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Review: Puppetmaster

October Horror Month

Charles Band’s Full Moon film production company have been turning out strange and entertaining low budget horror films since 80s and have been the company behind a lot of the wok of Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon. One their longest running series of film is the Puppetmaster series revolving around puppeteer Andre Toulon who comes across the secret of animating inanimate objects and use this to create his puppets.

It is 1939 the Puppetmaster Andre Toulon (William Hickey) is working on his puppets in his room at the Bodega Bay Inn on the coast of California. His puppets are unique since they are animated and move around on their own. One of his puppets, a Mandarin watches out of the window as Toulon put the finishes touches to the paintwork of Jester whose head is in three parts that spin independently and allows his expression to change. He puts his head over the head of the puppet says some magic words and Jester comes to life

Two German agents arrive at the hospital and they are looking for Toulon. Another of Toulon’s puppets the skull-headed Blade was keeping watch outside and when he sees them he rushes back upstairs and there’s a nice bit of POV camera work here.

Toulon already knows they are on their way and he packs his puppet up in a large trunk, including blade when he finally gets up to the room. He hides the trunk behind a panel in the wall and just as the agents get to the door he puts a gun in his mouth and blows his brains out

Forward to the present or at least the 80s version of the present and four psychics in different parts of the US have visions. Alex Whitaker (Paul Le Mat) is in his office when he has a vision of young woman with a man who puts a gun to her head. Dana Hadley (Irene Miracle) is at a fairground working as a fortune teller giving a BS reading to a couple when she gets a real vision sees woman being attacked. Psychic researchers Clarissa Stamford (Kathryn O’Reilly) and Frank Forrester (Matt Roe) get a call from Alex and Frank says Dana has been in touch too. They all agree it is a message from an associate Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) and Frank is sure it means Gallagher has found the Puppetmaster’s hideout and Dana knows where he is.

When they get to the Bodega Bay Inn they are shocked to discover that Gallagher is dead and almost as shocked to find out that he married the inn’s owner Megan (Robin Frates). Megan was expecting them because Gallagher left instruction that he wasn’t to be buried until they got there but she has no idea who they are. Megan takes them into a room where Gallagher’s body is in a coffin and he certainly looks dead. Megan is upset since there was no hint the Gallagher was suicidal. The psychics are puzzled because they had never sensed Gallagher killing himself.

Alex gets taken up to his room by Megan and he tells Megan that they are psychics who used to work with Gallagher. Clarissa Frank and Dana stay behind to pay respect to Gallagher but they really want know how he died without them sensing it. Dana takes out a very long needle and pushes it into his chest and through his heart and concludes he’s definitely dead but they know Gallagher too well to think he isn’t still up to something.

The hotel chambermaid Theresa (Mews Small) shows Dana to her room and Dana burns some strange wood and waves the smoke around the room and around Theresa to cleanse her aura Dana says. Dan warns he to stay away from the fireplace because he can sense something bad will happen to Theresa a the fireplace. When Dana unpacks a small stuffed dog from her luggage Theresa leaves, thinking Dana is crazy

When Theresa takes Frank and Clarissa up to their Clarissa senses that Frank raped a woman in the elevator and Theresa suggests that they keep that to themselves and not tell Megan about it. In their room Clarissa is very excited to sense that their bed is a movie star bed snddhrsay s Calrk Gable and Carole Lombard had sex there. Clarissa’s powers work though her emotions and she is especially good at sensing sexual emotions but Frank reminds her that they are here on business.

At dinner that evening everyone is curious about how she met and married Gallagher. Gallagher was staying at the inn when about her parents and Gallagher was very kind and helped her get over their deaths. When Gallagher asked her to marry him she was only too happy to accept. After they were married Gallagher suggested they close down the inn for remodelling and Gallagher would spend all his time there in the rooms that were being remodelled until he killed himself. Once Mega finshes he story Dana tells Megan what Gallagher was really like. He had gathered them together to get their help in discovering the secrets of the alchemists. The last known alchemist was Toulon the Puppetmaster who could give life to inanimate objects but Neil ran out on them when he found Toulon’s last resting place and they are here to find out what Gallagher discovered.

