Episode 108 – Puppet Master: the Littlest Reich (2018)

or “Adolph Hitler’s Muppet Babies”

Featuring: Thomas “Hell Baby” Lennon , Jenny “‘State of Affairs’” Pellicer , Barbara “Re-Animator” Crampton, and special appearance by Udo “Flesh for Frankenstein” Kier

Directors: Sonny “Wither” Laguna & Tommy “Wither” Wiklund

Writer: S. Craig “Bone Tomahawk” Zahler

Origin: USA

Review_____

“Kill that fucking baby!”

In an effort to expand my resume as an “artist/creator” (dear Ra can I not wait for the planet to be swallowed in atomic fire), my agent suggested I get a stage show produced so I qualify as a “playwright”. Well, Calamity of Snakes: the Musical, my plaguerism rampant adaptation of the 1982 Taiwanese horror movie of the same name, will be making its debut on the main stage of the Galaxy of Terror nightclub/sex dungeon in Greenvale, Washington for a six week run starting next week. If you actually attend one of our shows, please don’t send me any feedback as all requests for refunds will be denied – a policy that will be enforced onsite by the mutant bear monstrocity from Prophecy. Speaking of mutant bears, here’s that completely unrelated segway into the review that I ordered!

… “2 day shipping” my hairy ebon ass.

Though you wouldn’t know it by the lack of reviews on the site, I’m a long time fan of Charles Band’s Puppet Master series. Well, the first three movies. The latter NINE, not so much. Once the quality started its supersonic descent into crap movie hell with the 4th installment, my interests waned just as quickly, ultimately petering out when The SciFi Channel’s “Originals” line of TV movies vomited Puppet Master Vs. Demonic Toys directly into my eyes and turned me off of killer puppet flicks like a germaphobe at a GG Allin show. Even when Band tried to jumpstart the series again 6 years later by taking the aggro action figures back to their Nazi killing ways with a new “Axis Trilogy” project, I couldn’t even be bothered to download a pirated copy of the first flick for fear that a viewing would result in time better spent trying to castrate a badger or just crotching myself repeatedly on a cemetery gate. Even the return of director David DeCoteau was too little too late, and this was before he emotionally abused me with 1313: Bigfoot Island!

The Littlest Reich is Band’s attempt at rebooting the series after 29 years of quantity-over-quality lore building, Band-wagoning (*wink*wink*) on Hollywood’s 21st century fascination with trying to re-animate the corpses of deceased horror franchises in the hopes of hoovering whatever loose change is left in the pockets of their pre-installed fanbases. The only good thing about this is that Andre Toulon’s troupe of tiny terrorizers never had a wide enough fandom to catch the predatory eye of Michael Bay and his perpetual trash fire factory, Platinum Dunes. However, can the writer of the much-loved indie movie Bone Tomahawk and a pair of potential pervaded (though not yet fully proven) horror directors give new legs to a series that’s been dragging its decroded piece of crap carcass through the direct-to-video wasteland?Shit, I’ll be happy if I can get through it in one sitting without falling asleep or questioning the further validity of my existence. Mr. Zulu….engage.


(Yeah, this dude gets it.)

The opening introduces us to this alternate dimension’s Andre Toulon (Udo Kier!), whose oddly swollen head means the stems of his eyeglasses don’t have room to fit behind his ears and just sit tilted along his temples instead. Or maybe that’s just how Nazis wear their spectacles in this Twilight Zone episode. Oh, did I not mention that part? Yeah, in this reality, rather than being a one-man resistance army against the Third Reich, the half-French half-German Andre actually worked FOR the goose-stepping blitzkriegers. And what’s the worst way you can use a miniature death squad from Hitler’s side of WW2? Rooting out the hidden targets of your racist “Make Germany Great Again” campaign and slaughtering any and every Jew, Gypsy, black, homosexual, and so forth that they find. He was basically a more hands-on Hans Landa. I’m guessing Anne Frank’s diary didn’t get many entries in this darkest of timelines…

