Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Unnecessary Retrospective #2: The Puppet Master Decilogy, Part Two

Welcome back to another installment of my series of Unnecessary Retrospectives, which is to say welcome back to part two of the last Unnecessary Retrospective, encompassing parts six through ten of the series discussed last time, or parts six through nine, with one non-canonical installment not considered by the creators to be a part of the series, which is to say the series of films, not the series of articles about said films, again called Unnecessary Retrospectives, of which this is the second part of the second installment. Fuck it, let's just get this done with, okay?

As I mentioned last time, Puppet Master 5 was subtitled the "Final Chapter," and it was originally intended by the creators to be the last movie in the series, until they changed their minds a few years later and came back with Puppet Master 6: Curse of the Puppet Master and a new series that continues to this day. The second series does not feel as cohesive as the first, with each story essentially being either a stand-alone entry or a sequel or prequel to one of the original movies, in nothing close to chronological order. Still, with the exception of Puppet Master Vs Demonic Toys which was made by a different company and throws a wrench into a few things, the newer films do at least try to maintain the spirit of the franchise, even if continuity gets a bit screwy.

Just as an aside, you may have noticed that I don't tend to treat continuity errors with the typical sort of anger and frustration as some fans. While many obsess over finding them and using them as excuses to ruin otherwise good movies, I usually see them more as a challenge to make a film better. See, if you look at a movie as its own independent universe, a parallel reality where there is more than simply what is presented on the screen but also the logical implications of every idea, what might at first seem like a contradiction may in fact suggest a more interesting story or setting. In some cases this may mean completely rejecting any expectation of verisimilitude and in fact indulging in the opposite assumption, that nothing you are seeing is meant to reflect any semblance of reality, whether the original authors intended it to or not, but it's an approach that I think can ultimately be rewarding.

Rather than only accepting the world of a movie to the extent that it accurately represents the real world, why not just accept that it is not the real world, no matter how much it tries to look like it, and let the apparent incongruities enrich the story rather than damage it? I brought this up in the last part when talking about the death and resurrection of Leech Woman, and how an obvious lack of foresight on the creators' part led to a more nuanced interpretation of the series' arguable main character, Toulon. You can also see a somewhat ironic extrapolation of this in an another article I wrote for this site recently about the movie Fred Claus. I mention it here only because this second set of films sometimes almost seems to go out of its way to change things and forget what it has established, and in doing so, introduces an incredibly intriguing element to the Puppet Master universe that I will go into greater detail on towards the end.

Puppet Master 6: Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

The first film in this new set, technically just called Curse of the Puppet Master with no subtitles or numbering, feels like an attempt to go back to basics and recapture some of the macabre edge of the first three films that was sapped by the shitty fourth and fifth installments. This instinct to look back goes too far for some fans, as many shots of puppet animation are taken directly from earlier films and spliced in to cut costs, with new puppet footage looking obviously less sophisticated by comparison. This is something that I rarely notice in movies unless it is obvious, and it is here but it doesn't ruin the movie for me. The film doesn't bring back any old characters from the franchise other than the classic puppets, and chooses to tell a new story that does not have any direct bearing on future movies and evokes the tone of a cheesy but entertaining Outer Limits-style morality piece (or to be more accurate, a 90's remake Outer Limits-style morality piece).

Dr. Magrew (George Peck), the elderly proprietor of a museum of oddities, has developed a strange hobby after discovering Toulon's puppets at an auction some years ago. For reasons that are not completely explained, Magrew has become obsessed with the idea of turning humans into living puppets, recruiting a teenage boy named Tank (Josh Green) to build him a custom-made puppet after he reveals a Rain Man-like ability for sculpting (though the performance may be less a reflection of autism as simply terrible acting). Tank becomes almost as obsessed as Magrew at completing his work, unaware that his new employer plans to use him as the puppet guinea pig when it's completed. The boy's only distractions are a burgeoning romance with Magrew's daughter (Emily Harrison) and a series of dreams that find his limbs and internal organs slowly being converted into wood and clockwork.

