Wednesday, October 3, 2018
With Halloween just a month away and little coming out this week I decided I had to check out and pass along the good, the bad or the ugly about a new movie trying to reinvigorate a series of films that seemed to lose track the further along it went. Back in 1989 when video stores were still in vogue a small company named Full Moon Pictures was creating and releasing their own franchise films straight to video. Their biggest hit by far was their Puppet Master films beginning with PUPPET MASTER. Here we are 29 years later and that series has spawned 11 sequels. None of them quite lived up to the first film but that is about to change with the 12th film in the series PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH.
Thomas Lennon (RENO 911) stars as Edgar, a struggling comic book artist who works at a comic book store. Recently divorced and forced to move back in with his parents he takes a moment to go through boxes of old toys in his closet and comes across a creepy one, a skull headed dark cloaked creation with knives in its arms. The toy is one of the old puppets made by master craftsman Andre Toulon, seen in flashbacks as the film opened and played by horror staple Udo Kier.
Edgar runs into the sister of one of his old friends and soon love is in bloom. When the 30th Anniversary of the infamous Toulon Murders, a series of murders killing involving Toulon, in a town nearby is about to take place, Edgar decides that he can put his doll into one of the auctions there. Along for the ride are his now girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and his boss/friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). The trio arrive at the hotel where the convention surrounding the anniversary is taking place and check in.
Shortly after they arrive they visit the home where Toulon was killed after the massacre took place. His strangely constructed home is now a museum and the main tour guide is Carol Doreski (Barbara Crampton), the officer who shot and killed Toulon 30 years ago. Humorless and all business Doreski walks the guests through the home featuring displays of Nazi memorabilia collected by Toulon as well as books ranging from biology to mysticism. The final item they see is his mausoleum, another strangely built building with rods attached to its roof.
Returning to the hotel Edgar and Ashley discover that his Toulon doll is missing. What they don’t realize is that the dolls have come home to roost, returning to life now that they are close to their home. Each hotel/convention guests with a doll suddenly finds themselves threatened by the doll they brought with them. Police detective Brown (Michael Pare) is brought in but it seems that as he investigates one murder another has taken place.
As the bodies begin to pile up only Edgar and his imagination seem to realize what is going on. When a full scale attack takes place the rest begin to believe him. Now it becomes survival of the fittest as the legion of dolls begin their attack on the humans in the hotel. Just who will survive if anyone is left to be seen.
As I said the original film had a certain charm to it when it was released. Relying mostly on practical effects (non-computer generated images or CGI images) it was a throwback to the ways horror movies were once made. The new film does the same with creature doll effects that are all done physically with real dolls rather than CGI. It adds a sense of reality to what is most definitely an unreal movie. The dolls are less individualized than in the original film and my guess is because by now most fans know which one is which.
Well shot, written and directed the movie clocks in a 90 minutes and that’s a positive thing. Too often movies like this shoot for longer running times but this fits perfect. Lennon turns in a solid and subtle performance here. I’m used to him being loud and grabbing center stage in most films I’ve seen him in but here he’s subdued and it works.
The movie offers a high creep value that will make you consider checking under the bed at night, making sure that there are no dolls hidden beneath waiting to slice Achilles tendons or waiting for you to fall asleep so they can climb aboard to kill you in your sleep. A few nude scenes and some adult situations as well as language makes this a movie not for children, but adults will have some fun with it. And if you were one of those who loved the original but tired of the characters after the far too many sequels then give this one a look. You might find yourself enjoying a new tale of Andre Toulon and his puppets once again.
Upon watching HOUSEWIFE I had this feeling that I’d already seen this movie this year and within recent weeks. Granted there were some differences and logically I know that these two similar movies could not have been made with the one knowing the other was in production. The odds are though that many will have that same sense of déjà vu while watching this film. Bypass that and watch it with an open mind instead.
The film opens years ago with two little girls alone together in their room. Their mother is downstairs entertaining “the visitors” and they girls are restricted to their room. While playing Hazel, the older of the two, has her first period and begins bleeding. Her younger sister Holly disobeys her mother and runs to tell her that her sister is hurt which prompts mom to come upstairs. When she sees what’s taking place she screams out demanding that she be left alone, takes Hazel with her and tells Holly to stay in the room. Holly of course disobeys, goes downstairs and watches her mother drown Hazel in the toilet. She screams and her mother chases her around the house attempting to kill her as well when her father returns home. So mom kills him and Holly escapes. Weird movie so far, right? It stays that way.
Years later Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) is married to an author/painter and does her own things creating small dioramas ala doll houses. She and her husband meet with friends for dinner during which the friends (he’s also a writer) tell them they’re going to a ULM event that night. ULM stands for "Umbrella of Love and Mind", a cult type group that while watching eerily made me think of Scientologists. At first uneasy about going they change their mind when an old friend turns up unexpectedly.