When we catch up to bringer of diminutive death, it’s 1989 and he’s successfully hidden himself in Texas, the self-proclaimed craddle of ‘Merica no less, for 40+ years. Andre 3000 (probably a fair assessment of his kids’ killcount) lives amid the citizens of Pottsville and we catch up to him as he imbibes in some seeming socializing at a local bar, where his not-great attempts to pick up the female bartender send him home in a huff. Unlike 90% of heterosexual men, Toulon is disgusted when the ‘tender’s tender lady lover explicitly illustrates to the old man that this be-breasted drink slinger’s pants are a “Cowgirls Only” zone. Openly lesbianic gals deep in the hateful heart of 1980s Texas?! If it weren’t for Andre’s fatal retaliation, these two probably would’ve ended up on the receiving end of a Boys Don’t Cry from some sobriety challenged, mouth breathing “good ol’ boys” before too long, so… at least being killed by a grown man’s gore hungry toys is quick and devoid of sexual assault.

Yep, a quick death is pretty much the best case scenario when you’re a non-conservative in the Lone Star Shame.

In an unexplained turn of events, the local law enforcers know Toulon is to blame for the lesbians’ roadside induction into the choir invisible (the tiny bloody footprints, perhaps?) and storm his mansion, shooting him dead in his foyer with a hail of gunfire that later lacks sense with one officers report that they actually executed him in his basement workshop, where he was put down for pointing a gun at them. Given what the recent years of body cams, dashboard videos, and civilian recordings have shown us though, the chances of the official report on the incident being plastered with more horse shit than Hercules (“Heracles” if you’re nasty/Roman) flushed from the Augean Stables is almost a money back guarantee*.

*Some exclusions apply.

Time warping to “Present Day (2018 for us) in the Dallas of Texas, we’re introduced to our protagonist: Edgar Easton (Thomas “Don’t call me ‘John’” Lennon!). Recently divorced from his wife, the comic book writer-illustrator-shop employee is forced to move in with his parents until he can establish a financially viable domicile to call his own. Like most moms, Mrs. Easton is happy to have her little (middle-aged) boy back under her roof, while Mr. Eastman, like most dads, will be using his son as a personal punching bag for his retired old policeman spite and general Republican bitterness. Things look up for the downtrodden graduate from the comic geek old school though, when he gets into an almost immediate romantic bodily fluids exchanging relationship with local lass Ashley Summers (Jenny Pellicer), whose brother he knew during their school days. She works at a record store, takes her cat (and its corpse paint like facial markings) for leashed walks, and when Eddie vocalizes his disdain for hipsters, you’d think their pelvises had suddenly become magnetized by oppositely charged electrons.

If you’re a member of ICP, I suggest Googling that last bit.

Years before this, Edgar’s brother James passed away from an “accident” that nobody feels the need to elaborate on. Amid the deceased sibling’s belongings, Ed finds a very morbid looking puppet he found during summer camp years ago and that would’ve given ’90s Todd McFarlane a hard-on.

If you didn’t collect action figures based on horror movie villains and monsters 25 years ago, I suggest Googling that last bit.

Rather than hold onto the twisted piece of wooden evil for old times sake, Ed opts to sell it instead at a convention in Pottsville commemorating/celebrating the 30th anniversary of the grisly puppet master’s death…except whoever organized it can’t fucking count because 2018 minus 1989 is TWENTY-NINE. Welcome to alternate universe Trump’s America, folks. Anyway, Ed, Ash, and Ed’s friend/boss Markowitz (he seemingly only has one name, like Prince or Cher) road trip to KillerCon, where they learn the legacy of Hitler’s personal toymaker during a tour of the evil bastard’s mansion slash Nazi memorabilia museum, as hosted by retired police officer Carol Doreski (Barbara Crampton!) who was one of the trigger pullers that took down the monster. She’s the aforementioned cop that needlessly changes the story about finding Toulon in the basement.

I’m starting to feel like these “fuck-ups” are intentional attempts by Bone Tomahawk guy to bait nit-pickers as part of some trolling fetish he has.

With an estimated SIXTY-THREE of Toulon’s terrors due to reunite at the convention (he was apparently quite the successful mail-order creature carver in his day), this isn’t a question of if shit will be hitting the fan, but when. And the answer is a resounding “sooner than later”. Fortunately, for fellow gore whores and lovers of practical carnage effects, the deaths are graphic and numerous, with no less than (but probably more than) 20 bloody instances of puppetine peril! I definitely don’t suggest that pregnant women, children, or people with particularly delicate constitutions buy a ticket for this ride, cuz once the safety rail comes down it’s NO REFUNDS!