This series has never been the hallmark of acting talent, but this one in particular is a bit hard to work through, and there's a reason you've probably never seen any of the cast in anything else. There's a sheriff (Robert Donovan) investigating the mysterious disappearance of Magrew's last assistant who is just needlessly evil, and a neighborhood bully (Michael D. Guerin) who can best be described as almost comically rapey, at one point rehearsing his next planned sex crime out loud to get himself pumped up while lifting weights (there's no better way to explain it, it makes no sense). There's also a cameo by C. Courtney Joyner, co-writer of Puppet Master (mother fucking) 3, as a phone bill-obsessed shipping clerk that made me laugh when I don't think it was necessarily supposed to. It's really the first time this series descends into the slasher movie muck of creating so many unlikable characters you want to see killed, and while the deaths are somewhat effective and probably the goriest since the original, it's always a shame to see a series get to this point when it didn't start out that way.

Magrew at least is a somewhat complicated character and probably the most interesting to watch. The closest indication we get as to why he's so committed to this bizarre goal is when he calls the puppets possibly the first in a new species, implying a vision of transferring human souls into puppet bodies en mass. Why he would want to do this or think it was a good idea is never addressed, but it's not the only reference to this notion of taking Toulon global in the series and is part of that intriguing element I'll get to at the end. Also, his reaction to finding out that his daughter is falling in love with the boy he plans to puppetize shows that he genuinely understands and cares about the fact that his plan will hurt those around him, even if he still wants to go through with it. You almost expect him to change his mind by the end and sacrifice himself for his work, but ultimately Tank ends up on the slab and finds himself physically and spiritually transplanted into a little toy robot with tank treads, because fuck it. The end is a bit lackluster, with so much set-up going into the creation of this masterpiece puppet, only to reveal a chintzy action figure that's only on screen long enough to suck and never appears in the series again. As much as the movie as a whole is leagues better than the fourth and fifth movies, at least when they introduced Decapitron, they knew how to build up a little suspense. Also, it ends so abruptly, like there was an epilogue that got cut. I can't find anything online for this, but I wouldn't be surprised if this scene was originally extended. Overall though, if you're enough of a fan to get this far into the series, you shouldn't be too disappointed.

The idea of reverse engineering Toulon's process from studying the puppets alone is an interesting one, and introduces a few new wrinkles into the mythology. First, the set-up is a strange coda to the end of the last series, which had Rick established as the new puppet master, ready and willing to protect Toulon's creations, only to apparently sell the little fuckers off the first chance he got. I knew that kid was an asshole. Apparently he kept the diary, forcing Magrew to figure things out on his own with mixed results, but we don't find out what happens to the diary until later in the series. More importantly though, without Toulon's notes, Magrew doesn't understand that the reason he keeps failing is because the transference of a soul into a puppet cannot be done unwillingly, and through his ignorance, he somehow forces his way around this rule. He essentially creates a puppet with the inherit ability to vaporize a living being, convert it into energy, and then absorb its spirit, sort of like the human version of the ghost trap from Ghostbusters if it had arms and legs and walked around. He also doesn't use a formula or any traditional methods, making this the third different way to create life seen in the series. The only part I question is the logic of doing all of this, abducting a person and forcing them into the body of a puppet, and then giving that puppet a laser arm. I don't know, it just seems like you're inviting trouble at that point.

Puppet Master 7: Retro Puppet Master (1999)

Actually, once again, the title is simply Retro Puppet Master, and despite a few key flaws, this movie is a vast improvement over the previous one and arguably the best since Toulon's Revenge, tying together various plot elements from the series and retooling the origins of the original puppet master's puppet mastery. Guy Rolfe is back as Toulon but only for a wrap around segment set after the events of the third film to introduce a flashback within a flashback of himself as a teenager in Paris. It's his last appearance in the role before his death, and It would probably be unfair to expect the younger Toulon to measure up to the older incarnation (and he doesn't), but the new guy played by Greg Sestero does a commendable job, even if his accent takes a little getting used to. Sestero is mostly known now for his infamous role as Mark from Tommy Wiseau's The Room, whose ironic fans I find to be completely insufferable (That's right friend and editor Nate Zoebl, I know you're reading and also publishing this!). The gimmick of the movie is a new set of puppets introduced as his first experiments, all but two being old timey versions of the classic puppets from the series. More important is a retconning of Toulon's first introduction to the magic of animating his creations, using a method of blood transfusion and incantation that differs completely from anything seen before. It's another one of those contradictions that leads to more interesting conclusions, and at the risk of one too many teases, I'll pick up on it later.

