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Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Year: 2018
Production Co: Cinestate
Director: Sonny Laguna/Tommy Wiklund
Writer: S Craig Zahler
Cast: Thomas Lennon, Charlene Yi, Michael Paré, Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton

Like Lesbian Vampire Killers, Cowboys and Aliens or Dead Snow, this cheapie love letter to the horror genre tries to construct a high concept USP made up of only one or two distinctive hooks, in this case killer Nazi puppets (yes, it might remind you a little of Kevin Smith's Yoga Hosers too).

When manchild Edgar (Thomas Lennon, the hangdog ex husband from Half Magic) finalises his divorce and returns home to his disapproving parents, he finds a weird old puppet in his deceased brother's things.

Realising there's a convention nearby to exhibit and sell similar artefacts, he takes his new girlfriend and the co-owner of the comic book store he runs along for the ride.

When they arrive they do a tour of a nearby mansion which was the focus of a spate of violent murders 30 years before, but before long the convention's on, barely starting when carnage descends.

The puppets are all imbued with magical powers by the monstrous form of the former Nazi who lives in the mansion (Udo Kier – you won't recognise him) to come to life and go on another killing spree like they did 30 years before.

Puppets crawl out of decorative boxes in hotel rooms to gouge, stab, shoot and dismember their unsuspecting and terrified owners, and when the survivors of the bloodbath gather in the hotel lobby (including mistress of 80s horror Barbra Crampton as the tour security guard and former A lister Michael Paré as a local cop), the battle is on to destroy the puppets and get out alive.

In classic horror movie fashion the protagonists are all picked off one at a time in increasingly grisly fashion until only a handful are left.

Even though the premise is hilarious everyone plays it straight, which goes a long way towards selling the concept beyond a one joke punchline. It also doesn't scrimp on blood and guts, which is gratifying, because there's not a real lot else to go on – neither the characters or story are terribly interesting.

Aside from the claret, the other high point is the puppetry, which seems to be done completely in camera. The movie doesn't look like it had a high enough budget to warrant CGI, which gives it the kind of handmade charm that's getting rarer on screens.

But it certainly won't win any awards for taste. If you're enough of a horror fan the liberal splashing of viscera won't faze you, but the birthing scene – where one of the puppets approaches a pregnant woman in bed (complete with puppet POV approaching the underwear between her legs), enters her, then cuts its way out of her dead body complete with the foetus in its arms – might.

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