Littlest Reich does so much right as a reboot movie that the cluster-fuckery of its final act hits me in the life pump harder than a Porky Pete’s Triple-Thick Double Bypass Animal Farm Stacker Surprise with Jumbo Cheese-pocalypse Fried Bacon Rings. Without spoiling this “fresh out of the fryer” feature, I’ll just say that the finale feels confused, rushed, and needs to be flushed. Where as most movies are content with one, maybe two twists, Littlest Reich won’t be happy unless it makes Dee Snider eating a party-size bag of Rold Gold on a roller coaster look straighter than Sweeney Todd’s straight razor. If that outburst of metaphors and similes doesn’t impress upon you how unnecessarily throw together this finish is, than my resultant bout of Vertigo was all for naught.

In my last review, The Quiet Ones too was thrown down a spiral staircase for a 20 minute tumble by its own writers, but those twists and turns and twirls galore carried with them some a road map of revelations explaining how we got there. S. Craig Zahler bukakkes us with loose threads only to pull an Elaine Benes by filling in the gaps with “yadda yadda yadda” that only makes things more muddied! Also, he does so while doing that fucking weird “ghosts have taken residence in my bone marrow” dance she did in that one episode. Clearly a sadist.

Frustrating finishes aside, I applaud this new installment of Puppet Master lore for much more. The looming threat of entire legions of Herr Toulon’s little monsters is enticing. Though some of their styles overlap, the new evil redesigns do the trick. As much as it disappoints that they lack much of the individual charm and character of the originals, as a death squad of murderous miniature racist scum fodder doomed for deletion in Hel’s Obsolete Products Department, they fit the loathsome antagonist bill like Nazis should. And the manipulations of the puppeteers giving them life behind-the-scenes is impressive. It’s still not the return to stop motion magic that lured me into the influences of the original series’ first trio of entries, but it’s a Superman leap (over a tall building in a single bound) beyond poor man’s Punch & Judy stuff we’ve been forced to all too much to endure for more than two decades. Kudos to the crew and here’s to the hopes that you’ll return for a follow-up.

Now, to the less novelty based members of the cast. I’ve been a mark for Thomas Lennon and the rest of his friends from ”The State” since it originally aired on MTV in the golden days of ”Liquid Television”, ”The Brothers Grunt” and ”Oddities”. Seeing him take a more serious, well, reserved role like Edgar is interesting. In a good way. I was expecting his usual comedic act to come out and goof the flick up too much, but the introverted divorcee forced to shack up again in the bedroom of his childhood is just as far from Lieutenant Dangle of the Reno PD as he should be. Though he still gets plenty of funny lines, they’re delivered with the fitting deadpan sarcasm of a bemused Gen-Xer instead of the in-on-the-joke flamboyance of his usual characters. Though he’s busy enough with producing, writing, directing, and all of that other creative chicanery, I’d like to see Mr. Lennon stretch his legs with some similarly non-clowning roles.

The other two big portions of the acting pie, Jenny Pellicer and Nelson Franklin, too do their parts proud. As Ashley, Pellicer is sunny as her character’s last name suggests without going to revolting lengths. She’s a charmer, she and Edgar compliment each other perfectly, her chemistry with Lennon feels real for a pair of newly involved romantic interests, and she’s a perfect foil for the pessimistic Markowitz without, again, taking it to irritating sitcom lengths. It also doesn’t hurt that she gives me good vibrations of a Kristen Wiig variety, and I get hot over women who wear chokers…

Temping down any arousal I just experienced, Franklin’s Markowitz is a nauseating reminder of a comic book store owner I actually worked for. He’s a snide know-it-all prick who thinks he has the answer for everything and any opinion that’s not his is ill-informed, its owner a feckless plebian. Unlike my former employer though, Marko embraces his Jewish heritage once he finds out that their enemies are agents of the Final Solution, and even gets in an act of ancestral reprisal on one of the Fuhrer’s playthings as he introduces it a natural gas powered tanning booth. The something from that oven’s got nothing to do with lovin’!