The Egyptian Demon God Sutekh returns, but thankfully the producers decided to keep the Lord Zedd puppet in storage and made him an ominous voice enacting his will from afar, which works a lot better and almost makes up for the rubber mess of his introduction to the series. Once again he works through proxies but this time he has the good sense to use human-sized ones in the form of mummies magically disguised as creepy assassins in trench coats and bowler hats. These guys are awesome, reminiscent of the bad guys from Dark City, and the most credibly threatening antagonists in the series since Richard Lynch's Nazi brigade. They are brought to life to hunt Afzel (Jack Donner), a magician who stole the secret of life and seeks an apprentice to teach it to in case of his death. It's a nice creepy performance, though a bit short for my tastes, and you never really get a sense of where he stands as far as being a noble character or a villain, but he seems to think his actions are for the good of mankind, warning of a coming darkness when the Elder Gods will awaken and his stolen secrets could be the only hope for humanity. I would have liked to see more of his character and his relationship with the young Toulon, but he serves his purpose to the story and exits soon enough to leave time for the final battle of good and evil (and puppets). After the mummies are defeated, the wrap around ends with Guy Rolfe's Toulon finishing the story of how the old puppets came about, but he is coy about where they ended up, saying it's a story for another time.

We also see Toulon's first meeting with the woman who would become his wife and eventually the puppet Leech Woman (Brigitta Dau), named Elsa or Ilsa depending on the movie, as well as Toulon's puppeteering troop whose souls serve as the transplants to his first puppets. It should be noted that the acting this time around is a vast improvement over previous films, with the one exception being a puppet show put on with dialogue performed so badly it almost seems intentional. Speaking of the puppets, this time they come off like an afterthought, overcrowded in a very busy plot forced to move a bit too quickly, but they're effective as much as they're in it. My only quibble was the inclusion of two new puppets, Doctor Death and Cyclops, who are in no way memorable, while other puppets weren't given retro analogs. I understand Leech Woman since her human counterpart is still alive and there are no women in Toulon's troop, but what about Torch or Decapitron? It's a small thing, but it kind of bothered me a little bit. In a way, the movie feels like the reverse of the last one, a direct prequel with no way to disconnect it from the mythology, with decent actors playing characters central to the series, this time with all-new puppets that are animated well with no stock footage involved, all culminating in an experience that is not just tolerable but engaging and worthwhile.

Puppet Master 8: Legacy (2003)

It's a clip show. No, wait, scratch that. It's a clip show movie!

Seriously, has there ever been a good clip show? I guess The Simpsons ones were decent, and I don't think they even do those anymore. Every once in a while a show like Community or the Clerks cartoon will take the concept and spin it into good television, but for the most part, actual clip shows are probably the worst thing ever invented by man. Clip shows suck more ass than Critters 3 and Puppet Master 5 combined. I think the one that hurt me the most was "Shades of Grey," the season two finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was the last episode of a season that was so much better than the one before it, and to end it like that? Maybe worse was Stargate SG-1, which didn't even have the common courtesy to make clip shows irrelevant so we could skip them on the DVD. They'd have one every year and almost every time the bits that weren't clips were integral to the season's story arcs, forcing us to watch them. It's bullshit. It always has been bullshit and it always will be bullshit. Fuck it. Fuck it on a part of its body that doesn't have a hole to fuck, so hard that the power of the fucking creates one through erosion.

So anyway, the eighth Puppet Master movie is a clip show. Okay, in their defense, apparently there have been some licensing issues over the years that have left some entries in the franchise out of print, unavailable in certain formats, or otherwise hard to find, and while these issues have largely been resolved since then, at the time this movie was made it was not unreasonable to assume some fans of the series might not have been able to have every movie in their collection for easy reference. As such, Legacy acts as a refresher course for Puppet Master canon up to that point for those who may have needed it, kind of like what I'm doing now, except obviously not as awesome. Watching it as part of a marathon is a little redundant considering it's only a little more than an hour including the clips, with less than half the movie making up original content. To even call it a movie seems inaccurate, as it feels more like a particularly elaborate DVD featurette that might have been included in a box set of the series, but since it was released on its own and technically represents the most recent events in the series chronologically, it can't be completely ignored.

