet action, a low body count and a terrible ending – I am a fan of the Puppet Master series but Curse of the Puppet Master takes the series to a new low (which was somehow lowered with the next batch of sequels!)

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Blood Dolls (1999)

Blood Dolls (1999)

Power… Lust… Freaks.

Virgil Travis is a wealthy recluse who lives in his mansion with his dwarf butler and his servant with a painted face. He keeps a female rock band imprisoned in an electrified cage who play music on his command. And he also has a trio of deformed, living dolls which will do his every bidding. When some of his corporate buddies swindle him out of a million dollars, he sends the dolls out to kill them. But he doesn’t expect to fall in love with one of them.

 

Charles Band’s monopoly of the ‘little things killing each other’ genre continues with what is essentially another poor reworking of his most successful hit, Puppet Master, but with all manner of nonsense and silliness thrown in for good measure. Please tell me you just read that plot and had just the smallest bit of curiosity as to what the heck is going on here? It’s easily the weirdest of all of these films, potentially the weirdest film that Band has ever directed (and it’s a big field to choose from!). It’s like he thought of all of the crazy ideas they ever had for a film, stuck them in a blender and then pulled out the resultant script. There’s no other reason for almost everything in Blood Dolls to completely bonkers beyond belief.

Blood Dolls is clearly an attempt to create another franchise in the vein of Puppet Master as each of the little killer dolls has their own personalities and different methods of killing. With there only being three of them, at least their already-limited screen time is spread evenly across the group. They look and act much like their genre counterparts – quite cool looking little things which come to life pretty realistically when they’re in puppet form but as soon as they become digital (no stop-motion here folks) then they look daft. Like the majority of the Puppet Master sequels and all of the similarly-themed Full Moon flicks, the dolls get little screen time but at least they get to do some damage. If their victims aren’t getting their chests drilled, they are getting weights dropped on their heads or being garrotted. Don’t expect anything other than lots of cheesy gore but it’s all done in the same daft spirit as the rest of the film. Most of it is overblown but there are a few instances where Band lets the audience use their imagination.

If the thought of little dolls killing people wasn’t weird enough, check out the rest of the film. It’s just totally manic from the get-go as two investigators head to the mansion and we’re introduced to the rock band, the dwarf, Mr Mascaro (the man servant with a clown-painted face) and then Virgil himself, who wears a huge mask but eventually takes it off to reveal that he has a shrunken head. It’s hard to root for anyone in this film as originally we’re led to believe that Virgil, Mascaro and the dolls will be the villains but later on in the film we come to see that maybe he’s not so bad after all and it’s the slimy corporate suits that are the real bad guys. It’s nice to see evil versus evil for a change instead of some goody-two shoes heroes. Acting wise, it’s your usual mixed bag from Full Moon. There are plenty of unknowns in the lead roles and a couple of character actors in supporting roles. Williams Burns as Mr Mascaro is probably the best of lot. Being able to act serious when you’ve got clown make-up on was probably hard to do but he comes across as intelligent and calculated. Add in a couple of amusing moments with S&M, some ok gore effects, some not so good, and you have a watchable flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

 

Blood Dolls may not be Puppet Master but at least Charles Band still knows how to create an interesting low budget flick filled with weird characters and wacky situations. How many mainstream films can you say included most of the mentioned above? Without being as bonkers as it is, Blood Dolls would have been pretty hard to sit through. But at least with the end result, you’re never sure of what else is hiding around the corner.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Retro Puppet Master (1999)

Retro Puppet Master (1999)

The Legacy Begins…

It’s 1892 and Andre Toulon is the young owner of a puppet theatre in Paris where he comes into the possession of a secret formula which gives life to dead and inanimate matter. He soon becomes the target of an ancient cult of demon worshippers who are attempting to retrieve the formula that was stolen from them by a Egyptian mystic. Toulon protects himself in the only way he can think of – using the secret formula on his array of puppets to bring them to life.

 

The series takes a nosedive into the abyss with this terrible origin story. The sixth sequel to Puppet Master, this instalment takes the unnecessary decision to head back in time to explain how Toulon came to be. Dropping any indication of the sequel number in the title is usually a bad sign for any struggling franchise and for Retro Puppet Master it’s the death knell. Technically it’s a prequel anyway but since the series already had one in the shape of Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge, this one has to go back even further in time. Just how old is this Toulon guy? How eventful was his earlier life that he manages to get two films covering his early years? This is one prequel too many though, in fact one Puppet Master film too many. The magic has long gone. The budget has definitely long gone. The franchise is simply running on empty.

