Morbidly Beautiful

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PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is the 80s style horror movie that fans have been asking for, and this movie has delivered in spades.

Shudder, the horror/thriller movie streaming service, recently broadcast a 24-hour movie marathon called The Last Drive-In, hosted by legendary MonsterVision host, Joe Bob Briggs. Most of the movies shown were culled from the 1980s, and were a mix of great, entertaining, and bad movies. But the most important reminder that came out of The Last Drive-In is that horror movies can be fun.

Recent hit horror films like HEREDITARY, THE WITCH, IT FOLLOWS, and GET OUT have a more serious tone. These movies are fan and critical darlings, but lean to the darker, dramatic side of horror.

Sometimes, I think, we need a reminder that horror movies can be gory fun.

I like to use a term coined by director Sam Raimi — spook-a-blast — to describe movies that are balls-out gore films, and have just as many fun, over-the-top ridiculous moments as they do scary moments. Movies that can be described as spook-a-blasts are EVIL DEAD 2, RE-ANIMATOR, DEAD SNOW, DRAG ME TO HELL.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH has shocked and delighted festival audiences across the United States, and has now made its Canadian premier at the Fantasia Film Festival. Directed by Sonny Laguna (WE ARE MONSTERS) and Tommy Wiklund (WITHER), with a script written by S. Craig Zahler (BONE TOMAHAWK, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99), PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH has the perfect creative team in place to bring fans a PUPPET MASTER movie unlike any seen before.

The movie begins in Texas, 1989. Inventor Andre Toulon (Udo Kier) is living in Postville, freaking out the locals at the town watering hole and continuing his work on murderous Nazi puppets in his home. Disgusted by a lesbian couple showing some public display of affection, Toulon dispatches his puppets to take care of the women, with extreme prejudice. The police trace the murders back to Toulon’s home, and Toulon is killed in a shootout with the police.

Thirty years later, a Dallas-based comic book author/artist, Edgar (Thomas Lennon), has moved back into the family home with his parents after a painful divorce. Looking around his long-dead brother’s bedroom, which is still decorated the way it was when he died, Edgar finds one of Toulon’s puppets in cardboard box in the back of a closet.

Learning that, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Toulon’s death, there will be an auction of Toulon’s puppets at a hotel in Postville, Edgar sees a way to make some quick money so he can move out of his parents’ house quicker. Taking along his comic book show owner boss, Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) and a new woman he has started to date, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), Edgar heads to the auction site where there will be a gathering of Toulon puppet collectors. The special event will bring together up to 63 of Toulon’s puppet creations.

With all the puppets back in one location, will it be long before the murders start again? The answer, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is no. It won’t be long at all.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is a horror fan’s dream movie.

Its cast is filled with genre favorites like Barbara Crampton and Udo Kier, with an appearance by STREETS OF FIRE star Michael Pare as a cliché dropping police investigator. The movie also brought in legendary Fabio Frizzi (ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND) to score the movie.

The secret weapon of this movie is special effects coordinator and creature/puppet designer Tate Steinsiek. The puppet and gore effects in PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH are some of the best I’ve seen. The puppets move fast and are fiendish, giving them an air of evil diabolicalness. The gore effects and kill scenes are some of the most inventive I’ve ever seen in a movie, and not only harken back to the spook-a-blast 80s movies, but to some of the crazier Italian splatter films of the 70s and 80s.

There are at least four death scenes that caused me to cheer and cackle loudly**, and that’s due to Steinsiek’s work on this film.

Toulon’s puppets get a slight makeover that give them a more sinister feel than in the previous PUPPET MASTER movies. Old favorites like Blade, Pinhead, Torch and Tunneler make appearances, and some surprising new puppets are unveiled. One puppet even seems to be created out of a drone with an arm that ends in spinning blades.

The movie is offensive, it’s gross, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s got geysers of blood filling the screen, and it’s one of the craziest, over-the-top horror films I’ve ever seen. You should run, not walk, to see this movie when it comes out. See this movie in a theater full of horror fans, and I guarantee you will have one of the best movie experiences ever.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH will have a limited theatrical run and a release to all VOD platforms on August 17th.

** Reviewer Note: My wife wasn’t watching the movie with me, but she heard me cackling loudly as I watched PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH. Wanting an explanation for my cackle, I stood in front of her to reenact one of the best death scenes in the movie. Wildly flailing my arms, dancing in front of her as she sat on the couch, I did my best to portray the scene I had watched. When done I asked, “Isn’t that awesome?!” She gathered up our dogs, said goodnight, and left the room shaking her head. Despite that, I consider my reenactment a complete success.