The original scenes are actually quite novel from a fan wankery standpoint, bringing a minor character from the series back to the Bodega Bay Inn and setting up an eerie twist ending that's maybe even a little too complex and sad for its own good. Here we follow a now elderly Jacob Hertz, a character who appeared as a child and friend of Toulon in Puppet Master 3, so minor that I'm pretty sure I didn't even feel the need to mention him, as he is interrogated by a sexy femme fatale assassin in search of Toulon's secrets. Hertz is now played by Jacod Witkin, taking over the role from Aaron Eisenberg, best known as the Ferengi Nog from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and his attacker is played by Kate Orsini, best know for this movie and fucking nothing else. As she holds him at gun point, the two have a tense debate about the moral character of Toulon as Hertz tells his story and plays audio tapes in Toulon's voice to trigger the clips. I first thought I would skip through the clips and just watch the original segments to prepare for this review, but I quickly found that even though I had just watched the movies, I wasn't sick of seeing these scenes again, and I don't really know if that's a testament to the way they are cut together here or just to the enjoyability of the series as a whole. The fact is, I wasn't bored, despite there not being a lot of new stuff going on, and the ending more than made up for it.

I guess I've been spoiling the crap out of these movies, but in this case, it's very hard not to, as there's really only one thing about the plot that's interesting enough to talk about, and it just so happens to be the ending. Basically, Hertz gets the upper hand and the gun and shoots the woman, but as she's dying she reveals her true intentions - that she wasn't hired to find the secret of creating unnatural life but to destroying it. It turns out that she was hired by "the creatures Toulon left behind. The Immortals, trapped in wooden bodies, living every day in agony." It's naturally implied that this refers to the puppets themselves, and the idea that after all these years, they've finally grown resentful of their immortal forms is very cool, but there's a problem with this assumption that leads to something even cooler. The movie starts with the assassin talking on a cell phone with the person who hired her, but we all know that the puppets can't talk, so who was she talking to? The only solution is that the puppets we've seen aren't the only ones Toulon created, and that maybe there's another faction out there somewhere that we haven't seen, with wooden bodies but sophisticated enough to speak. Or maybe we just haven't seen them in a while. Maybe it's the first set of puppets whose fate is currently unknown. They couldn't talk either, but who knows how they've re-built themselves in the intervening years. Oh, and I almost forgot, at the beginning of the movie, the assassin is shown reading Toulon's diary, and it is eventually revealed through their dialogue that in order to get it, she put two bullets into Rick's chest. The only thing that doesn't make it the best moment in the series is that it's off screen and not played over and over again on a loop.

Puppet Master 9 (ish): Vs. Demonic Toys (2004)

I'm not sure how to handle this one. On the one hand, producer Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures didn't make it, instead it was made as a Sci-Fi (sorry Sy Fy) Channel Original Movie, and Band has disavowed it and said it is not in canon with the rest of the series. On the other hand, it was written by C. Courtney Joyner, who is credited as co-writer of Legacy as well as Puppet Master 3, by far the best in the series overall, and it would represent the most recent point in the series chronologically if it were included. My instinct is to keep it in, if only because it's not terrible, especially for a Sy Fy Original, and it has a few interesting moments when viewed in context with the rest of the series. Also, I've read that originally, this idea was put forward at one point as an alternative story for Puppet Master 4, which somehow makes that movie even worse than I thought it was.

The story introduces a new Toulon, this one the grand nephew of Andre played by Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys, Dream A Little Dream), who surprisingly does not suck nearly as hard as you might expect. Robert Toulon and his daughter (Danielle Keaton) have found the puppets (well most of them) and are trying to figure out the secrets to animating them, all while being stalked by the sexily evil president of a toy company played by Vanessa Angel (Kingpin, Weird Science: The Series, My First Sexual Fantasies Growing Up), who has made a deal with a demon named Bael to take over the world on Christmas Day with an army of her own evil toys. The first of her toy minions are the titular Demonic Toys, creatures from another Full Moon property that was originally inspired (read: ripped off) from the first Puppet Master, including a foul-mouthed baby doll, a razor clawed Teddy Bear, and a psychotic Jack in the Box. I'm debating covering the series in a separate article, but for now all you need to know is that they're evil toys controlled by demons from Hell. One strange note, the original Demonic Toys was written by David S. Goyer, who would go on to write Batman Begins, The Blade Trilogy, Dark City, and ironically a completely different movie called The Puppet Masters (that I've never seen).