Right let’s get the positive out of the way first. I’ll at least give credit with the series trying to reinvent itself by doing something slightly different (if there’s anything different you can do with the idea of puppets coming to life and killing people). The novelty of seeing the puppets in their crude original forms, plus seeing a couple of puppets Toulon obviously deemed not good enough to keep around, is of decent enough value to waste a bit of time. But that’s it. Nothing else about this sequel is worth the effort. Full Moon slashed their budgets for the sequels and it shows more than ever here. With a Romanian shoot and many of the cast being Romanian, it would be too easy to criticise the studio’s decision. But why the heck not? Shooting in Eastern European has become the norm for low budget studios but surely with these reduced costs the films would be able to stretch the budget a little further to improve the special effects. Or even secure some decent American actors willing to travel over for a few weeks shooting. Or even pay someone to write a proper script? The script is all over the shop and, like most of the sequels, it takes great liberties with its source material. For continuity-fanatics who religiously follow every single plot point from previous films, there’s too much going on here which contradicts earlier films. Best to ignore it!

The only people watching are those likely to be waiting for the little puppets to come alive and start killing people. After all, that’s what made the original such a minor cult hit back in the 80s. For some reason, the series has deemed that this is not the reason people watch the films and it has slowly cut back on the puppet action. Most likely for budgetary reasons, the fact remains that the puppets have gradually turned into side attractions in their own films. With a very slim running time of seventy minutes, you’d surely expect to see more of the puppets – you know, cram as much in as possible. But you won’t get any puppet action until the final third so you’ve got to sit through the rest of this mess before hand as we painstakingly wait for Toulon to learn the Egyptian secrets of the reanimation process.

When the puppets finally do show up, you’ll wonder why they bothered. It was nice to see what the puppets looked like in their original form (Tunneler stills looks great) as well as a couple of newly-designed puppets called Dr Death and Cyclops. But the special effects are laughable and the puppets are virtually immobile. Even at seventy minutes long, the film seems to struggle to fill up the screen time. The plot is forgettable, the acting is what you’d expect from foreigners trying to master the English language and the whole thing looks like it was thought out, filmed and produced within the space of a week.

 

Is Retro Puppet Master the worst seventh instalment of a film franchise? It’s got some tough competition out there! Stick to the first three Puppet Master films and you’ll be happy. This one fails on almost every single level and turns into one of the most pointless wastes of seventy minutes you’re likely to endure. Avoid.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)

Puppets Vs. An All New Evil!

After his last demon was destroyed by Rick and Toulon’s puppets, the demon Sutek creates a puppet of himself to get revenge. Rick’s actions have also drawn the attention of the authorities and The Omega Corporation, who want to get their hands on Toulon’s puppets. Soon a three way struggle is about to begin!

 

Shot at the same time as the last sequel, Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter is potentially even worse and more pointless simply for the fact that at least in the last film there were numerous miniature demons battling the puppets – here there is just one. Instead there are more token human characters wandering aimlessly around the hotel looking for the puppets (and looking to get killed too I might add). However I must add that you need to see the previous film to understand what the heck is going on here and that may even be a stretch.

I can see the attraction in the Puppet Master films – little things hitting each other and blowing each other up is a fun concept, especially when the puppets can look as good as these. Again it’s the puppets that are the stars of the show and each show a lot more character and personality than their human counterparts. Blade is always the highlight as he’s the leader of the gang but the likes of Jester and Pinhead get a bit more screen time. And finally Torch makes an appearance (he was absent from the last part for some reason) although he might as well not have bothered. Their movements are limited and they don’t actually do a lot of walking around on the camera, instead preferring to stand still and growl or raise their arms. In fact you rarely see their legs at all unless they are standing against a wall – perhaps to avoid seeing the stage hand holding them up?

It’s a bit sad to see how the special effects in the series have gradually declined. I mean the first was no masterpiece but at least the puppets moved around. Now there are too many puppets, too much animation to do and not enough budget to cover it all. I guess what budget they had went into the ridiculous puppet Decapitron. As I said in the review for the last film, it’s a silly concept for the puppet given that Toulon created the puppets in Nazi Germany. The film always picks up when the puppets are on screen but dramatically reduces in quality when the humans take over. The main characters return from the previous film and they’re just as bad as they were previously. One of the females just spends the entire film in a coma, occasionally being involved in a dream sequence. And British actor Ian Ogilvy is on hand as the token evil British guy who attempts to steal the puppets but gets his comeuppance along with his cronies. The puppets stalking and killing humans thing got old in the earlier films so why they decided to retread old ground is anyone’s guess.

