Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994) review

Puppet Matser 5 posterDirector: Jeff Burr

Starring: Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ian Ogilvy, a load of puppets

“You do see my problem, don’t you? You are asking an awful lot of me. A little monster, an agency or cult protecting some ancient magic… you must admit it is rather fantastic.” (Jennings, Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter)

You can’t have a successful horror film series without at least one entry boldly (and falsely) claiming it’s the final one.

The sixth Nightmare On Elm Street film, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, was succeeded by three more films starring the finger-gloved freak.

Even better, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter – the fourth film in the series – was actually far from the final chapter, with Jason appearing in eight subsequent movies.

So too, then, was the case with Full Moon Pictures’ cult series Puppet Master which claimed this, the fifth film in as many years, was to be the last. Continue reading “Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994) review”

Puppet Master 4 (1993) review

Puppet Master 4 posterDirector: Jeff Burr

Starring: Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ash Adams, Guy Rolfe

“The magic that gives my puppets life was stolen from a tribe of ancient Egyptian sorcerers, who pledged their allegiance to the demon lord Sutek.” (Andre Toulon, Puppet Master 4)

Although Full Moon Pictures had decided by Puppet Master III that its titular terrors were better as protagonists than antagonists, there was still a problem: they still killed humans.

Granted, these humans were evil Nazis, but even so: if only there was a way to have them killing something else rather than people to ensure their moral standards were of the utmost quality.

In fact what if, instead of humans, they could fight other little puppet-sized creatures? Ones that had maybe, I don’t know, been sent to Earth by a demon who looked like a Power Rangers reject?

Enter Puppet Master 4. Continue reading “Puppet Master 4 (1993) review”

Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) review

puppet master 3 posterDirector: David DeCoteau

Starring: Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Aron Eisenberg

“Herr Toulon has developed a method of animating his puppets without string. It’s as if they were alive.” (Lt Stein, Puppet Master III)

When you’ve got a film about killer toys you can only go so far with it before the concept loses all sense of terror.

The minds behind the Child’s Play films realised this by the end of the serious-but-iffy third film, following it up with the more comedy-focused Bride Of Chucky instead.

Full Moon, the studio behind the Puppet Master series, realised it sooner than this. By the end of Puppet Master II, in which the killer puppets are double-crossed by their evil owner, the audience is expected to start feeling sympathy for them.

Puppet Master III, then, takes things one step further and makes the puppets outright good guys. A horror film in which the killer dolls are the heroes? Who could the villains possibly be, other than Nazis or something? Continue reading “Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) review”

Puppet Master II (1990) review

Puppet Master 2 posterDirector: David Allen

Starring: Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, Greb Webb

“No one escapes.” (Andre Toulon, Puppet Master II)

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Puppet Master series, as you’ll already know if you read my review of the first film a while back.

This second outing for Full Moon Pictures’ wooden wonders offers more of the same, with stop-motion puppetry, supernatural skullduggery and sub-standard acting the order of the day.

The movie begins with our anti-heroes, still living at the Bodega Bay Inn, facing a dilemma. You see, the reason they’re alive in the first place is because their titular puppet master, Andre Toulon, developed a serum that could bring life to inanimate objects.

The problem is, the serum’s running out, and Andre Toulon pebble-dashed a wall with his brains in the ’40s when he shot himself to avoid capture by the Nazis, so if they can’t get any more serum soon they’ll be a bit fucked. Continue reading “Puppet Master II (1990) review”

Puppet Master (1989) review

Puppet Master posterDirector: David Schmoeller

Starring: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe

“Metaphysically speaking, I killed myself.” (Neil, Puppet Master)

Over the past few months many of my reviews have been dedicated to films by Full Moon, one of my favourite B-movie studios.

Full Moon were responsible for a raft of low-budget 80s and 90s horror films and while the majority were as atrocious as you’d expect (hence exhibits A, B, C, D and E here), every so often they’d come up trumps with a gem.

