Sequels In The Dark: PUPPET MASTER 5
Having seen the first two films over twenty years ago, I actually have a little familiarity with the Puppet Master series, which is now up to ten entries. From my memory, they both take place in a hotel and feature little dolls that kill people even though an average child should be able to kick most of them to death.
Jumping into Puppet Master 5, I found a series that adhered to only half of this. The puppets now appear to be good guys instead of killers, and yet - amazingly enough - the whole thing still takes place in a dumb hotel.
Puppet Master 5 starts off with a dorky-looking robotics dork getting grilled in a police station for a series of murders committed by demon puppets (not our lovable weirdo puppets). The cop doing the questioning checks out the mechanics inside one of the non-demon puppets and deduces that only a dorky-looking robotics dork could have made it and/or used it to kill. Watching this, it seems like a direct continuation of whatever happened in Puppet Master 4. Before this thought can even fully form, we’re treated to a not-so-brief run-through of Puppet Master 4 in its entirety. Courteous!
Through this flashback we learn several things. One, there are now weird demon puppets sent from another dimension by a big Power Rangers villain presumably in Hell. And two, the dorky looking robots guy is now THE puppet master for some reason. So the cop wasn’t totally wrong.
At first, the film is a real tease. The first puppet we see is Mr. Knife Hand Ghost, taken as evidence and stuck in a police station. When he escapes, you’re pretty sure he’s going to kill the police officer on evidence room duty, but he just sneaks out instead. When dorky-looking robotics guy gets bailed out, his girlfriend immediately wants to have sex with him, but he falls asleep, robbing both himself and the audience some much-needed sleaze. Once things get rolling, however, the film… remains a tease. We don’t get any violence until the forty-minute mark, and it’s little more than a demon puppet scratching a guy’s face up (this happens again later, and it’s just as boring).
But we trade those genre thrills for stuff we see less often. Dorky-looking robotics guy is leader of these puppets, and when Mr. Knife Hand Ghost catches up with him, we get a sincerely adorable dog and master relationship between them, the cuteness of which I can’t deny. The two take off to the big hotel to rescue all the loitering puppets from both the Hell demon guy and a greedy corporate jerk who wants the puppets for himself. So instead of a horror film, this is sort of a rescue mission to save a bunch of cute puppy dogs.
Speaking of the puppy dogs, here is your roll call:
Mr. Knife Hand Ghost - Actually, one of his hands is a hook. He doesn’t do much with either, so it doesn’t matter.
Littlehead Guy - I remember this one as a childhood favorite. He has a huge body and a tiny head. Supposedly, this makes him incredibly strong. We do see him punch a guy in the face here, so that’s something.
Fire Guy - This is a puppet with a flamethrower, which means he actually poses a believable threat.
Drill Head Nazi Guy - This puppet looks like a Nazi and has a drill for a head. It’s all right there in the fake title I made up for him. We get to see him drill into someone’s temple briefly, but it’s only a dream sequence.
Six Arms/Six Guns Guy - I like this one. A cowboy puppet sporting six arms and a gun for each hand that shoots real bullets, this seems like the most believably lethal of all these cuties.
Jester Guy - I don’t get it. He doesn’t really do much except change his facial expressions. There’s no violent gimmick here. Though to be fair, he does hit a guy in the balls with a mallet.
Mr. Decapitron - This blank faced puppet can house the soul of the original Puppet Master (I think). He can also put on a different head that shoots lightening. At no point does he decapitate anything other than himself.
I think that’s all of them. No sign at all of the Leech Lady one. I liked her.
There is definitely a larger story happening here that suffers without a viewing of Puppet Master 4. Even with the extensive recap offered near the beginning, the film’s villain lacks any introduction, and the puppet antics (they’re mostly just hanging out in this hotel waiting to get rescued) feel like an epilogue to some other story than a real story by itself.
Nevertheless, a small part of me wants to watch all of these movies. Cheap and cheesy as they are, I want to believe at least one of them has some worthwhile puppet murder action. The intriguing and varied designs are iconic for a reason. Even in a movie where they don’t really do anything, it’s a mild pleasure just looking at these little knuckleheads try to walk around without bumping into things.