Movie Review: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

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Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (4K UHD) [Blu-ray]
Starring Michael Pare;Udo Kier;Barbara Crampton;Thomas Lennon;Jenny Pellicer;Nelson Franklin;Charlyne Yi

This past Friday, horror film magazine Fangoria made its cinematic debut, ahead of its return to print in October, as one of the producers of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Launching with a limited theatrical release and wider distribution for rent or purchase on VOD platforms, the release encountered one significant SNAFU as etailer giant Amazon released the title for purchase for only 99 cents through its streaming video service. 

Written by S. Craigh Zahler, The Littlest Reich takes the concept and characters originated by Charles Band over the course of the franchise's prior twelve installments and reboots the story, making this entry the perfect starting point for newcomers. Although I'd been aware of the Puppet Master movies for a good, long while now, I'd never actually seen one. Having Zahler on screenwriting duties was enough to pique my interest though. I loved his horror-western flick Bone Tomahawk, which he wrote and directed, and tapping him to write a movie about maniacal killer puppets was a guaranteed way to get my butt in a seat to watch this. Amazon's screw-up only helped to ensure I was absolutely going to watch it.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a thinly plotted, low budget gorefest that eschews deep and meaningful characterizations in favor of brutal kills and a few doses of T&A. It's also one of the most entertaining diversions I've ever spent 99 cents on, and I can happily say I got my money's worth. This is a fun, silly, utterly ridiculous bit of pulpy midnight theater. 

After crossing paths with Andre Toulon, a Nazi who escaped to America, a lesbian couple is savagely murdered by possessed dolls. The responding officers track the killers to Toulon's mansion (exactly how they deduced that puppet maker Toulon was behind the murder is something the script skirts by in order to get to the action) and kill him. Thirty years later, in the present-day, Toulon's mansion has become a museum exhibit and an auction of his belongings are slated for that weekend. Edgar (Thomas Lennon), a comic book writer and artist, lost his brother to mysterious circumstances as a child, and hopes to sell his Toulon puppet for some quick cash. Tagging along for the weekend getaway are his new girlfriend, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and pal Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). The gang checks into a hotel stocked with a number of guests, many of whom are also looking to auction their puppets. 

It's a simple set-up, and the hotel setting gives us plenty of potential victims, many of whom were unwittingly thoughtful enough to bring their own reanimating object of demise. Once the guests are all checked in and we're given enough background on Toulon's hard-core Nazism and occult tendencies (we're also given Toulon's backstory during the movie's opening credit sequence, told in colorfully comic book-like fashion that's totally aces) by the mansion's tour guide, played by Scream Queen Barbara Crampton, we're off to the races.

 Source: IMDB

Source: IMDB

The Littlest Reich is cheaply made, but whatever money went into the production is readily apparent in the buckets of blood decorating the hotel sets and just about every single cast member along the way. The practical effects are lovingly done, sparing not an ounce of squirm-inducing gore to bring the creative kills to life. While it's easy to spot the mannequin stand-ins on occasion, odds are you'll be too entertained to care about some of the movie's chintzier moments, which the film more than makes up for with sheer outrageousness. The killer Nazi puppets are brought to life through stop-motion, and are wholly unsympathetic antagonists in possession of a singular goal: kill everyone.

It's a sad fact of life that in modern America, Nazis are seemingly everywhere - they're in the White House, they're running for Congress and local government seats, they're marching outside WorldCon 76, they're holding rallies all over the place. The Littlest Reich is, if nothing else, certainly timely (there's even an amphibian puppet that seems a clear nod to the alt-right's hate symbol of Pepe the Frog) and none are safe. Zahler, and directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, check all the potential victim boxes - gays, blacks, Jews, Asians, a gypsy, men, women, and children all serve as fodder for Toulon's puppets, who drill their way through walls and ceilings, fly through windows, and race down hallways to bludgeon, beat, stab, and set aflame their victims. None are safe, few are spared, and it's fun to see these little Nazi bastards get their comeuppance in a few welcome scenes of just desserts during the flick's finale.

It's clear Cinestate, Fangoria's new owners, intend to rejuvenate the Puppet Master franchise, and they're off to a solidly fun start with this reboot. It's not high-art in the classical sense, nor, really, is it a good movie in any sense, but in terms of animated Nazi puppets going on a vicious kill spree it certainly delivers on its schlocky premise. This sucker is all kinds of hammy, splattery, low-brow, B-movie fun and Zahler pens a few scenes that are delightfully inventive, and at least one moment that is startlingly, wickedly obscene in its execution. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a gloriously cheesy, delightfully profane, and welcomingly sick. It's easily the most rewarding and funnest 99c movie I've ever watched. 

Final rating (out of 5):


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A Sci-Fi November Prep List For A Trump Presidency

Since it's Sci-Fi November, and we in the States just elected a radioactive septic tumor and his religious zealot nutbag of a running mate to the highest office in our nation, I thought a list of books to help us prepare for the future may be helpful. You may want to keep these titles handy in order to properly plan and prepare for what's in store for us moving forward.