Puppet Master is one such film, one that proved so successful it spawned a total of nine sequels. Naturally, reviews of these will come in time but for now let’s start at the beginning. Continue reading “Puppet Master (1989) review”

Dolls (1987) review

Dolls posterDirector: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Carrie Lorraine, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Stephen Lee, Bunty Bailey, Cassie Stewart

RALPH – “You know, I can remember every toy I had as a kid.”

GABRIEL – “And they remember you, Ralph. Toys are very loyal, and that is a fact.”

This may appear to be your fairly bog-standard review of a cheesy ’80s horror film, but for me this review is a confrontation of my childhood fears and a firm “up yours” to many a sleepless night.

You see, when I was a young sprog of around five or six, I used to go with my dad to the local library to rent videos. Usually I’d end up with something suitably child-friendly but for at least a year there was a cardboard standee in the corner that used to scare the living piss out of me.

The offending display simply showed the poster image you see to the side of this text. The word ‘Dolls‘, along with an image of a doll holding its eyeballs in the air. It was also accompanied by the UK VHS tagline: “They want to play with you”.

Continue reading “Dolls (1987) review”

Curse Of Chucky (2013) review

Curse Of Chucky posterDirector: Don Mancini

Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Maitland McConnell

ALICE – “Chucky, I’m scared.”

CHUCKY – “You fucking should be.”

The success of Bride Of Chucky and its follow-up Seed Of Chucky mean these days Chucky is commonly considered a horror comedy star. Despite this, there still remains a core following of long-time horror fans who have been hoping for years that everyone’s favourite killer doll would return to his roots and appear in another ‘proper’ horror film in the style of the original Child’s Play trilogy.

Curse Of Chucky is that horror film, with nary a dick joke, sex scene or zany sidekick in sight. Although it’s the first Chucky film to go straight-to-video, don’t let that put you off, because this is old-school Chucky doing what he does best – pretending to be a doll while trying to steal a small child’s soul.

Set four years after Seed Of Chucky, Curse begins with a mysterious package turning up at the house of Nica (Fiona Dourif), a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who lives with her mother. Predictably, the package contains Chucky, but Nica’s at a loss as to who would have sent this odd-looking doll. It’s a wonder she’s never heard of Chucky – she should probably get out more. Oh, right, the wheelchair. Continue reading “Curse Of Chucky (2013) review”

Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review

Please Don't Eat My Mother posterDirector: Carl Monson

Starring: Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, a load of other people shagging

HENRY – “Well, that’s murder or something!”
EVE – “Never heard of a plant getting arrested, have you?”

Henry Fudd (which is an even more appropriate name in Scotland) is a weird bastard. He spends his lunch break spying on couples having sex, then after work he goes back home, where he lives with his possessive mother, and locks himself in his room, the walls of which are covered with pages of porno magazines. Oh, and he has a plant called Eve that eats people.

Please Don’t Eat My Mother is essentially a low-budget rip-off of Little Shop Of Horrors, only (as it’s produced by “Sexploitation King” Harry Novak) with more porn and less quality. Eve starts off as a tiny sapling that Henry feeds normal plant food, but before too long she’s grown dramatically and adopted a sexy woman’s voice. The plant asks Henry to bring him increasingly larger food, starting with flies and upgrading to frogs, dogs and eventually people, including – you guessed it – Henry’s mother.

Please Don't Eat My Mother
“C’mere baby and plant one on me. Get it?! PLANT! Because you’re a… let me just unzip these jeans”

It’s a story that might have been more interesting had it been handled better (of course, it already had), but Please Don’t Eat My Mother is a bucket of pish. Buck Kartalian is a bizarre actor to watch – it’s clear the film is supposed to be a cheesy comedy he makes some truly odd facial expressions, chewing the scenery… literally, at times.

