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50 years ago, puppet master Toulon (William Hickey), who has somehow
managed to give eternal life to his puppets, killed himself, shortly
before a couple of hitmen could save him the trouble. However, before his
death, Toulon has managed to hide away his (living) puppets in the hotel
he was staying at, so noone could find them.
Now, a group of psychics - Alex (Paul Le Mat), who sees the future in
his dreams, telepathic Clarissa (Kathryn O'Reilly), her scientist
boyfriend Frank (Matt Roe) and fortune teller and white witch Dana (Irene
Miracle) - are called to exactly this hotel, where one of their
associates, fellow psychic Gallagher (Jimmie F.Skaggs) has just passed
away. However, everybody seems to agree that something is not quite right,
and soon enough, our little group tries to find out what's exactly wrong
... the poor bastards, because by now Toulon's puppets have already been
set free by whoever it was, and the puppets go on a killing spree. Plus at
various occasions, Gallagher's corpse is just found sitting around
wherever just to give everyone a jolly good fright.
In the end, only Alex has not yet been killed when Gallagher's widow
Megan (Robin Frates) remembers a diary her hubby kept on reading close to
his death, Toulon's diary, and when Alex and Megan start reading it they
soon find out that Toulon has found the secret of eternal life, and
Gallagher has decided to exploit this knowledge. And wouldn't you know it,
soon enough, Gallagher turns up pretty much alive again and almost
indestructible, and he tells Alex and Megan he only killed the others (or
rather had the others killed) so they don't give him away, and now he
prepares to kill Alex and Megan too ... but he makes one big mistake: when
gloating about his immorttality, he insults the puppets, and the puppets
don't like that and in the end, they tear him apart ...
By and large, Charles Band's production outfit Full Moon is
known mainly for its inexpensive (and often shoddy) direct-to-video genre
pics. In this respect, Puppet Master is a big exception. Sure, it's
still cheaply made, but great, flowing camerawork (courtesy of Sergio
Salvati) and cool puppets and puppet-effects (courtesy of David Allen),
plus a visually compelling direction, a fittingly surreal script and very
nice sets give this film a certain polish put it a notch or two above Full
Moon's usual output and actually turn Puppet Master into a
rather enjoyable little shocker. What keeps the film from being a
full-blown classic though is on one hand its rather mediocre actors, on
the other hand director David Schmoeller's obvious inability to create a
proper spooky atmosphere, which really destroys what could have been the
best moments of the film (like when the thought dead Gallagher shows up
for the first time, very much alive, or when the puppets turn on
Gallagher). Still, even if you don't like direct-to-video-horror à la Full
Moon, this one is definitely worth a look ...