Review: Puppet Master II / Cert: 18 / Director: Dave Allen / Screenplay: David Phabian / Starring: Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, Greg Webb / Release Date: October 22nd
When people make lists of sequels that are even better than the original movie, for some reason they tend to overlook Puppet Master II, but they really shouldn't. Why? Because, as well as being a great little horror flick in its own right, it proved that Full Moon Features had hit on a franchise with legs (stubby ones without knee-joints, but who's complaining?)
For those who don't know, the series concerns a group of wooden puppets brought to life with an ancient Egyptian formula. The first film saw the critters running amok in an abandoned hotel on Bodega Bay, to the consternation of some visiting psychics. In this one, they revive from the dead the man who created them, master puppeteer Andre Toulon (Welles), who sets them to harvesting brains, a vital ingredient of the aforementioned formula. The most obvious source of grey matter is a team of parapsychologists who are encamped at the hotel, intrigued by rumours of strange goings-on. However, complications arise because the leader of the team, Carolyn (Maclennan), is the spitting image of Toulon's long-dead wife, Elsa.
In the first film, Toulon was a force for good. (Although if he's such a nice guy, why does he craft such creepy-looking puppets? Hmmm.) But there's nothing like being dead for fifty years to make you go all bitter and twisted, and this time round he takes the role of villain. He looks the part too – a tall, cadaverous figure in grubby mummy wrappings, aviator goggles and a black cape. As played by Steve Welles, he makes for a deliciously old school baddie. There's also a fun new addition to the roster of puppets – a pint-sized stormtrooper called Torch, with bullets for teeth and a flame-thrower for an arm.
Dave Allen, who masterminded the creature design on the first movie, steps into the director's chair, and makes a fine job of it. Moments that might, with other helmsmen, have fallen into broad comedy – such as an autopsy upon one of the puppets – are pulled off with a commendably straight face. Like the other films in this series of releases, Puppet Master II has been remastered from the original 35 mm negative, and in this case the transformation is little short of jaw-dropping. The DVD version we saw was almost Powell and Pressburger-esque in its layering of vibrant amber, red and purple washes, and the Blu-ray is bound to be even better. The film sounds great too, thanks to Richard Band's delightfully teasing score, which reworks his lilting theme music from the first movie. An unmissable release for Full Moon fans and lovers of ‘80s horror.
Extras: Special intro and audio commentary by Charles Band, Original full length Videozone, Killer puppet master montage, Rare 1997 Puppet Master action figure commercial, HD trailer, Full Moon trailer park, Collectors booklet, Reversible sleeve incorporating original artwork & Graham Humphreys artwork