Of the remaining members of this “and the rest” cast, Udo is serviceably sinister as the newly revolting rendering of Andre Toulon (though sadly lacking in screen time), Skeeta Jenkins and Alex Beh make the most of their ancellary characters Cuddly Bear and the Crispen Glovery Howie respectively, while Barbara Crampton gets a very special mention from moi, the president of her unofficial one-god fan club! Never a slouch when it came to bucking the “damsel in distress” archetype in horror movies, in the 30 years since Re-Animator, BC (as the Evil Dead Bride and I like to call her) has only improved in her acting abilities. I don’t think she gets enough credit for her talent, given her resume in movies that we love though mainstream audiences may not, but she’s easily my favorite supporting cast member here. All my love, Miss Cramps. *mwah*

Before I finish lauding people, allow me to lob one final laud to legendary Italian horror composer Fabio Frizzi for bringing his special touch to Littlest Reich‘s soundtrack and giving Charles Band’s brother Richard’s original Puppet Master theme a tasty splash of his homemade spaghetti horror sauce for what I hope goes on to be a successful reboot.

Despite my middling rating, I still enjoy Littlest Reich. It’s a solid movie that horror-comedy fans and killer toy fetishists looking for a Saturday night popcorn/pizza/pierogie picture should prioritize on their pull list. And if you don’t like it? Well, opinions are opinions and just like at the Outback Steakhouse there are no rules, just right.

Oh, and, uhm, don’t try to cite said corporate motto as a legally binding call for in-restaurant anarchic behavior while visiting an Outback location. They have rules. Many rules. The breaking of which can lead to MOUNTAINS of legal action that the owners, employees, and customers will likely take against you. If you don’t believe me, just go to the restroom and check out the “Employees Must Wash Hands” plaques and see the facade of your Mad Max fantasies crumble in your hands like a sand dildo.

And on that dream shattering peak behind the curtain I bid you adieu, my marionettes of mayhem, and will see you next time on MIDNIGHT SHOCK-TIME HORROR THEATER! MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

*cough*

Bye.

Moral of the Story: Avoid in-person auctions. Sticking to eBay may just save your life!

Screenshots_____


I see Udo’s been eating the crumbs at the bottom of the Oreos bag. Someone tell Mr. Kier that a “wet nap” isn’t just what happens when he falls asleep in his Sitz bath.


Store brand Anna Kendrick is displeased. Or concerned? Maybe gassy. I’m not really sure.


Matthias Hues, seen here contemplating his Ticket to Ride strategy for this week’s Tabletop Night.


“Why does this puppet have lips like Janice from the Muppet Band? Oh god… my brother was using this thing to house his fleshlight! GAH!”


That cat has natural corpse paint! Brutal.


“Lady, if you don’t want to see a stranger masturbating in their front seat, then don’t go peeking in parked cars. Now either give me a hand with this or kindly leave.”


Poor Elton. He’s the only puppet Toulon ever made with a desperate need for a comb over.


“Ed, you know not to interrupt me on ‘New Issue of Gigantic Asses Day’. Now go restock the tissues in my office. I’m going to need at least two boxes this month.”


The lady likes her comic geeks like she likes her hams: BONE-IN! Woooooo!


Hitler was definitely a monster, but if Toulon’s home is in any indicator, der fuhrer provided his employees with a hell of a severance package!


“No, I’m not Kristen Wiig or Kate McKenna, but if I give you a fake phone number will you go away?”


Barbara Crampton teaches the rest of the crew how to do the “2 Legit 2 Quit” salute.


Don’t you hate those awkward days when you get called to a violent shootout at work, only to realize that you left your gun at home?


Given the strength of his grill game, MC Kaiser here will be guesting on tracks with 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa before the end of the year.


“Ah yes, there’s your penis. Just as the mail order bride catalog advertised. Excellent.”


Featuring a special cameo by your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler, David Starr!
(Whose crotch my face is unfortunately planted in for this screenshot.)


In the name of realism (while also avoiding risk of lawsuits), Marvel’s new Ghost Rider action figure requires buyers to provide their own hellfire.


“Damn it. We can’t watch the new episode of ‘Sailor Moon: Crystal’ because my mom and my ex are both using the Hulu account!”


Karl from Die Hard learns the messy side effects of snorting coke while also watching fan service anime.


“No! No! No! It’s a jump to the left and then a step to the right! The show starts in an hour and NONE of you have learned the Time Warp!”


“Und d-d-d-d-dat ist all, folks!”

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Anubis will return next time in
“Crazy Eldritch Asians”

Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

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