Valery (Alicia Kapudag) is a free spirit from their past who shared not only their apartment but sexual favors with both of them. She left to join ULM, has since achieved the rank of “family member” and wants them to come that night which they agree to.
The meeting is glitz and glamor with flashing lights and big screen images. The leader of the group is Bruce O’Hara (David Sakurai) as charismatic and leader as you can find. He talks about achieving a state of nirvana through dreams and a dream like state. He tells the crowd he was told of a presence there tonight which of course is Holly. Approaching her he takes off his glove, touches her and that’s when things truly begin to get weird.
I won’t go further with what takes place in the movie but to say that Holly changes and images from her past begin to present themselves. O’Hara talks about “the visitors” and if you didn’t see that coming miles ahead during the opening sequence then you’ve not seen many films. By the final reel the story wraps around itself and everything fits together nicely with a few Lovecraftian items in the mix as well.
For me I felt the movie was interesting in some parts but not enough for me to recommend it to everyone. I know there will be some who will absolutely love the film and others who will have that what the heck did I just watch look on their face when it ends. It’s interesting and worth watching though and gore hounds will love one segment in the film especially, a brutally graphic face scalping.
Director Can Evernol has already established himself as a name the cult film fans love to talk about with his previous effort BASKIN. I will say that after watching this one I’m curious to take a look at that film now. Well shot and well directed the movie will hold your attention in its 82 minute running time and Sakurai looks to be someone worth watching in the future. Just know going in that several taboo style items are included and the film has a definite non-Christian attitude on display while not embracing Satanic influences.
As for the title of this piece the movie resembles the recently release HEREDITARY in a number of ways so if you’ve seen that film realize it going in. If you haven’t I’d suggest watching it before this one. Both are interesting but HEREDITARY is the better of the two.
There are a ton of horror movies released these days. At one time that was not the case, horror films only came in cycles and fans were forced to wait for those to come around again. But with the invention of streaming whole channels now are focused on the genre and films are being made with those channels in mind, movies that don’t always play in theaters but go straight to disc and those channels. SLEEP NO MORE feels like it falls into that category, a horror film that’s not bad but that you get the impression wouldn’t have lasted long in a theater.
The story takes place in 1986 at a college where a group of grad students are experimenting with a new drug while trying to make a discovery about sleep and the lack of. Their theory is that once a person reaches 200 hours without sleep they no longer require it. The implications for this in use for soldiers and more would be astronomical.
The five students include leader Joe (Keli Price) who is sleeping with Professor Whatley (Yasmine Aker) in the side, Frannie (Brea Grant) the studious type member, Dale (Stephen Ellis) the class clown and Holly (Christine Dwyer) the girl with her own special secrets and Carter (Lukas Gage). As the film opens we witness Carter go off the deep end and commit suicide cutting his own throat after gauging out his eyes. This leads to an investigation where the study is shut down. Determined to carry on the rest decide to take matters into their own hands along with a professor willing to assist.
With break taking place they remain behind and set about carrying on the experiment, continuing to inject the experimental drug Cognifan into themselves while watching and recording the effects of the drug with no sleep. One by one they begin suffering from hallucinations, in some cases dangerously close to bringing them to action. The Dale is there control subject, not given the Cognifan. But he takes the drug after dozing off and waking then accidentally injecting it.
The question rises are the visions they are seeing simply images created due to sleep deprivation? Or was there something else that Carter saw, something so terrifying that it made him do what he did?
Comparison to films like FLATLINERS and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET will follow this film forever since those movies used similar concepts. But this one has its own take on the genre. It made for an interesting concept but as for the follow through on that my feelings are mixed.
The images seen by the group are CGI based and some will hate that aspect of it. I found that it didn’t do any damage from my perspective. The ghostly images would be hard pressed with practical effects and the CGI here is far above anything seen in the weekly SyFy schlock films that channel puts out. They’re genuinely creepy if not terrifying and add to the atmosphere.
The acting here is better than most films of the budget and all come off as believable. The setting rings true to with the cast confined to the dorm area the story takes place in. There’s no need to run around campus due to the story involved. The cinematography is a bit lacking at moments but overall works fine. One thing the movie does to capture the time period is its use of popular music from the 80s. This works well in setting that period along with the Walkman being worn to listen to it.
On the whole the movie isn’t a bad little flick with some enjoyable moments. I’ve read some reviews that have ravaged the film but didn’t think it deserved the scorn that was being laid on it. I’ve seen much worse in low budget horror films and this one delivered on most of the marks it set out to hit. So if you’re looking for something a little different this Halloween season give this one a watch. And then make sure you get a good night’s rest.