Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

Now for something completely different. Puppet Master 5’s tagline, “the Final Chapter,” wasn’t a joke. The Curse of the Puppet Master, sixth in the puppet master line, jettisons the long-running, and yawn inducing, storyline that the series had been holding to, instead opting for a reboot. This would be the first film in the line to have almost no involvement from Full Moon’s Charles Band, who only snags a Production credit.

A reboot that leaves us wondering if our wondrous, morally-ambiguous puppets weren’t being prepped for a shot at prime-time. The opening sequence looking like the opening to one of Roseanne’s Halloween specials with all the puppets receiving a montage of character highlights. (Including Torch, who, for some reason, is in the montage, but not in the movie.)

Rebooting the entire basis of civilization as we know it! Toulon is gone, leaving only his puppets and their carrying case behind. Who Toulon is/was is never mentioned, even if his name is emblazoned on the side of the giant suitcase. Dr. Magrew (George Peck) bought the trunk at an auction, opened it up, and found it full of living puppets. No one wonders why or how they’re living. Towering simpleton Robert (Josh Green), a going nowhere youth does wonder how they live without eating, only to be told that Jane (Emily Harrison), Magrew’s college attending granddaughter, “doesn’t understand how anything can be alive: a man, a tree, a fish.” Ending the conversation recognizing that “when the miracle is common enough, anything can be alive.”

A message that miraculously both revels in the divine while ridiculing it!

We meet Robert when he’s working at the world’s tiniest gas station, being verbally abused by hoodlums. Why Robert, who’s a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than any of his tormentors, is taking their shit is yet another mystery only to be answered by the minds behind Full Moon’s scripts. Robert’s a master carver, just what Magrew needs to make puppets worthy of life.

There’s two points of conflict in the story, one a subplot masquerading as the main storyline, and the other the woefully underdeveloped plot. It turns out that Magrew, with her angelic daughter, is actually murdering his assistants. The cops question him about his first assistant, Matt’s, disappearance 10 minutes into the movie, then vanish for the next 50.

There’s also a subplot involving a roving gang of hoodlums that terrorize Jane. It starts off with plain sexual assault, building to a rape attempt. A rape that is avenged by Blade and Tunneler. (That’s right, it takes 45 minutes for even the puppets to get any significant screentime. And this was the film that brought the franchise back to life!) Tunneler netting “most interesting kill” when he doles out righteous punishment by drilling through the would-be rapist’s privates.

Six films in, and, prior to his emasculating demise, our sexually aggressive thug does what no one before has ever been able to do: he defeats one of the puppets in hand-to-hand combat. Using his common sense, and picking up Pinhead, throwing it on the ground, and stomping him to pieces.

In the bleakest ending Puppet Master has given us yet, Jane uncovers the buried, half-puppet body of missing boy Matt as her father is murdering/transferring Robert’s soul into what looks to be a Decapitron prototype. Somehow making Dec(r)apitron look even shittier. The puppets turn on Magrew, and, surrounded again by piss-poor green lightning bolts, the newest Puppet Master dies.

And that’s literally when the movie ends. Green lightning bolts streaming out of Magrew’s cut-up face, quick cut to credits. I guess jamming five intense minutes of “good” footage at the end is somehow supposed to make up for the utterly boring 65 minutes preceding it.

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