Film Review: Puppet Master II (1991)

SYNOPSIS:

Those nasty little puppets are back to wreak more havoc and take care of some unfinished business. Joined by Torch, the newest member of the sinister troupe, the puppets exhume their beloved creator Toulon and gather the brain matter that keeps them alive. But the Puppet Master has a deadly plan of his own…

REVIEW:

A franchise was born upon the release of Puppet Master, which became one of 1989’s most successful independent films. The villainous puppets may not be as well known as Freddy or Jason, largely due to the fact that the series was released direct-to-video, but the film is a bona fide cult classic. The first production under Charles Band’s Full Moon Productions (after the collapse of his Empire Pictures), Puppet Master helped put the company on the map. With ten entries and a variety of merchandise under its belt, the franchise remains a cash cow.

Despite it being a relatively bland picture, sequels were standard for any mildly successful horror movie at the time, and the inevitable Puppet Master II came to fruition in 1991. The puppets were certainly the most interesting part of the original, and all five of them – Blade, Jester, Leech Woman, Pinhead and Tunneler – return to wreak more havoc. This time, the troupe is joined by one of the series’ coolest puppets, the flame-throwing Torch. We also get glimpses at two other interesting looking puppets: Mephisto and Djinn.

Unfortunately, the puppets aren’t put to very good use. Their first act of business is to resurrect their master, Andre Toulon (Steve Welles). Toulon spends most of the movie wrapped in bandages a la The Invisible Man before revealing his ghoulish, decayed body at the conclusion. He returns to the Bodega Bay Inn, where he killed himself back in 1939, only to find it inhabited by other people.

Following the peculiar events of the first Puppet Master, a group of parapsychologists from the U.S. Office of Paranormal Claims are investigating the hotel. The investigators include Carolyn Bramwell (Elizabeth Maclellan), her brother Patrick (Gregory Webb), Camille Kenney (Nita Talbot) and Lance (Jeff Weston). After Camille is kidnapped by the puppets, her son, Michael (Collin Bernsen), also shows up. Toulon’s character has morphed into a maniacal one, and he sends his pint-sized minions to eradicate the unwanted guests – save for Carolyn, who he believes is the reincarnation of his late wife.

As is the case with most horror sequels, Puppet Master II ups the gore and effects, and even the puppet mechanics are improved. This can be attribute to the fact that visual effects designer Dave Allen, who served as visual effects supervisor on both this and the first film, directed. The script, written by David Pabian (Subspecies), maintains the essence of the original – perhaps a bit too much – while providing a bit more backstory on Toulon and his creations, including their reason for killing.

Puppet Master II is now available remastered in high definition on Blu-ray for the first time from Full Moon Features. The transfer is the best you’ll likely ever see, miles ahead of the previous DVD, but it’s nothing to write home about as far as HD goes. The disc also features an introduction and audio commentary by creator Charles Band, the classic Video Zone behind-the-scenes segment and some promo videos.

Puppet Master II is on par with its predecessor; in fact, it retreads on much of the original’s territory. They’re not bad movies, as some of the later sequels are, but they’re not particularly entertaining either. That said, the movies have their diehard fans, and those who enjoy them will relish the opportunity to add the remastered version of Puppet Master II (and III, which has been released simultaneously) to their collections.

The Puppet Master II is now available as part of the full “Puppet Master Collection” from Echo Bridge Entertainment

Puppet Maser II (1991)

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