The Dead Zone by Stephen King.

When Johnny Smith was six-years-old, head trauma caused by a bad ice-skating accident left him with a nasty bruise on his forehead and, from time to time, those hunches...infrequent but accurate snippets of things to come. But it isn't until Johnny's a grown man—now having survived a horrifying auto injury that plunged him into a coma lasting four-and-a-half years—that his special abilities reallypush to the force. Johnny Smith comes back from the void with an extraordinary gift that becomes his life's curse...presenting visions of what was and what will be for the innocent and guilty alike. But when he encounters a ruthlessly ambitious and amoral man who promises a terrifying fate for all humanity, Johnny must find a way to prevent a harrowing predestination from becoming reality. [Amazon]

The Acolyte by Nick Cutter

Jonah Murtag is an Acolyte on the New Bethlehem police force. His job: eradicate all heretical religious faiths, their practitioners, and artefacts. Murtag’s got problems—one of his partners is a zealot, and he’s in love with the other one. Trouble at work, trouble at home. Murtag realizes that you can rob a citizenry of almost anything, but you can’t take away its faith. When a string of bombings paralyzes the city, religious fanatics are initially suspected, but startling clues point to a far more ominous perpetrator. If Murtag doesn’t get things sorted out, the Divine Council will dispatch The Quints, aka: Heaven’s Own Bagmen. The clock is ticking towards doomsday for the Chosen of New Bethlehem. And Jonah Murtag’s got another problem. The biggest and most worrisome . . . Jonah isn’t a believer anymore. [Amazon] [My review]

Christian Nation by Frederic C. Rich

“They said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do.”

So ends the first chapter of this brilliantly readable counterfactual novel, reminding us that America’s Christian fundamentalists have been consistently clear about their vision for a "Christian Nation" and dead serious about acquiring the political power to achieve it. When President McCain dies and Sarah Palin becomes president, the reader, along with the nation, stumbles down a terrifyingly credible path toward theocracy, realizing too late that the Christian right meant precisely what it said.

In the spirit of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, one of America’s foremost lawyers lays out in chilling detail what such a future might look like: constitutional protections dismantled; all aspects of life dominated by an authoritarian law called “The Blessing,” enforced by a totally integrated digital world known as the "Purity Web." Readers will find themselves haunted by the questions the narrator struggles to answer in this fictional memoir: "What happened, why did it happen, how could it have happened?" [Amazon]

Mad Max: Fury Road (Black and Chrome Edition)

Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot's five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland. [Amazon]


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Watch This Now: Bone Tomahawk

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Bone Tomahawk

About Bone Tomahawk

When a group of cannibal savages kidnaps settlers from the small town of Bright Hope, an unlikely team of gunslingers, led by Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), sets out to bring them home.

Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox Runtime: 2 hours, 12 minutes


My Thoughts

Western-horror mashups are a genre I need more of in my life, and Bone Tomahawk delivers on its premise of cowboys versus cannibals in spades.

As Sheriff Hunt, Kurt Russel leads a four-man squad into the hills to rescue the abducted wife of cowboy Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson). Joined by O'Dwyer, Hunt's Back Up Deputy, and sharpshooter John Brooder (Matthew Fox), the group is beset by O'Dwyer's broken leg and a group of Mexican bandits who make off with their horses.

Bone Tomahawk is deliberately paced, lulling viewers into a false sense of security. When violence strikes, it comes in quick, rapid-fire bursts straight out of nowhere and provides enough shock to keep the viewer glued to the screen. In between are quiet interludes, oftentimes filled with witty banter that really help to personalize each of these characters. Russel, as expected, continues to be at the top of his game, and it was terrific fun to see him back in a western and bringing with him the same commanding authority that made him so iconic as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.

Matthew Fox, however, was the big surprise for me here. His John Brooder is an interesting sort, his keen intellect setting him apart from, and in his own mind oftentimes above, the others. He's smarter than everyone else and damn well knows it, and he's quick with a rifle. When we first meet him he convinces the sheriff of his place on the group on account of the high number of Indians he has killed. When chided for boasting about such a thing, he deflects - it wasn't a boast, merely a fact. He's coldly analytical and consistently interesting when on screen.

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The cannibal savages provide bookends to the narrative, but their presence in the finale catapults this western into the truly vicious, reminding viewers that this is a horror story cast in a Wild West mold. While their introduction at the film's start is tense, it's not until the last half-hour or so that we get a true taste of their intensity. I won't spoil it, but these savages (or troglodytes in this movie's parlance) are truly and wonderfully that, and screenwriter and director S. Craig Zahler rises above mere Native American stereotypes and into the otherworldly territory of the great unknown in the open wilds of the Old West. There's gore aplenty, and the violent climax provides several scenes that are brutally wince-inducing.

Bone Tomahawk works as both a terrific western and as a haunting horror flick, with a top-notch cast that brings Zahler's vision to life perfectly. Highly recommended.

Bone Tomahawk is available now on Amazon Prime and Blu-ray.