The story is all over the place here with some big contradictions with the last part. I can’t really understand why they felt the need to spread this whole demonic story across two films – one film would have been sufficient and, had they combined budgets and put their creative energies into making one film instead of two, then maybe the story could have worked. After all, we’d have had more puppet action and maybe some better effects. But with the budget clearing not scraping past Decapitron’s fancy laser weapons, the rest of the film suffers greatly. Sutek’s demon lair is a terrible stage set and looks like it belongs on some ropey 80s kids show. Even the hotel seems to consist of the same three rooms and two corridors. At least the signature Puppet Master theme tune is back which is still probably one of the series’ positives.

 

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter continues the self-destruction of the series with another weak entry. It’s hard to recommend this to even die-hard fans of the series but if you’ve seen Puppet Master 4 then you’ll no doubt have a burning desire to see the resolution of the story. Or maybe not…

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Demonic Toys 2 (2010)

Demonic Toys 2 (2010)

You shouldn’t toy with your personal demons….

A small group of collectors head to a castle on the outskirts of Rome where they attempt to gain possession of the Divoletto doll, billed as the oldest toy in existence. However when they get there they find that the mysterious doll has brought to life the evil Demonic Toys who trap the group inside the castle.

 

Yet another of Charles Band’s formulaic ‘tiny terror’ films that he’s made a career out of, Demonic Toys 2 is a sequel to a film few people would have seen or remembered in the first place. In fact the Demonic Toys have appeared more in crossover films than they have their own franchise which says a lot about their drawing power. They took on the diminutive Dollman in the imaginatively-titled Dollman Vs Demonic Toys and then they fought the puppets from the Puppet Master franchise with the even-more-originally-titled Puppet Master Vs Demonic Toys. Now eighteen years after the original, they finally get their own standalone sequel. Was it worth the wait? Was it hell!

Only two of the original toys return – Baby Oopsy Daisy and the Jack-in-a-Box. Fans of the teddy bear or the robot will be disappointed and no doubt their exclusion is due to budgetary reasons. The newcomer, the devil puppet, looks like a relic from the Puppet Master series and is no way a capable replacement. Like most of Band’s ‘tiny terror’ films, if you can believe the idea that these small, weak and impractical toys can overpower and kill a full grown man, then no doubt your viewing experience will be much more enhanced than mine. Most of the time, the toys are just immobile puppets with little movement other than simple head turning or mouth opening. But and I stress this with importance, in some brief scenes they’re actually animated in CGI. I’m always bemoaning the use of CGI in horror films but not this time. The CGI looks as cheap and nasty as it usually does in low budget films but I’m pleased that the toys actually get more to do simply because they’re CGI and the film can show off a bit. If only some of the later Puppet Master films had gone down this route, they’d have been much the better.

Too often the stars of these films, the ‘tiny terrors’ as I keep calling them, are hardly on screen because it’s too costly to design puppets that move and too time consuming to turn them into stop motion monsters. CGI opens up the possibility that we may see more of these films in future and with the main stars of the show actually getting chance to do something worthwhile for a change instead of hanging around in the background. That said, the toys aren’t on screen for long. Baby Oopsy Daisy gets some humorous dialogue but it’s only funny because it’s obnoxious and foul language being spouted from a little doll.

As for the rest of the film, it’s your typical low budget Full Moon feature. There’s a bunch of eccentric characters gathered together for some reason. There’s about a million and one silly sub plots going on which all lead to nowhere in an attempt to disguise the fact that you hardly see the toys. There’s plenty of overacting going on. There’s an unnecessary light show at some point with smoke and bright lights illuminating some demonic human creature. There are a lot of scenes of characters skulking around in the dark, dank corridors and rooms of the castle. It’s the same set that they’ve used in previous Full Moon films (it’s Charles Band’s property apparently!) and it reeks of sameness. Typically of recent Full Moon efforts, the running time is short, the opening and closing credits take up valuable time and the rest of the film is dragged out as much as it can be.

 

Demonic Toys 2 is further proof that the toys were always sub-par knock-offs of the Puppet Master gang. This is a really feeble sequel which looks and feels cheap and gives us no indication that the quality of Full Moon films will ever return to that of their really creative early 90s output.