Theresa is bust poking the fire in the lounge and she hears a noise at the piano but when she looks no-one is there so she goes back to the fire. She hears someone playing with piano so she goes back to check and again no-one is there. She goes back to the fire but the poker is missing and the Pinhead puppet with the big muscular body and tiny head thwacks her on the back of the head with the poker.

Later they hear megan scream and find her passed out in th lounge. Gallagher’s body has been propped up in a chair and this gave her a shock when she came. They speculate about who could have done it and since Theresa had gone missing so they blame her. Alex stays with Megan until she comes round. Alex tell her about his dream and that he came here to make sure his dreams didn’t come true

Clarissa and Frank are going to try to get in touch with Gallagher by having lots of extremely noisy kinky sex that involves Frank being tied to the bed and blindfolded while Clarissa rides him. It’s certainly different from the usual séance. The noise of their research keeps Alex and Dana awake so Dana gets drunk and Alex goes for a walk. Alec sees Dana I corridor who warn him that Gallagher intends to kill them all> She invite Alex to come into her room to do some research of their own but Alex is not interested and he heads off downstairs

We get a puppet POV in the corridor where their rooms and the puppet drags a chair to a door outside and through the keyhole it sees . It the drag the chair to the next door and sees Frank and Clarissa he door opens and the Tunneller puppet enters the room and hides under the bed. Clarissa thinks she something moving and she gets off Frank to look under the bed. She sees the puppet dressed like an Italian officer and with drill on the top of his head. Tunneller starts his drill and rams straight into Clarrissa’s face. Frank has no idea what going on be but he likes it when he feels something soft and wet on his skin. He’s not so happy about it when he gets the blindfold off and discovers that he’s being covered in leeches by the Leech Woman puppet.

When Dana gets back in her rom she finds Gallagher’s boy body in and she waves her charm stuff. Pinhead rushes her breaks her leg and throws he onto the floor then he tries to choke her but she throws him away. She crawls out into corridor but Pinhead recovers and comes after her and manages to land a few punches before Dana throw s him over stairwell. Now Blade comes after her, cutting her with his little knife. She get into the elevator and gets out at the ground floor but Pinhead is waiting there for her and he punches and she throws him away again but Blade was waiting on the roof of the elevator and slits her throat

Mrs Gallagher knock on Alex’s door and wakes him up she wants to show him something and takes him up to a big empty white room where she dances with a man wearing a white mask. When he takes the mask off it’s Gallagher under the mask and he shoots Megan and Alex wakes up in bed. Megan knocks on the door and what happens next is just like in his dream so much that he can finish what Megan says to him. She takes him to a padlocked door but in the dream this led to the large white room. This time there’s a desk with Toulon’s diary. Alex reads that Toulon feared what his puppets will do under the control of someone evil. Alex get a sense of where the others are and they go into the dining room and see Frank Clarissa and Dane all sitting at the table dead and the Tunneller puppet is on the table and the others are around the room.

Gallagher enter and Megan says that he‘s dead which Gallagher confirms. But Gallagher has found Toulon’s secret and used it to make himself immortal. Alex points out that only means he can’t die a natural death he can still be killed. He brought the others here to kill them in order to keep Toulon’s secret to himself because with their psychic connection there was a risk one of the other would discover it too. Gallagher also killed Megan parent and married her to get full access to the inn. He also used their bodies test the Puppetmaster’s methods to reanimate her dead parents. He says he finished with using puppets which is not something that happy about.

