[Movie Review] Puppet Master (1989) ★★★★☆

Puppet Master brings life to a murderous group of puppets with great flair.

Puppet Master is a supernatural fantasy comedy horror slasher with puppets as the main characters. Puppet Master has become a cult classic and rightfully so. It has grown into a major franchise with the famous puppets who can’t speak but act all the more. Although it starts out as a campy story, the story evolves into something greater exploring the puppets, their characters and their origin. They might seem hideous murderous puppets, but there is more to them than meets the eye. 


The story starts in 1939 with Andre Toulon a puppeteer who hides from the nazi’s in the Bodega Inn hotel in California. But when they find him, he is warned by his puppet Blade so he can hide his puppets and kill himself before he can tell them the secret how to animate the puppets and bring them to life for real. 

50 Years later in 1989 a couple of psychics get a message from their former colleague Neil Gallagher to come to the Bodega Inn. But two of them Alex Whitaker and Dana Hadley already had strange visions about their upcoming stay. They still come as do Frank Forrester and Carlissa Stamford. 

They are welcomed by Megan Gallagher, Neil’s wife and owner of the hotel. Soon it becomes apparent that the reason for their invitation was to find out where Andre Toulon has hidden his puppets. But Neil has a far more sinister and secret plan. 

Why you should watch it

The story may start out slow and the characters are a bit of stereotypes and don’t bring something interesting to the story, but when the puppets come out to play, the real fun is about to start. 

The film is shot in a great way and the music which resembles a carnival tune is brilliant and very distinctive. While the people form the basis of the story, for the puppets to kill, conjuring up visions and meddle in the paranormal, or being their mundane selves, they are all but one clueless of what is going on. Their stories aren’t that interesting, but a setup for the plot and for the puppets to cause some mayhem. 

The puppets steal the show and are the real stars of the film. The people are just there as different functional marionettes of the story, while the puppets are the real characters. Fun part is that often the camera is at the hight of the puppets showing us their perspective, which adds even more to their imperative roles. 

The story also revolves around Toulon and his puppets. Although the puppets are a murderous bunch, they are not the real villains of the story. Toulon was actually a good man, but the one who controls the puppets puts his being in them. So when a good man controls them, the puppets are good, but when a bad man does, the puppets are becoming villains. 

There are five puppets. Blade who wears a black coat and a black hat, with a white face a black holes through which his eyes peer out. He has a knife and a hook which he can place on his stump hand. He’s smart and a leader. Pinhead has a really tiny head, a big body and enormous (from the real puppeteer) hands. Tunneler has a screw drill on his head with which he can do a lot of damage. Leech Woman vomits leeches to attack her enemies. And finally Jester has a head that consists of three parts which he can move around. Showing his mood with different faces, he functions as the conscious of the puppets. 

The puppets are wonderfully shaped and very creative and imaginatively brought to life. With real puppeteers, stop-motion and maybe animatronics they really come to life. Each with their own character, way of moving and behavior. They are a fun bunch, killers, but with a tragic vibe and some deeper secrets that are revealed in the sequels. 

My favorite part

Although the puppets don’t have much screen time, it feels like they show up far more often. That’s because each scene they’re in, they make quite an impression. Each puppet has its own great moments, memorable kills and it all revolves around them. I really like Blade, he’s one of my favorites, like Jester. These two have the most personality of the puppets and scheme some certain deaths for the gullible people. The end is also great when the puppets finally can act out of free will and then it shows who they really are. Anything but mere puppets. But that is shown in the next film, when their story is further explained. 


Rating: ★★★★☆

Popcorn factor: ★★★★★

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

Puppet Master is directed and written by David Schmoeller and cowritten by Kennth J. Hall. It stars Paul Le Mat (Alex Whitaker), William Hickey (Andre Toulon), Irene Miracle (Dana Hadley), Jimmie F. Skaggs (Neil Gallagher), Robin Frates (Megan Gallagher), Matt Roe (Frank Forrester), Kathryn OReilly (Carissa Stamford) and Mews Small (Theresa).

Duration: 90 minutes. Music: Richard Band. Cinematography: Sergio Salvati. Edited by: Thomas Meshelski. Produced by: Hope Perello, Charles Band. Production company: Full Moon Entertainment, Empire Pictures. Distributed by: Full Moon Features, Paramount Pictures.

Check the trailer below

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