Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
WRITER: Benjamin Carr
DIRECTOR: David Decoteau, by way of Victoria Sloan
STARRING: George Peck as Dr. Magrew
Emily Harrison as Jane
Josh Green as Robert
QUICK CUT: Those puppets you just can't keep down are back again, and this time they're hanging out in cages while their new puppet master with no connection to any previous movie tries to get a dimwitted fella with a gift for carving to make a new puppet.
Dr. Magrew - Our latest in a long line of puppet masters. He's not *really* a doctor, but he plays one in bad movies. He also owns the local museum of odd stuff, which is an appropriate place for the puppets to end up. He has ambitions of finally being the one to replicate Toulon's formula and puppetry, despite others having already beaten him to it. Shhh, don't tell.
Jane - Magrew's daughter, just back from college, and eager to help her dad gain fame and fortune in his little backwater museum of the strange.
Robert - The none too bright guy that falls for Jane, and is hired by Magrew to carve his new puppet.
THE GUTS: Umf, back to puppets and their masters, I guess. Although this is almost a welcome change of pace after the last few months of crap.
We start out simply enough with some familiar sights; the infamous Toulon trunk, and our puppets. Unfortunately for them, the new part of all this is that they're in a cage. Oh, how the puppety have fallen.
Dr. Magrew leaves the puppets in a cage while he drives away with a box that he takes deep into the woods. Once he gets there, he sets the box on fire. I guess he's trying to destroy all traces of these movies. Too late! They're on DVD and online now!
Because we care about puppets and stabbity, the movie decides to kick off after the credits with anything but. Instead we get Jane talking to her father about college, followed by a bunch of small town punks harassing a dude at the nearby gas station. What is this? 1960?
It is becoming clear that it looks like they are taking the setup that they decided was so important that it needed two whole movies to build up to, a setup with a brand new Puppet Master, taking his now benevolent puppets and having their own adventures now that the torch (The figurative one, not the puppet) has been passed, and throwing it out the window. Sigh. This series of movies is a series of ideas and reboots thrown against the wall to see what sticks. And after ten movies, it would seem the answer is "Not much".
The important thing to take away from these scenes is that Robert "Tank" Winsley may act like a bit of a dunce, or just plain shy, but he has a knack for carving things. Dr. Magrew notices the craftsmanship and takes an interest in Tank. And so does Jane.
Doc offers Tank a job at the House of Ideas...er, Marvels, where he keeps a collection of weird and wondrous things. And it also so happens to be where we last saw Toulon's toys.
Jane takes Tank downstairs to show him the stars of the show, our favourite puppets. They all wave and smile and nod, and Robert takes it pretty well that they're doing this on their own. He is slow, isn't he?
Later, everyone is gathered for dinner, and I do mean everyone. I like the setup that to these people, the puppets are a novelty, and almost kept as pets. It's a great scenario for things to go terribly wrong in the next ten minutes.
Please go wrong in the next ten minutes...
And then, Tank says he's confused and doesn't understand how puppets can live. Oh, do NOT start questioning the logic of these movies. Not now. Not six movies in.
The sheriff shows up to make fun of Tank, and ask Magrew some questions about a missing kid in town. The doctor plays dumb, but considering he's said he's tried to make more puppets, and we know where they come from...well.
Afterwards, Magrew takes Robert down to the woodshop and shows him the wood and tools he'll be using. He says he wants the kid to carve out over 400 pieces for the puppet. Is he building a puppet or a computer?!
Tank finishes up for the day and has dinner where he asks about his predecessor who's gone missing, but they brush it off and send him to bed. Where he has a nightmare that he has wodden puppet legs. Well, that's an image that sticks with you.
While he continues to montage up a puppet, Jane comes down to bug Robert some more. The two start talking, and she gives him this big speech about how brains aren't everything, and they end up sleeping together.
As Jane is getting dressed, Tank feels weird and throws back the blanket. If the legs were a sight to behold, then the cogs and gears in his chest are even worse. Now, I have to wonder if everything leading up to this was a nightmare. I'm sure Robert hopes the sex was real.
After the kiss, which was at least real, Jane flirts with Tank some more, but thanks to his nightmare, he seems to be wanting to keep his distance. Still, when she asks for him to join her on an errand, he leaps at the chance.
They wander through the woods a bit for some alone time, and coindentally stumble upon the charred remains of whatever Jane's dad was immolating in the woods at the start of the movie. And since the movie has to give us some concessions to plot and things happening, they also run into the punks that were harassing Tank at the gas station.
Jane finds them first, and they are expectedly mean to her, until Tank arrives and they shift their harassment towards him. That gets boring though, and the leader begins to imply he's going to force himself upon Jane. Tank takes that very well indeed, throwing the leader onto their car and starting to choke him.
Tank freaks out and runs away before going all Of Mice and Men on the poor rabbits. Doc tries to tell Tank this was all fine, he just has a truer, more natural, and more strangly person inside him he needs to let out more often. Should he be encouraging this of the guy showing interest in his daughter?
Later that night, the leader of the pack shows up at the House of Blues to do who knows what. He sneaks into Jane's room, very badly, since she notices him immediately. Before he can do anything though, Pinhead leaps up to save the day.
The guy tosses Pinhead to the ground and curb stomps him good, before being chased off. Jane goes so far as to say Pinhead is dead. No! I refuse to accept that Pinhead goes out in such a lame way in such a lame movie! Tank agrees with me, since he tries to fix the poor, big lug while the Doc drives off into the woods, probably to burn another puppet.
In actuality, he takes Blade and Tunneler to the punk's house and sets them loose to do what they do best. At least he knows the right guys to use to totally fuck a guy up.
