Trashterpiece Theater: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) - Reviewed

After eleven films you might think that the Puppet Master franchise would have run out of ideas for new films, and well, you would be correct in that assumption. Time for a reboot! Thankfully, the re-imagining, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) has injected new fire into these feisty dolls and sets up a nasty and hilarious new direction for the Full Moon staple.

Neo-grindhouse director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) penned the script for this iteration, and while his previous work is outstanding, the writing in The Littlest Reich is nothing special. It's functional enough and there are a few funny quips now and again. Honestly, the narrative of the film is a bunch of gory set-pieces strung together by the barest of forward motion, but in a film with Nazi puppets who murder people, a deep story isn't needed. 

What is needed though, is lots of blood and guts which this flick has in spades. These are some of the most visceral and downright hilarious kills I have seen in an indie horror in a long time. The practical effects are fantastic with "real" blood (none of that digital nonsense) and some truly gut wrenching visuals. The puppets aren't believable looking whatsoever, but it's played for laughs and the atmosphere is tongue-in-cheek. The fabulous musical score was composed by the legendary Fabio Frizzi, who did a lot of work with Italian horror director Lucio Fulci. It really takes the film up a notch and the main theme is haunting and beautiful.

In the original Puppet Master films Andre Toulon was fighting against the Nazis but in this reboot he is a Nazi himself, which changes up the dynamic a bit. There is this subtext where the puppets are targeting minorities and people of Jewish decent to murder which might make some people uncomfortable, but it's clearly frowned upon by the characters in the film. Nazis are the "villain-do-jour" in our current society, much like the Russians were the main villains in a lot of '80s movies. The film never really addresses it on anything but a surface level, but it's an interesting aside in a mostly throwaway plot. Most of the characters are flat and archetypal and Thomas Lennon is oddly subdued as the main protagonist Edgar. He's such a excellent character actor and it was disappointing to see him not used to his full potential. 

Compared to the last glut of Puppet Master films, The Littlest Reich is a damn masterpiece. Horror hounds looking for some old fashioned bloody fun will have a blast with this flick, and the open ending leaves room for many more releases to come. 

--Michelle Kisner