Puppet Meister (1989)
Puppet Master (1989) is so slow that it features people sleeping. That’s one of the first scenes. A guy is nodding off and wakes up to the intense action of people walking. People have accepted this movie, or at least they used to, and it’s a mild cult hit. Why? I think it’s mostly because of the director David Schmoeller and producer Charles Band, who made money on low-budget cult hits like The Re-Animator and Ghoulies. The unique style at least makes his movie passable. This series has ten sequels, so something’s going on with it.
There’s some positives about this movie. The music is the first thing that hits you about this movie. The score was done by Richard Band, brother to the producer. It’s strangely foreign and eerie, and the theme is probably the composer’s best work. William Hickey is a good choice to lead the intro, but his character is wasted because we never learn anything about him. Thankfully, the mystical strangeness surrounding the guy is enough to catch your attention. He kills himself before some Nazis can get their hands on his secrets.
The middle part of the movie follows a group of four psychics. All of them are idiots, which works to put the audience on the side of the killer puppets, not the main characters. I don’t think that’s what’s intended though, because the movie just goes on and on, with our stupid characters talking to each other, going to a Ramada Inn, running around and talking to each other again in a heated conversation. This strategy of stretching the runtime with lengthy dialogue is probably due to the budget constraints. Still, it doesn’t work to make me engaged.
Full Moon Studios uses stop motion and other camera tricks to make the puppets come alive. Most of it works, but it looks kinda cheap. The first person shots are a trick that works the best, but the puppet work is not Ray Harryhausen work we’re talking about here, so most of the time the puppets look awkward. The puppet Pinhead has a shrunken head and large hands, which make him look silly. Blade is the best puppet, with his knife hand. No Chucky though. Too bad.
Some of the things the characters do in this film are just down right weird and out-of-place. The characters stab a guy to see if he’s really dead. Say what? Some lady carries around a stuffed dog and talks to it. Neck stabbings don’t bleed very much. It’s only a flesh wound I guess.
Overall, this movie is a mix of good and bad. It has decent atmosphere, but the characters don’t work. At all. None of them have any backstory or history, even the mystical guy who created the killer puppets. Why does he do that? How did he do it? None of these questions are answered. But are you really watching this movie for the characters? No, not really. It’s a horror movie with killer puppets. It does the job, which is probably why it has ten sequels.