When Megan protest at what he’s done Gallagher punches Megan and the puppets really don’t like that. Gallagher attacks Alex and Megan smashes vase over Gallagher’s head to save Alex and they try to get out of inn but the doors are locked and the front door is blocked by a reanimated Theresa. Gallagher fights with Alex and is really beating him badly but Alex manages to trap him in the lift shutting Gallagher in. Pinhead is already in there and he starts attacking Gallagher but Gallagher throws him aside and pulls off his head. The other puppets enter through the hatch on the roof of the lift and they all attack Gallagher together and tear him apart then Leech Woman drop one of leeches in his mouth and Gallagher dies.

Alex and Megan are the only ones left alive Alex says goodbye and leaves. Megan lift up Dana’s stuffed dog and walks up the stair and when we see her at the top of the stair the dog is completely alive suggesting Megan always knew Andre Toulon’s secret.

This film is like a small chapter in a larger story and it feels like a sequel. The puppets are pretty well done but they feel a bit underused and aren’t really at the core of the story. The human actors were mostly passable but the lead seemed more wooden than the puppets. The back story of Toulon’s run in with the Nazis hints at a much more interesting story but that had to wait until Puppetmaster 3. Despite its flaws I enjoy watching this film and many of series the sequels that followed are entertaining

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Dr Moreau’s House of Pain

This film is a sort of sequel to events in the original story The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells. I know that was made into films and that one had Marlon Brando as Dr Moreau and I don’t remember much else about it other that I didn’t like it enough to remember it. There’s no such problem with Charles Band at the helm of this entertaining low-budget take.

Eric Carson (John Patrick Jordan) is looking for his brother who has gone missing . He goes to the strip club where he was last seen alive and the barman tells he him that his brother was obsessed with a stripper Alliana (Lorielle New). Someone else obsessed with her is sitting watching just then, a gangster called Johnny Q. After Alliana has finished her set she leaves the club and Johnny Q follows her to her car. Eric follows to and watches from a distance as Alliana punches a hole through Johnny Q’s  head. She then drags the body into her car and drives off.

Eric goes to two reporters Mary Anne (Debra Mayer) and Judith (Jessica Lancaster) who were waiting outside the club in their car, hoping that there is a story in Eric’s missing brother. The three of them follow Alliana to a large remote building. As they look around the outside of the building Peewee (B.J. Smith), a large ugly creature, appears out of nowhere grabs Mary Anne and vanishes into a secret passage with her.

Eric and Judith look around for away into the building and they also get captured by Dr Pak (Ling Aum) who has a scythe and Gallagher (Peter Donald Badalamenti II) a small man with the face of a pig. Gallagher tells them that they will be used as experimental subjects. Dr Moreau is continuing his work on creating humans out of animals but his manimals have revolted and along his former assistant Pak and are forcing him to continue his work for their benefit. The manimals want him to complete his work on making them human and Pak wants him to work on his daughter who is a half-deformed fish.

Eric finds himself attracting the attention of Alliana who is mostly human but used to be a leopard. She gets naked and has sex with him. This makes Gallagher jealous who turns his attention to Judith. Eric frees Dr Moreau and they try to escape which leads to Moreau, Pak and manimals being killed and at one point Judith gets injected with an experimental serum. The film ends with Judith dancing on the stage at the strip club while Eric drinks at the bar and Judith has a long forked snake tongue.

I thought this film was a fun watch. The make-up effects were quite poor but this was kind of justified in that Gallagher and Peewee were unfinished. The science is very silly with some mixture of organ grafting and some sort of serum and with a bit of genetics thrown in but then viable science is never major feature of mad science horror films.

Rating 7/10

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Entertainment, Film


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My Lost Weekend with Full Moon Horror

Charles Band While doing my research for writing my review of Demonic Toys 2 I visited the website of the Full Moon Productions the company that produced the film. This company is headed by Charles Band, a man who is truly passionate about making B-Movie horror films. The website is bursting at the seams with stuff about the films Charles Band and his company have been involved with.  Anyway one thing led to another and I found myself on Full Moon’s YouTube channel and going through the whole playlist of all the Puppet Master films.

