Within the first few minutes of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, I was ready to call it quits. I, of course, kept going and let the film take me where it wanted. Thankfully, Puppet Master grew on me over the course of its 84-minute runtime. At first blush, it’s a schlocky mess of a movie that brings nothing new to the sub-genre it so proudly wallows in. But as the film hit its stride, I found there’s a lot of entertainment to be had here. It’s ridiculous and violent without ever taking itself too seriously. Maybe that’s the way Puppet Master has always been–I wouldn’t know–The Littlest Reich is my first experience within the famed franchise.
Who made these things? Why are they so pissed? Have they always been this racist? You get the point–I came in dark. So if you want a review from someone that’s steeped in Puppet Master lore, this ain’t the one for you. I actually attribute a lot of the film’s success to its surprisingly strong cast that carries the humor and ridiculousness of the situation with just the right amount of weight. But more on that later. You’re here for puppets and murder, so let’s start there.
The premise for Puppet Master: The Littles Reich is simple enough. An upcoming auction on the 30 year anniversary of the “Loulon murders” brings people from all walks of life together at the Postville Lodge to celebrate and sell their murder dolls. When Edgar, our protagonist, finds a puppet that belonged to his dead brother, he decides to sell it at said auction. Once he arrives with his friend/boss and girlfriend, all hell breaks loose. These little bastards are all about cutting, gutting, beheading, and maiming anyone in their tiny path. If you’re a meat and potatoes type of person, The Littlest Reich gets to the main course really fast.
Since this is my first foray into this franchise, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect my jaw to drop so many times. These are b-movie shenanigans for sure, but the violence is just so satisfying and inventive; all while maintaining a gloriously practical aesthetic. What happens on screen is so over the top that I found myself actually cheering for Nazi puppets. It almost feels like each victim is part of a joke and their murder is the punchline. You can practically hear a laugh track after each one. And not since Bone Tomahawk’s wishbone scene have I seen such an audacious murder that left me in shock and awe. Maybe that’s because this thing was written by the aforementioned film’s writer/director S. Craig Zahler. One thing is for certain: this body bag movie brings the pain.
The puppets seem to be following a particular MO. They’re targeting commonly marginalized groups. Minorities of all walks of life are being killed by a Nazi regime. This makes Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich a fairly obvious allegory for what a lot of us are dealing with in America today. I don’t think it’s particularly clever or meaningful here, but it’s a statement of notice, and it’s appreciated. That may sound dramatic, but when all is said and done, no less than twelve openly white supremacists are running for office in 2018. America has a Nazi problem, and Puppet Master literally holds a fucking blowtorch to it.
Seeing Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich hasn’t inspired me to check out the franchise’s backlog, but it does entertain on a visceral level, and perhaps there’s more meaning behind the film. If so, it’s not very well executed. But if puppets fucking shit up is what you came for, puppets fucking shit up is what you’ll get.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich comes out August 17 in theaters and VOD.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich [Review]
This is America
A clumsy allegory for life in America that gets a pass for the dumb fun it is.