As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn't hate Corey Feldman in this. He plays it gruff and cynical and appears to be trying to portray a much older character (or maybe I just can't conceive of him as an older character considering his time as a child star). He's actually sort of adorable, and in fact, so is everybody in the movie, which is ultimately very light and trifling, treating the idea of living puppets and toys from hell as silly fun without necessarily losing any of the dark surreal tone set by the previous films. The puppets are obviously replicas and much more cheaply made than what we're used to, but at least they're in it quite a bit and now they've been refitted with cybernetic enhancements, which in Six Shooter's case means lasers. Fans of the old movies might have a problem with it but I thought it was a great twist on the formula. The demonic toys are equally subpar compared to their former appearances, and if there's one major quibble it's that the great battle suggested by the title only makes up the last few minutes of the movie. Overall you have to be pretty heartless not to get some enjoyment out of it.

In terms of the mythology, it's especially weird to talk about Puppet Master Vs. Demonic Toys as non-canonical considering it adds something to the history of the series that in any other movie probably would have been a huge reveal, and it does it almost as an afterthought. The movie expands the Toulon family not just forwards but backwards, introducing a Renaissance Era ancestor of Andre Toulon who struck deals with demons for the secrets of alchemy, only to renege and escape them by transplanting his soul into an oak tree. This tree is noted as the one Andre used to carve his first puppets, as seen in Retro Puppet Master, and in addition to adding a lot more weight to the post-Legacy Immortals theory, this idea opens the door for a whole new story in a whole new historical setting. Also, the formula in this film is noted as now requiring not just blood but specifically Toulon family blood, which seems to go against the trend of making the secret of life more accessible to the masses as we've seen up to this point. There's a lot that could be explored here that sadly will most likely not be considering the series is apparently ignoring it.

Puppet Master 10: Axis of Evil (or 9 if you ignore the previous one) (2010)

The latest movie in the Puppet Master franchise feels in many ways like an attempt to take everything that we've seen before in this series and condense it into one awesome, full-length love letter to its past. It succeeds for the most part, failing in a few key areas that perhaps hamper the movie but don't ruin it by any means, and I must say that watching it for the first time as part of this retrospective, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Strangely, while it is thematically a sequel to Puppet Master 3, seeing the puppets battle Nazi's once again, it is actually a direct sequel to the first film, but specifically the prologue, taking place directly after Toulon's suicide and long before the modern events of the series. Footage from the first film is integrated very well considering what you would think would be the obvious differences in quality over the decades, and while the puppets don't move with the fluidity that they did in their first few appearances, they are handled a lot better than in the last few. The story is simple; a young apprentice of Toulon's working at the Bodega Bay finds the puppets hidden away and recruits them to help fight the Nazis who were after him.

The acting is hit and miss, with the new puppet master as well as his friends and family doing a respectable but still clearly straight-to-video job. The sore spot here is the villains, specifically made up of two hunky young Nazi officers right out of German Dawson's Creek (which I assume is a thing), and an evil Japanese Geisha lady played by perhaps the worst actress I have ever seen in a movie about puppets fighting Nazis. I'm not even going to do the thing where I put their names in parentheses because that's how hard they suck, and I don't want you looking them up and trying to watch them in other movies. Her performance alone almost ruined the movie for me and bodes ill for the rest of the series, as she seems to be set up by the end as a recurring bad guy moving forward. Her lines are clearly dubbed, and poorly at that, and the less said or thought about her the better. The stand-out is Levi Fiehler, who is very good at conveying the double-edged sword of assuming the puppet master mantle, using what can be considered dark magic for good, but also letting it warp you and take you to deranged places you never thought you could go. By the third act, when he's in full revenge mode, he'd won me over as the new protagonist of the series, which is also set up by the film's end.

