Fantasia Festival 2018 rolls on with a little gory help from approximately 40 murderous puppets. Time for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reicht.
Let’s bitch it out…
Audiences will know if the latest entry in the long running Puppet Master franchise is for them from the very first scene: a severely burnt French Nazi named Andre Toulon (played by genre vet Udo Kier) orchestrates the brutal vehicular murder of a pair of lesbians in the small town Postville, TX in 1989.
Screenwriter S. Craig Zahler and co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund make it explicit that the women’s sexuality is the motivation behind their murder, which is gruesome and graphic, as well as outrageous and well-executed. It’s the kind of middle finger to the PC police move that you might expect from a low-brow exploitation flick or a gory 80s slasher film from a bygone era. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reicht is most certainly the former and clearly evokes the latter; if you can accept it for what it is, the film is certainly entertaining. If you’re not willing to take the piss, or if you’re looking for substance of any kind, this is probably not the film for you.
The first film to be released under (the recently relaunched) Fangoria, Puppet Master is the literal embodiment of the call to take horror films less seriously. What little plot there is is perfunctory and exists solely to get the three main characters – recent divorce Edgar (Thomas Lennon), his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and obnoxiously lovable BF Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) – to Postville in time for a hotel massacre of epic (or is it miniature?) proportions. The backstory for Toulon, his inappropriate puppets and the auction that draws a large group of underdeveloped future murder victims feels padded, protracted and mostly nonsensical and the fact that Zahler (whose creative inconsistencies I have my issues with) struggles mightily to create enough content to fill 86 minutes of screen time suggests that his script needed another draft or two.
These gripes, however, are unimportant. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reicht is a film that explicitly denies traditional film criticism, which is, in reality, its greatest strength. If you’re looking for plot, character development or even a satisfying ending, you’re looking in the wrong place. If outrageous and offensive death sequences are your thing? Then this is the film for you.
Alternative sexualities, POC, children, pregnant women – all are on the chopping block for tasteless, spectacularly over the top deaths. Boobs are on frequent (often needless) display. The puppets range from intriguing to schlocky to downright shoddy and their ability to convincingly pull off a murder is laughable…which is entirely the point. This is a film whose sole purpose is to shock and offend and in that regard it does its job exceedingly well.
I just wish it the filmmakers had used Barbara Crampton more.
The Bottom Line: If you’re not clapping with glee at the sight of a man getting decapitated in the bathroom and urinating on his own severed head, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reicht is not the film for you.