If ever a film had an “abandon hope, all ye who enter here” sign right at the very beginning, this one does. The camera pans over the entrance to a cemetery…only to see the sign spelled “Cemetary”. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and say it was an homage to “Pet Sematary” and we can move on.
I now realise, two films in, that the puppets are the stars of these films, with the humans as an ever-replenishable source of meat to be chopped to pieces or burned. Andre Toulon, the creator of the puppets, is conveniently buried in a cemetery which is next door to the beautiful Bodega Bay Hotel, location of the first film and this one. I know when I want to go to a picturesque hotel, I make sure it’s right next to a cemetery, so it’s good this film realised that.
After the puppets use some magic goo to bring Toulon back to life, we move on to the “stars” of the film, investigators for the US Office Of Paranormal Claims, which we’re expected to believe is a government-funded organisation. Filming this must have been traumatic for Carolyn, played by Elizabeth Maclellan, as this was her last ever film. Perhaps the idea of future Puppet Master films was too much for her.
This film is for you if you’re a fan of stars of previous films in the series being written out in really stupid ways. Megan, who survived the previous film, apparently had her brains extracted through her nose by Blade, my favourite of the puppets, at some point in between the films; and Alex, the business-mulleted hero, was suspected of her murder, thrown in an asylum and began suffering from seizures and hallucinations. Did they ask for too much money to return? Or did they both sensibly decide they had something better to do, like organise their sock drawer?
We’ve got 4 psychic investigators, a psychic hired by the investigators to see if she can sense something that science can’t (?) and, when psychic lady gets offed by one of the puppets, her son turns up to investigate. Toulon, in full Invisible Man bandage garb, turns up and pretends to be the new owner of the hotel by inheritance, and the federal employees just accept it rather than calling the police on the obviously super-creepy guy. In fact, this film seems to be set in some police-free world, as no-one reports deaths here.
The puppet activity then hots up, with them wandering hither and yon killing people whose relation to the hotel is tangential at best. Now, if you were paying attention during the first film, you might have thought Toulon was a good guy – chased out of Europe by the Nazis, killing himself rather than letting his magic puppets fall into their hands. Not so – he wants to kill a bunch of people in order to do some magic spell, which involves putting himself and Carolyn into the bodies of mannequins as she reminds him of his dead wife. It’s good to see the old dead wife resurrected as new person plotline, a horror classic.
This film also is a recipient of the Caroline Award, named for my wife and awarded to films which feature male (but no female) nudity. Psychic Lady’s son has to fight Torch, a puppet with a Nazi helmet and a flamethrower for an arm, and as he leaps out of bed to put a fire out, we’re treated to a good five seconds of man-ass. This may have something to do with producer (and director of future installments) David DeCoteau, who’s best known for several series of low-budget supernatural films with strong homoerotic tendencies, featuring guys hired due to how they look with their shirts off more than acting ability. Saying that, there’s eye candy for admirers of the female form in the film too, but they remain responsibly dressed throughout.
So, the Puppet Master mythos has been enriched, and a decently entertaining story has been told. I don’t think it benefits from being watched immediately after part 1, as they clearly decided to change the emphasis of the film towards the puppets, from mindless followers to creatures with their own agency. As the next installment is called “Toulon’s Revenge”, I assume that Toulon’s journey to full-fledged villain of the piece is now complete as well…I rather enjoyed this film, despite its myriad flaws and oddities. I’m feeling more and more positive about the next nine films.
POSTSCRIPT: No Youtube Film Club for this one, but Full Moon Pictures did, for a while, put special behind-the-scenes films called “Videozone” on the end of all their VHS releases, and those are available on Youtube. Enjoy the one for Puppet Master 2 here: