Before the world premiere of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich at the Overlook Film Festival, producers Dallas Sonnier (new owner of Fangoria) and Amanda Presmyk took to the stage to give a brief introduction, not that these beloved pint-sized terrors really needed any introduction. Sonnier chuckled as he revealed the only bit of information that audiences would ever need about this reboot; thanks to S. Craig Zahler’s (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) script, this film was guaranteed to be unrated, because it will never pass as an R-rated film. The film absolutely lived up to this assessment, delivering a crowd-pleasing rowdy time so bonkers in its gore and offensive humor that it tops nearly everything about the beloved Full Moon franchise.
The film opens in Postville, Texas, in 1989, with a heavily scarred Andre Toulon (Udo Kier) traipsing into a bar and delivering deadpan dialogue that would set the politically correct police in a tizzy. After offending the bartender by inquiring her hooker fee, he leaves in disgust when he learns she’s a lesbian. Of course, this means that the bartender and her lover become the film’s first victims to Toulon’s puppets, and the film establishes early just how gruesome their kills are going to be. After the open, the film switches to the present, with Thomas Lennon’s Edgar, a comic book artist and writer, picking up the pieces from a divorce. Rediscovering his brother’s Blade doll after moving back home, he’s inspired to road trip to the 30th anniversary convention of the infamous Toulon Murders, with his new lady love Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and boss Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) in tow. To say the convention derails quickly would be an understatement.
When you opt to watch a film titled Puppet Master, you’re in it for the puppets and their kills. The Littlest Reich manages to out-deliver both in volume of deaths and puppets than the Full Moon franchise’s entire catalog combined. This version of Toulon didn’t just stop at his one-of-a-kind handful, he made a huge catalog full as well as duplicates to ship worldwide. The convention setting meant the perfect place for the puppets to be brought back together, with a minimum of 45 deadly little Nazis to unleash their slaughter. Oh, so much glorious slaughter.
S. Craig Zahler has already established his uncanny talent for deadpan humor against extreme violence, and that’s taken even further with Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (Wither) at the helm. Even a horror staple, the severing of an Achilles tendon, tends to become somehow even more visceral through Laguna and Wiklund’s lens, and that’s saying a lot. The gore is so over the top and inventive that it manages to creatively introduce a lot of firsts to the series. None of which I’ll spoil, but suffice it to say that the Overlook audience spent much of the runtime cheering at the depravity on display and this is one you’ll want to see with a crowd. There’s also some deaths so bold that it will shock even a hardened horror fan.
The Littlest Reich delivers everything that should come with a reboot; a reverence for the original property, its own spin on the mythology, memorable new characters, and more special effects insanity than you thought possible. Lennon and Pellicer bring a grounded sweetness to the lead protagonists, and vets Michael Pare and Barbara Crampton imbue their straight-man authority figure roles with a nuanced humor that balances the zany antics of the anti-Semitic little killers. As great as the cast is, the true stars, of course, are the puppets, and this reboot won’t let you down there. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich brings puppet carnage and mayhem to insane new heights, unafraid to break every single taboo along their quest to fulfill their Fuhrer’s bidding. Even if you don’t like the original Full Moon franchise, I have a strong hunch this will convert you. Unless you’re easily offended, that is. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich will have you gasping, squirming, and laughing at the bold display of offensive humor and gore. Above all it will leave you asking, when can I get more?