The ‘special effects’ (and I mean special in a different way than usual) are the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a school play. The plant looks like a ridiculous papier-mâché creation and its movement is so limited (its mouth moves and that’s it) that it always eats its victims off-camera (complete with over-the-top slurping sound effects and unconvincing whimpers from the victim). Continue reading “Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review”

Monster House (2006)

Director: Gil Kenan

Starring: voices of Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi

“Are you guys mentally challenged? Because if you are, I’m certified to teach you baseball.” (Jenny, Monster House)

DJ and Chowder have the feeling that not all is right with the creepy house across the road. After its owner, the evil Mr Nebbercracker (Buscemi), has a heart attack and is sent to hospital the house appears to take on a life of its own, terrorising the local residents. But surely there has to be a more logical explanation for this… after all, houses don’t just come to life and eat people, do they? You bet your balls they do.

"You're right, he does look a little bit like a chubby Jamie Oliver"

After witnessing the creepy chateau coming alive and saving a girl called Jenny from its evil clutches DJ, Chowder and their new lady chum decide to work together to put an end to the evil house so the rest of the street will be safe.

Despite being a movie aimed at children, Monster House feels a lot like The Goonies and The Monster Squad in that it appeals to adults too because the children in it are so believable. There’s no “gee whiz mom” lines or “mwa wa waaa” musical stings throughout, this is a film that feels surprisingly realistic despite its use of stylised CGI animation.  Continue reading “Monster House (2006)”

Dead Silence (2007)

Director: James Wan

Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Fairman

“Can you help me with a missing persons case? I’m looking for a male. About this tall. Sometimes seen with a hand up his ass.” (Detective Lipton, Dead Silence)

Dolls are creepy, that’s one thing many of us can agree on. Some of them look like they can come alive when you’re not watching. Ventriloquist dummies – those built for the sole purpose of being made to look alive by their owner – are particularly eerie in this respect. I’m certain that’s more or less the sole concept behind Dead Silence, a concept its creators were happy to run with until they realised they actually needed to build a film around it.

"Call me David Cameron again and I'll rip your bastard lungs out"

Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa are very much in love. As Jamie’s heading off to work he notices that someone has left a mysterious package outside their front door. He opens it to find a ventriloquist’s dummy, with no note explaining who sent it or why it’s been sent to them. Jamie decides he’ll figure it out later and leaves the doll at home with Lisa. When he returns he finds his wife lying dead in bed with her tongue ripped out. Bloody FedEx eh?

It soon emerges that the doll once belonged to Mary Shaw, a famous ventriloquist who was mocked one day in front of a huge audience by a young boy. Shaw kidnapped the boy and he was never seen again, and after realising she’d done it the townsfolk tracked her down and attacked her, ripping her tongue out.

Captain Cheery's Kid-Friendly Circus demonstrated breathtakingly poor costume choices

Yes, not content with borrowing from Child’s Play, Dolls and any other killer doll film ever made, Dead Silence also owes a suspiciously large chunk of its plot to A Nightmare On Elm Street with its whole “vigilante parents kill evil child catcher who continues to haunt their children from beyond the grave” plot. Not to mention it even has its own children’s rhyme, though “beware the stare of Mary Shaw” isn’t quite as catchy as “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you”.

Dead Silence is very much style over substance. There is a steady stream of wanky pseudo-arty shots throughout, where maps become wide shots of the road and eyes are zoomed in to reveal an image of the next scene. And no matter how many times they do it (which is a lot), they just can’t seem to make a shot of a doll slowly moving its eyes feel that creepy.

The graffiti on the roof of the London-to-Glasgow sleeper train was too obscene for some passengers

The film has two saving graces. The first is Donnie Wahlberg, who plays the cop following Jamie as he investigates his wife’s murder. Wahlberg’s character is naturally suspicious of Jamie’s claims that the doll killed his wife, and he consistently gets the best lines in the film as he aims snarky and sarcastic comments Jamie’s way as he tries to find evidence that will pin the crime on him.

The other decent aspect is the twist ending, which makes sense and is cleverly handled. You’re likely to have suspicions about the characters in question before the ending is revealed, but it’s unlikely you’d guess exactly what’s been going on. It’s a nice little twist and one that brings a satisfying end to what’s essentially a fairly forgettable film.