No Strings Attached
Puppet Master II (1990): 7 out of 10: is a 1990 horror-fantasy film, directed by David Allen and the second installment in the Puppet Master franchise. The story continues to revolve around the enchanted puppets created by Andre Toulon, a skilled puppeteer, who had developed a formula to bring inanimate objects to life.
The film begins with the puppets resurrecting their creator, Andre Toulon, in order to learn the secret of the life-giving formula that animates them. Toulon, now a mummified and sinister version of himself, sends his puppets on a mission to gather the supplies needed for recreating the formula, which requires a rare Egyptian herb (which they seem to have plenty off) and human brains (The reason for the season).
A group of paranormal researchers, led by Carolyn Bramwell, arrives at the abandoned Bodega Bay Inn to investigate the mysterious puppet-related deaths that occurred in the first film. Unaware of Toulon’s resurrection and the puppets’ true intentions, the team sets out to unravel the secrets behind the seemingly supernatural occurrences.
As the researchers delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding the puppets, they uncover the dark history of Andre Toulon and his creations. Toulon’s puppets, acting on his orders, start picking off the researchers one by one, collecting their brains for the formula. Carolyn discovers her uncanny resemblance to Toulon’s deceased wife, Elsa, which makes her a prime target for Toulon’s twisted desires.
The surviving researchers confront Toulon and his puppets to put an end to the carnage. They must use their knowledge of the occult and their wits to overcome the supernatural abilities of the puppets and their undead master, battling for their lives and the safety of the world from Toulon’s dark ambition.
The Good: Having a group of paranormal investigators enter a haunted house for a horror film is always a solid premise. Attractive cast of decent actors certainly does not help (At least on the ladies’ side.)
The special effects with the puppets are well done.
Another plus for the film is that there are plenty of set pieces/ additional fodder from some locals in the area. The puppets must have a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Barbie Jeep Wrangler with Music and Power Lock Brakes because they actually travel a decent distance from the hotel to track down the brain parts they are looking for. (I forget which brain bit they need for their puppet juice. I am going to go with the hypothalamus in the spirit of The Relic movie.)
The Bad: While the cast is solid, there are a couple of outliers. Collin Bernsen (Brother of the then hot Corbin Bernsen) is definitely a weak link. (He comes across as a miscast Grease 2 era Maxwell Caulfield).
Our other issue is with Steve Welles as the antagonist and puppet wrangler Andre Toulon. This is more a character design issue than an acting one. Since Toulon is resurrected at the begging of the film, he spends the entire film swathed in bandages looking uncannily like the Invisible Man.
Which means for the entire film we have a bad guy with no facial expressions what so ever. Hell, you can’t even see his eyes since his future is so bright apparently he has to wear shades.
Then we have the issue with threat level puppet. Except for the fire shooting Torch, I have a hard time any of these puppets could threaten anyone with more than a paper cut that could become infected. Honestly, my cat could take these on with ease. I know this is basically the same problem I have with the Child’s Play movies. Toys can be an irritation (as anyone who has stepped on a Lego piece at three in the morning can attest) but almost by definition, they are not a threat.
The Ugly: So the final girl’s brother (Greg Webb) is murdered early on by a puppet (Tunneler). They have the puppet on camera. They have captured and dissected the puppet. So what would you do next? Um, I don’t know. Call the police, perhaps?
Now normally a film would set this up where they are trapped in the house. Big storm outside, bridge washed out, Demonic force has locked the doors. The police are infected with the mind control virus… That kind of thing.
Puppet Master II does nothing of the sort. They are in a hotel in a regular town. They go out on a field trip to town to look for another character who has disappeared. Our investigators are literally government employees who are on a job and they don’t call anyone when someone is killed.
The invisible man shows up out of nowhere claiming to own the government property. Puppets have come to life and are attacking people, and yet they don’t reach out. I call my boss if there is traffic and I am running late.
In Conclusion: Puppet Master II is a fun time. It does what it says in the tin with creativity and a good pace. It is slightly better than it needed to be and is entertaining if you come in with the right frame of mind. Puppet Master II is a movie about killer puppets, so I am pretty sure we can agree on the right frame of mind.