Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, 2018.
Directed by Sonny Lagula and Tommy Wiklund.
Starring Thomas Lennon, Kennedy Summers, Nelson Franklin, Barbara Crampton, and Udo Kier.
Edgar and two friends travel to a small town convention marking 30 years since the infamous ‘Toulon Murders’ when an ancient evil possesses all the puppets brought by visitors sparking a brutal massacre.
In its opening, a mysterious stranger rolls into town to kick things off and although it feels stereotypical he’s undeniably unnerving both in his Freddy Krueger-like appearance and intimidating demeanour. While it feels quite disconnected to the rest of the film, it does well at preparing the audience for what’s to come. Which is to say, it’s going to get very weird. It’s worth knowing that Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a reboot of the Puppet Master franchise, although it does pay homage to the several entries that’s come before it by using a similar mythology and still keeping the legacy of Andre Toulon alive. It masterfully gives the audience a crash course on the history of the new film with an artistic title sequence which proves to be haunting alongside its signature theme music.
Thomas Lennon’s performance is initially quite wooden as we’re introduced to Edgar after a messy divorce. And although he does lighten up towards the back half of the film, he doesn’t really grip the audience. Even when his character arc moves at a confusingly break-neck speed to give him some on-screen chemistry, he never demands the audience’s attention. Although his sarcastic best friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) is a pain to everyone around him, he’s a complete scene stealer. He easily has some of the best lines in the film and even though it’s an incredibly funny hour and a half run-time, he has most of the best moments. In his screenplay, S. Craig Zahler (Brawl in Cell Block 99) brings every ounce of his wit and violent black comedy in his screenplay that makes it a horrific delight to watch.
After the film assembles a group of characters in a hotel with a ‘true crime’ tour that acts as the exposition filled history of the dolls and the ‘Toulon Murders’, The Littlest Reich begins to hurl itself from kill to kill with absurdity and insanity that B-Movie horror fans will really appreciate. With gory practical effects that have a vicious bite, the dolls have their way with the unwitting convention guests. Although the film takes the time to explain that these Nazi Puppets are hunting anyone who isn’t part of the Aryan ‘master-race’, no one is safe. There’s an obvious attempt at social commentary at one point and it never lands the mark. But in a film about animated killer puppets brought to life by an undead Nazi locked in a tomb, are we really watching for intellectual messages and fleshed out character arcs? It’s completely self-aware, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.
There are are some genuinely hilarious kills – if you have the stomach for it. Whether it’s the flying puppet who severs someones head before it falls into a toilet, or the tendon slasher mid-passion, this has it all. It’s clear that S. Craig Zahler knows exactly how to have as much bizarre and perverse fun with The Littlest Reich. Sure, the jump scares are visible a mile away, and it plays up to every horror trope imaginable. But thanks to it’s self-aware nature, it gets away with each of its blood-thirsty ludicrousness. It’ll be a surprise to absolutely no one that the door is left wide open for a sequel, and it’ll be interesting to see how they top the wild slaughter of this entry.
With heinous, disgusting and laugh-out-loud murders, it’s shocking to describe The Littlest Reich as brilliant… But here we are. For fans of over the top gore and ridiculousness, this film consistently delivers. While it might not redefine the genre anytime soon, this horror comedy is undeniably entertaining. This is definitely a case of ‘so bad it’s good’ but it would be hard not to love this new era of the Puppet Master franchise. To put it bluntly, this is the most fun I’ve had watching a horror movie in years.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★