 

https://youtu.be/0ZbwtHi-KSE


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Great Martian War

This video popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, and it's just too damn cool not to share. Using archival footage from World War I and a heady dose of CGI, the film's creators have developed a sweet little bit of alt history.

[Aside: If you're in the mood for more alt history, check out Samuel Peralta's latest anthology, Alt.History 101 (Alt.Chronicles), an awesome new companion series to his line of Future Chronicles anthos.]

All right, on with the show!

[embed]https://vimeo.com/107454954[/embed]


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SciFriday: Short Films

There's been a couple nifty, buzz-worthy science fiction shorts making their rounds on the Internet of late thanks to pending film deals. First up is Sundays, which has been picked up for the big-screen treatment by Warner Bros. in a bidding auction. Not too bad for first-time filmmaker Mischa Rozema. It's visually impressive and if the right writer can be found, should make for one heck of a cinematic journey. [embed]https://vimeo.com/44102825[/embed]

Neil Blomkamp and Simon Kinberg have picked up Leviathan, with the script by Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls, to be based on a proof of concept trailer created by Ruairi Robinson. The short film, a Vimeo Staff Pick, has a bit of an alien Moby Dick vibe to it, and could make for a terrific silver-screen spectacle.

[embed]https://vimeo.com/122368314[/embed]


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Quick Hits

I got hit with an awful intestinal or stomach bug over the weekend, and have had a rather unpleasant week as a result. I'll spare you the details, but it definitely cramped the amount of writing, proof-reading, and blog updating that I had wanted to focus on. So, today I just want to make a few bullet points on the geeky stuff I've been ingesting while ill. Warning: this is seriously TV and comic-book heavy, so if that's not your bag, do move on.

  • Spider-Gwen. What an awesome character, and I love the concept and design.
  • Powers finally got its television debut thanks to Sony and their Playstation console last week! This past Tuesday saw the release of Episode 4, which was pretty dynamite. I'm a fan of the comic, and am really enjoying the series. It's not a straight-up adaptation and, instead, takes its cue from the recent Marvel productions and AMC's The Walking Dead. This is definitely Powers, but it puts a slightly different spin on the concept while maintaining the tone and all those cool ideas from the comic. Walker and Pilgrim are well cast, although the portrayal of Deena Pilgrim is more of a hybrid with Enki Sunrise, and I'm waiting for Deena to become the more hilarious, foul-mouthed woman of the comics. At times it definitely feels low-budget, and certain scenes feel very much like it's just two actors on a set. Some of the effects resemble a well-produced YouTube fan video, but maybe if the series is successful enough Sony will give them more money to work with. They definitely aren't putting Marvel money into this, but overall I'm finding it to be a pretty solid adaptation. And Eddie Izzard as Wolfe, a super-powered cult-leader and psycho cannibal, is wonderfully creepy, coming in fresh off his brief run on Hannibal. You can watch Episode 1 at YouTube.
  • Bosch got picked up for season 2 by Amazon! So, that's awesome. And Sleepy Hollow was just renewed for season 3. And Hannibal season 3 is finally coming in June!
  • And have you seen these new trailers of Avengers: Age of Ultron? I love the sight of Cap throwing a motorcycle into a jeep of bad guys. Truly excellent!

[embed]https://youtu.be/0WM915QsOyI[/embed]

[embed]https://youtu.be/JAUoeqvedMo[/embed]

  • I'm currently reading an ARC of Ania Ahlborn's Within These Walls and damn if it's not absolutely terrific. I should have a review up next week and am little more than half-way through at the moment. I'm really, really happy with this book so far, and it's got everything: haunted house, intrepid true crime writer, a cult leader with a history of gory murders, and family angst galore. Such an easy story to fall into and I'm looking forward to digging in much deeper during the weekend.

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Reblog: Dr. Seuss Does Horror - Neatorama

In Whoville, everyone can hear you scream.

DeviantART member DrFaustusAU does all sorts of inventive mashups, using different entertainment franchises and mimicking the styles of other artists. His impressions of Dr. Seuss are particularly good, which he demonstrates by showing Suess-style versions of The Silence of the Lambs, The Last of Us, and other horror movies and video games.

Check out the rest at the link:

Source: Dr. Seuss Does Horror - Neatorama.


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Sci-Fi November: WANDERERS - A Short Film

WANDERERS_ringshine_03 It's hard to believe that November is nearly over, and with it the conclusion of this year's Sci-Fi Month (you can find all my contributions here).

I want to leave you with this short speculative science fiction film, Wanderers, by . The voice-over is excerpted from Carl Sagan's reading of Pale Blue Dot, and the visual imagery is inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson and Arthur C. Clarke, whose names should all be familiar to fans of science, both fiction and non-.

Wernquist writes about this film on vimeo:

Wanderers is a vision of humanity's expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available. Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea with the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.

You can find more information on this film, as well as a gallery of images, at his website erikwernquist.com/wanderers.

Now, turn up the volume, play this film in full-screen, and enjoy.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/108650530]


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