While those two go to town on the guy, and lets just say if he survives, Tunneler made sure he won't be having any children, Tank presents a repaired Pinhead to his girlfriend. In fact, he's even better, since Robert replaced some parts that had gotten a little run down over the fifty years since he was built.
Daddy comes back from his little murder, and has a chat with his daughter about the puppets and the bees. He tries to warn her off Tank, probably because he intends to use the kid's brain to power his puppet, what with all the talk of 'pour your soul into the creation' he's been doing.
As the puppet nears completion, Robert starts looking pretty bad, and feeling even worse. They put him to bed and call the doctor. A real doctor, not Magrew, that is. Can they really treat a case of Puppetosa soulitis?
But that's probably a ruse anyways, since daddy dearest sends his daughter off on a highly questionable, fake sounding errand so the two guys can have some alone time.
There's a rather bland scene following that with the cops questioning the dead kid's friends, but it is noteworthy in one regard. The smart-ass punks don't give the cops a thing, so the sheriff decides to bash one of their heads into the fridge to jog his memory. I laughed.
Back at the House of Pancakes, Tank has been stripped almost naked and tied down to a table while Doc does some finishing touches on the puppet. This is definitely a David Decoteau film.
The cops arrive and they get about 45 seconds to try and intimidate Magrew before he sics the puppets on them. I must say, it is refreshing to see the gang with some bite back in them and just doin' the killin'. They'd swung too far in the direction of heroes.
Jane arrives to pick up the package, and gasp surprise! it's not there. She tries reaching home, but dad's too busy trying to create a new, perfect race of beings in his basement to answer the phone.
Figuring out that things are not what they seem, Jane rushes home and randomly stops to go look at one of her father's charred projects in the woods. That's...a random leap, isn't it? Not to mention he did a shitty job of burning, since the puppet is pretty damned intact.
The scene is just a little bit horrifying as this disfigured, half-man puppet thing starts calling out her name, and trying to move despite being a little singed and not quite human. Creep factor 10!
Back at the House of the Rising Sun, Doc reveals his new puppet, and... You know, I was joking about builiding a computer. But this puppet has a small screen for a head, go figure.
Suddenly, Tank starts twitching and glowing, as lightning shoots out of him and into the puppbot. Ummm, that's not how this works. His brain is supposed to be sliced open and...oh, never mind. Progress?
Things continue to go off the continuity path as Tank's body magically disappears and...snicker. His face appears on the tiny screen. This is sillier than Decapitron's head morphing into Toulon's. Oh geeze it looks so bad.
For some reason, this experiment makes the puppets turn on their puppet master. Sure, that's nothing new for them, but they usually have an excuse, like the guy beating and abusing the puppets themselves. This is just outta nowhere. I guess they only like it when nebbishy dorks play god.
As usual, Blade does most of the work, and it gets pretty brutal. He slashes the ever-lovin' hell out of Doc's face and hands. Blood goes EVERYwhere. The screen is a sea of red by the time the rest of the puppets decide to join in.
Jane finally returns home and finds her father miraculously still alive for all that blood loss. Mostly so he can point and gloat over what he did to her boyfriend. Yeah, that won't win you any fast trips to the ER, pal.
And of course, Tank's new body is a literal tank, with treads to move around on, and a barrel for an arm. Doesn't look particularly wooden, either. Tank gets tired of listening to the doctor crowing over what he did, and zaps him with a really cool lightning blast from the gun that make the Doc's eyes spark.
...And then the movie ends. Just like that. Doc gets shot in the head, credits roll.
What the Romero?!
That completely screws over any and all storytelling! How does Jane react? Why? What happens? What HAPPENED? And unlike PM 4, there is no to be continued, and they never did continue it! What the fuuuuck?
Video: It's pretty bad, considering this is a direct to video release from 1998. It should look better than it does. It looks so cheap, and you can tell that the bloom is off the Full Moon rose by this point.
Audio: An okay mix that does what it needs to do, with nothing too muffled or inaudible.
Special Features: At least at this point they were still make those fun Videozone features after the movies. Although they're very promotional by this point in time, there's still a few fun bits about the puppetry.
First Blood: We finally get a dead body 51 minutes into the 75 minute movie when Blade and Tunneler go to town on the bully.
Best Corpse: I think the bully is the only death in this movie. Well, Tank kinda, but he gets uploaded to a puppetbot. And I guess the Doc dies at the end too, but the movie ended too soon to tell for sure!!
Blood Type - C+: ALMOST non existant, but they get some points for the blood bath from Blade slashing across the doc at the end. Also some decent effects for Tank's nightmare puppet parts and the charred failed experiment.
Sex Appeal: Decoteau delivers many a shirtless man, as usual.
Movie Review: From a storytelling standpoint, this movie is the worst of the bunch. It has a non-ending. It just plain stops. There is no real story or character development. It's too damned short for any of that stuff. Just as things are getting interesting...credits! The directing is okay but unremarkable. And the story? Let me spell it out. A doctor is working on experiments. Brings a guy in to help him out, that falls for his daughter. About midway through the movie, the doctor releases his deadly experiments into the home of a guy that has troubled his daughter. He then turns his assistant into his latest experiment, but things go wrong and the monstrosity kills the doctor. HOLY SHIT THIS MOVIE IS SSSSSSS. And guess which one is better? MUCH better. You only rank one out of five evil puppets.
Entertainment Value: There are a few moments of entertainment at least. The puppets are always fun. Although a good chunk of their footage is from previous movies!! The acting is just bland, neither good nor bad. The plot doesn't give you much to laugh about. You just sit there shaking your head for 80 minutes. The only good thing about this movie, that elevates it above the last two, is that the puppets are back to being mischievous and amoral, if not evil. A wise choice, in an otherwise intractable mess of a movie. Two out of five plot points stolen from Sssssss.
This movie really Tanked.