Very little is added to the overall mythology, save for a closer look at how the formula is used to transfer souls from person to puppet. Here the blood of the recently dead is mixed with the formula and injected into an inanimate object, which sort of combines what we've seen in Puppet Master 3 and Retro Puppet Master and makes sense in context. Also we get a new puppet this time around, named Ninja, brought to life and imbued with the soul of the new puppet master's brother, killed by Nazis a few days before he was due to be shipped off to the war where he would have presumably been mostly likely killed by Nazis (played in human form by Taylor M. Graham). At least this way he gets to live on in puppet form, and for what its worth, it's probably the first introduction of a new puppet since Six Shooter that actually has me excited about a return performance. With that said, the movie seems to imply that Ninja died in the movie, using the last of his strength to throw a ninja star into a Nazi's eyeball with his tiny, tiny puppet hands, but I doubt it's the last we've seen of him in the series. The movie ends on a cliff hanger, promising a direct continuation to come, and I'll be dealing with it in another article when it does.

How I Would Have Continued The Series (20-not ever)

It has been suggested to me that perhaps I should not be indulging so much in what can be read as silly, overly elaborate fan fiction in this forum. With that in mind, here are like nine ideas for more Puppet Master movies (yeah, that's right, fuck editorial mandates). It should be noted that a new Puppet Master movie, called Axis Rising, has already been announced, scheduled for release in October 2012, and as the title implies, all evidence points to a direct sequel to Axis of Evil. I like what I've heard so far, especially the clan of evil Nazi puppets with names like Blitzkrieg and Kamikaze, but I already know it won't be the puppet Nazi movie I want to see. It seems so obvious that I can't believe they haven't done it yet in this series, but why the hell have Toulon's puppets not fought Hitler yet? I don't just mean his forces or his generals, I mean the man himself. I suggested this as a Gremlins sequel in another article that has yet to be published, but it works so much better here. Personally I think every movie should have a sequel where the main characters fight and kill Hitler, but maybe that's just me.

I didn't mention it before, but after Puppet Master 5, there was a plan for what may have turned out to be a trilogy of films, or possibly a TV series, that ultimately turned into nothing. It was called Puppet Wars, and supposedly the idea was to have Toulon's puppets fight the classic Universal monsters. I don't know what the copyright status is on all of them, but I imagine there's at least a public domain version available for most of them, and I still think this would be awesome. It's weird to think of how rare it actually is that all the old monsters get together for any reason. It seems like they team up or fight each other all the time in movies, but even the ones where this was promised were typically disappointing. Why not resurrect this idea (no pun intended)?

One thing I've always liked about this series is that it has never bound itself to moving forward chronologically and has always felt free to continue any part of the story wherever an interesting concept can be mined, whether it's in the past, present, or future. In that vein, I want to see a continuation of the end of Puppet Master 2, which had the puppets in a creepy van with a mannequin lady on their way to perform a puppet show for mentally challenged kids. I see it as an extended version of that scene from 2 with torch and the little boy, where you're constantly on the edge of your seat wondering if he's gonna kill the kid or let him live (and yes, all the retarded kids burn to death). Or what about a prequel to the first movie, showing how the original team of psychics first met and began their investigations into the paranormal? Or why not accept the cannonicity of the Feldman one and do Renaissance Puppet Master, following a DaVinci-esque Jean Paul Toulon as he deals with demons and brings life to his various steam punk devices? Or hell, how about Future Puppet Master, bringing Toulon's puppets to a high-tech era where artificially intelligent robots are a reality and old must fight new for the fate of the world? You thought puppets vs. Nazis was awesome, try puppets vs. Skynet! Feel free to take a break to masturbate furiously; I have more for when you come back.

