Puppet Master II

I probably should have opted to review 1991's Puppet Master II in the form of a Blood Capsule.  But I didn't.  So here we go!  David Allen's Universal-inspired sequel doesn't do much to get the kids talking.  Heh, that's an amusing image.  I'm picturing a covey of grade schoolers attentively recounting their Full Moon rental experiences during recess, their bantam trunks constituting a belt of expressive eyes in close proximity to the monkey bars.  Can't you just see the mirth ingrained in their collective brow as they enumerate the previous night's horror show?  "My dad rented Meridian," Ricky offers.  "Boy howdy, it was scary!"  Shawn pipes up with an anecdote of his own.  "We watched Dollman.  What an adventure!"

Dom's wheelchair, sluggish with the languor of a low battery, approaches the rabble of children.  "My dad went to the video store drunk.  He came home with Puppet Master II."  An uncomfortable hush sweeps over Dom's supposed friends.  He knows they hate him.  Still, Rachel tries to pique some semblance of cordial, palsy-walsy goodwill.  "I liked the first one," she interjects with a nervous tremor in her voice.  "So did I!"  Dom is losing patience.  "Part two is no fun, though.  They turned Andre Toulon into a base, vitriolic blackguard."  The other kids have no idea what Dom means.  A base blackguard?  Is that like a black baseball player?  Tommy is curious.  "They turned him into Barry Bonds?"  Everyone chuckles...everyone except for Dom, that is.

I'm not sure where that tangent came from.  Folks, this is what you write when you don't have a whole hell of a lot to proclaim.  Puppet Master II is blah.  It's not a total misfire.  You may have noticed my allusion to Universal monsters, a wistful tide of iconic villains that made their mark on dailies of all stripes.  I wasn't expecting this franchise to avouch its love for the classics, but lo and behold, Allen pays homage to 1933's The Invisible Man.  Let me explain.  Our precarious puppets bring their master back from the dead.  Seeing as how Toulon is a putrid, decaying zombie fellow, he disguises himself underneath mounds of gauze.  Add a hat and a snappy pair of sunglasses to the equation; hey, it's Claude Rains!

The Universal vibe can be observed elsewhere in the film's fog-sopped churchyards, candlelit spiral staircases and blustery exterior shots.  Needless to say, I dug the atmosphere.  What's a fright flick without thunder and lightning?  I also got a kick out of Torch, the latest addition to Toulon's brigade of itsy-bitsy mutineers.  He comes equipped with bullet teeth and a flamethrower.  BULLET TEETH AND A FLAMETHROWER.  Fuck, that's gnarly.  On the dull end of the arbalest, none of the characters are remotely compelling.  We're stuck with a team of interchangeable paranormal investigators, and I couldn't give you a name at gunpoint.  At least the players in the original had distinct personalities (the bitchy lush, the nymph, the soft-spoken dead ringer for Klaus Kinski, etc.).

Puppet Master II's worst offense is shitting on Andre Toulon.  How did he transform from a sweet, good-natured old man into a rapacious sociopath?  In the first movie, he sacrifices himself for his puppets (or his "children," as he calls them).  Here, he uses them and fucks them in the ass.  Er, figuratively speaking.  Why the change of heart?  It's never addressed.  For a reason that has yet to be determined, this bothered me too much.  Perhaps it wouldn't have been an issue if the rest of Puppet Master II was consistently inviting.  I know that this isn't the shabbiest entry in the series, but I'm sorry.  It didn't tickle my taint.

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