Here’s a quick description of the films and my rating

  • Puppet Master
    André Toulon is a refugee from Nazi Germany and is hiding out in the Bodega Bay Inn in California with his magically animated puppets but when Nazi agents find him he hides the puppets and blows his brains out to stop his secret falling into the hands of the Nazis. Many years later a group of psychics are called to the Inn by their mental link to Neil Gallagher, husband of the hotel owner, to find that Neil is dead. The psychics find themselves being killed off by the puppets but with Toulon dead who is their master?
    Rating  8/10
  • Puppet Master II
    In a graveyard next to the Bodega Bay Inn the puppets dig up André Toulon’s body and revive it with formula that animates them. Later a small team of paranormal researchers are sent to the Inn to investigate the deaths that happened there. The puppets are killing again, this time to get brain tissue that Toulon needs to creates the serum that animates both the puppets and himself. Things get complicated when Toulon becomes obsessed by the idea that his dead wife Elsa has being re-incarnated as Carolyn the head of the research team.
    Rating 6/10
  • Puppet Master III – Toulon’s Revenge
    The previous two films had mentioned that Toulon and the puppets had a run-in with Nazis so this prequel covers that period. The Nazis get to know about Toulon’s secret and they want it for themselves. After they kill his wife Elsa, Toulon and his puppets take their vengeance out on them
    Rating 8/10
  • Puppet Master 4
    AI researchers are close to breakthrough but what they are researching is a secret the demon god Sutekh wants kept to himself so he sends totem figures to kill them. But one researcher Rick Meyers is protected by Toulon’s puppets and he discovers that they hold the answer to the secret he is searching for.
    Rating 6/10
  • Puppet Master 5 – The Final Chapter
    Directly follows from the events in 4 with the demon Sutekh still wanting to destroy Rick Meyers and the puppets. Ian Ogilvy plays a nosy scientist who want Toulon’s secret for himself but finds he’s in way over his head
    Rating 6/10
  • Retro Puppet Master
    This another prequel with Toulon making up a story of how he received the secret of animating his puppets and met his wife Elsa. This features an earlier group of puppets up against agents of Sutekh and is set in 19th century Paris.
    Rating 6/10
  • Curse of the Puppet Master
    A scientist Dr Mulgrew is trying to recreate Toulon’s process of animating his puppets. He hires a young man Robert Winsley to carve pieces for his new puppet who falls for the scientist’s daughter Jane
    Rating 5/10
  • Legacy of the Puppet Master
    This is a clips show. The film is made up of footage from the earlier films with about 20-30 minutes of new footage of two people talking about the puppets.
  • Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys
    Corey Feldman and his daughter are the last descendants of André Toulon and are working on the formula for bringing the puppets back to life. Meanwhile evil toy company boss has been promised that the toys she has sold by the millions in time for Christmas will be animated and evil just like her own demonic toys if she delivers the last of the Toulons to a demon with a grudge against the family.
    Rating 5/10

Something else I spotted at the Full Moon Website is that they have posted links to full-length films from their enormous catalogue. I’ve only had the chance to see two films and since I’d never seen them before they were a real treat for me.

  • Dark Angel – The Ascent
    A young demon who has spent all her life in hell has visions the world above and defying her father finds a way up. In the modern city she is shocked to see evil going unpunished and ignored and with her dog Hellraiser she goes about serving up some of her own brand of justice.
    Rating 7/10
  • Blood Dolls
    VIrgil Maturin is an insane deformed genius who is angry to have been cheated out of money in court by a conspiracy of three other businessmen. He takes his vengeance out on the judge, his lawyer and the public prosecutor by turning them into 12″ inch killer dolls and sending them out to kill his enemies. His main assistant is Mr Mascaro, a large killer in clown make-up. He is entertained by an all girl rock band kept in a cage who are forced to play music by a dwarf with a cattle prod and electric shocks delivered through the metal of the cage
    Rating 7/10

Full Moon are going to featuring a fair bit on the site since they make entertaining horror that really appeals to my twisted tastes

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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Film


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Review: Demonic Toys 2

I have the original Demonic Toys on DVD but it was nothing special, coming across as a more infantile version Puppet Master and made by the same company, Full Moon Entertainment owned by Charles Band. I have a lot of affection for Charles Band’s films since he really has that sense of creating films primarily to entertain those who love B-movie horror and stoners. This sequel was never going to be an intelligent horror but at least it was also certain to not be a boring torturous gore-fest either.