Another great element of this series is how it plays with the idea of resurrection and how the concept of bringing life to the unliving has been portrayed in popular culture. The obvious parallel is Pinocchio, but there are also many deliberate references to Frankenstein, and even a few subtle nods to voodoo and Romero zombies. The voodoo one puts me in mind of living voodoo dolls, now with two ways to kill their victims, which now that I think about it could be done on it's own and I wonder if it ever has been. I suppose it would be very easy for me to research that right now considering I'm typing this on a computer with access to the Internet, but on the other hand, fuck that. Still, the one popular conceptualization of resurrection they haven't tackled is the one I most want to see. You liked Retro Puppet Master, then try Biblical Puppet Master! I see Afzel the Egyptian, implied to be a long lived immortal, teaching his secret of life to a young carpenter and would be prophet who, as we find out was stricken from the gospels because it made him appear silly, only really wants to carve little wooden puppets (maybe 12 of them to be exact? I don't know, I'm just spitballing here). The point is, somebody needs to get Mel Gibson on this shit right now.

And finally, an idea that takes every concept we've seen up to this point in the franchise and combines it into a giant fan-wanking mess of puppety awesome that I call Puppet Master: Apocalypse. The set-up is the warning Afzel gives to Toulon in Retro Puppet Master, that one day the Lovecraftian Old Ones will rise and humanity's only hope will be in learning the secret of life. The start of the movie has just such a thing happen, summoned by a secret Illuminati-esque group revealed at the end to be Toulon's original puppets, now twisted into freakish and monstrous forms, who seek oblivion in the most kick-ass way possible. But standing in their way is Toulon, who has hatched a plan that is only now taking shape long after his death. You see, for all this time he has been experimenting with the secret of life, transforming the method from one shrouded in magic and mystery to one of science and easily re-created formulas. His ultimate goal: mass production, giving everyone on the planet a defense against the darkness, specifically in the ability to transfer the human soul into a stronger, maybe even indestructible form. The end result of this is to turn the art of puppet resurrection into a reflexive psychic ability, as seen briefly in the last moments of the first film, bringing the whole story full circle as your mind explodes. It turns all the contradictory methods of bringing puppets to life shown in the series together and reveals them to be not mistakes but a secret narrative thread that only becomes apparent eleven movies in.

I see Toulon's puppets leading an army of inanimate soldiers against an army of demons. Tunneler, already dressed the part, leads the troops and becomes a silent Patton-esque figure, sending out squadrons of robots based on Magrew's designs, able to forcibly rip the souls out of humans and place them into puppets to create more soldiers, willing or not. The enemy's forces are lead by Sutekh, now a Jim Henson creation, because fuck you, it's my sexual fantasy. I meant fantasy. Just fantasy. He leads a swarm of the forces of hell made up of bowler hat mummies, demonic toys, Rancor monsters, and even those little demon guys from 4 and 5. And Critters, throw in some Critters too. Or maybe he recruits the modern skin head movement into the ranks so we can still have Nazis in it. Or better yet, just have fucking Zombie Nazis led by the walking Corpse of old Adolf himself. And make sure to bring back Toulon's Hitler puppet so we can finally have the grudge match the world's been waiting for -- Puppet Hitler vs. Zombie Hitler! And of course it all ends as giant cosmic beasts descend upon the Earth, with Cthulu (or a legally permissible pastiche) killed by every puppet in the world teaming up to take it down in a battle so epic, the Oscars will have to be officially re-named the Puppet Master awards. It's sort of like that one comic where everybody in the Marvel Universe teamed up to fight Galactus and they sling shot the Thing into him and he kept shrinking, only they don't pussy out and spare his life at the end. Close your eyes and let it all sink in, then open them and realize that you have now wet yourself in girlish glee.

That's all I got. Man, I feel like I've just had a puppet enema, which is to say an enema both administered by puppets and one in which many puppets come flooding violently out of my anus. Hey, I think I just came up with idea number ten! That's it for now. Stay tuned next time for six degrees of giant worm monsters and the bad assitude of the dad from Family Ties when I review the Tremors Quadrilogy. See ya soon everybody.

Okay, one more. Another prequel this time. I'm thinking Disco Puppet Master! A greedy land developer played by R. Lee Ermey briefly comes into possession of the deed to the Bodega Bay Inn and turns it into a roller disco, where the puppets strut their stuff on the dance floor while trying to evade capture from two bumbling pest control guys. I like it because it's sort of the reverse of everything I love about the series, turning it into a cheesy, gimmicky lark. Also, Pinhead gets an Afro, and Blade trades in his all black Goth look for leather and bell bottoms. Make it happen people!
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