The film opens with some unseen person recovering two of the broken toys that were in the original film (and in two sequels that being ignored). He repairs the doll Baby Whoopsie and Jack Attack the jack-in-the-box. Then the toys get sold on to another unseen figure for a wad of money.

Cut to outside a large Italian castle near Rome. A young graduate student Caitlin (Alli Kinzel) is waiting with Mr Butterfield (Leslie Jordan) an antiquities expert, to meet someone who wants to buy something Caitlin discovered in the caverns under the castle. A car drives up and out get a very strange group led by Dr Lorca (Michael Citriniti) who is a collector of oddities. This is apparently a character from another Full Moon film called Hideous and during that film he acquired the burns that scar half his face. Next out is Lorca’s fiancé Lauraline (Elizabeth Bell) who reeks of gold-digger. Then there’s David (Lane Compton), Lauralein’s step-son  and I don’t know why he’s there but Caitlin likes him. They also brought a psychic dwarf called Lilith (Selene Luna) and a pretty man in cowboy hat called Eric (William Marquart)

Caitlin leads everyone except the cowboy through to a dining room where she has a box on the table. In the box  is old wooden doll carved in the shape of a devil called Divoletto. Butterfield confirms it’s age as looking like it is from the fourteenth century. Caitlin taps the side of the box with a special wand and the doll moves by itself. She claims it must be mechanism reacting to magnets because she is a history graduate, not science or engineering. Lilith tells Lorca that she suspects some thing more is happening.

Downstairs cowboy Eric is bring a wooden crate in from their car. He drops it and it breaks open revealing Baby Whoopsie and Jack Attack packed in straw. He turns the handle on the jack-in-the-box but nothing happens and he goes to join the others in the dining room. Eric tells them that their cars are gone and that eventually leads to them agreeing to stay in the castle for the night. This exactly what Eric and Lauraline planned since it was Eric who hid the cars down the road out of sight. They have made a copy of Divoletto and plan on stealing the real doll and running away together

They all leave the dining room and Divoletto gets up and makes his way down to the crate in the entrance hall. He animates the two toys with his demonic life essence and they are happy to have him join them in creating murderous mayhem.

Caitlin takes David and Mr Butterfield for a tour of the castle which eventually takes them to what is known as the physician’s room, but only if your idea of a physician is a mumbo-jumbo-spouting medieval torturer. Apparently Bulgarian Empress Fiora Borisoff,  the lady of the house had all the different demons possessing her exorcised into clay vessels. Caitlin leads them to steps going to cavern under the castle but Mr Butterfield decides to go up to his room so Caitlin and David go down.

Eric goes down with the fake doll to steal Divoletto but he’s not in box. The three toys kill Eric and drag his body away. Later Lilith come down to dining room to see if she can sense anything off Divoletto. She gets attacked by a glowing purple CGI effect from a painting of Fiora Borisoff.

In the cavern under the castle David and Caitlin freak out unconvincingly to CGI bats then they discover a chamber with a deep well that Caitlin identifies as a portal to hell. They find books of exorcism that really don’t matter.

The story descends into incoherence and all the greedy cheats and murderers end up dead. Full Moon films rarely bother too much with coherence but by Full Moon standards this film was a bit bland. It still has that camp, cheesy over the top sense of fun but this just seemed a little less amusing. The foul-mouthed Baby Whoopsie was a novelty that wore off very quickly in the original film.

Rating 6/10

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Entertainment, Film


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