4 Ways to Make the Puppet Master Reboot Not Suck
Perhaps in an effort to show that we have not even come close to hitting the bottom of the remake well, it was revealed over the weekend that the late 80’s killer-doll movie *not* called Child’s Play, Puppet Master, would be receiving a reboot from Transformers producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian. According to Variety, the tentatively-titled Puppet Master: The Little Reich will center around “a recently divorced young man who discovers a mint condition Blade doll in his deceased brother’s closet and plans to sell the toy at a convention in Oregon celebrating the 30th anniversary of the infamous Toulon Murders. All hell breaks loose during the auction when a strange force animates all of the puppets throughout the convention, setting them on a bloody killing spree.”
Given the rate at which “cult” films and shows are being repackaged these days, the acquisition of the Puppet Master brand by a more well-backed studio isn’t all that shocking, really -- at least, not as shocking as Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Despite never really making any money (most if not all of the Puppet Master entries were released straight-to-video) or even being all that good, Puppet Master did receive NINE sequels, an non-canonical crossover sequel, two comic book miniseries *and* a line of collectible toys, so it’s not as if there isn’t some sort of market for these things.
If you’re like me, however, the mention of anyone even tangentially-involved in the Transformers franchise being attached to Puppet Master should fill you with a cold, sickening sense of dread – kind of like the phrase “soundtrack by Bono.” So with that in mind, I’ve compiled the following list of ways to ensure that Little Reich sucks as little as humanly possible. Take heed, misters di Bonaventura and Vahradian.
Stick to Stop Motion
Believe it or not, the success of the Puppet Master series was more or less tailored around the charm of its titular stars: Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Whatshisface, flame guy, leech lady, and one that I think threw shoes. Despite being largely silent, one-dimensional literal killing machines, the puppets owed what little personality they did possess to the format in which they were brought to life on the screen: stop motion. Without a practical effects master like David W. Allen (he of The Howling and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids fame) running things, Puppet Master would have had all the appeal of a schvitz with your grandfather instead of the technical achievement that they were (from a purely FX-driven standpoint). It’s almost as if putting actual stuff in front of the camera is inherently more engaging than just flooding the screen with video game effects! Who would’ve known.
Sadly, practical effects has basically become a dead art in the current era of blockbuster filmmaking. Did the squishing of the T-Rex’s foot in the mud, or the tapping of the raptor’s foot in Jurassic Park make the experience somehow feel more real to you? Well great, because here’s a guy riding a fake motorcycle through fake forests alongside fake raptors! If the guys behind this new Puppet Master have any sense at all, then they know that going against the grain and keeping with stop motion is essential to the project’s success.
Luckily, it looks like they will.
While hyping up the project at Texas Frightmare Weekend, Caliber Media’s Jack Heller stated that, “We couldn’t be more excited to take the series in a new direction while embracing all the practical effects and terrifying insanity that fans of the ‘Puppet Master’ films love.”
Although David Allen has long since passed, critically-praised films like Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa and the Oscar-nominated short film Head Over Heels prove that there are a variety of talented stop motion animators still out there. I get that we’re living in an era where it takes a crack team of animators to make everything from the ninja turtles to Shia LaBeouf’s dick a reality on the big screen, but what’s the appeal of a puppet movie without actual puppets? Let’s save the laziness in Little Reich for the script, like every Puppet Master movie has already been doing until this point.
Diversify Your Kills, Yo
Again, this is a movie about possessed puppets we’re talking about here, so let’s just assume that things like “narrative consistency” and “direction” aren’t exactly key here. As a matter of fact, why don’t we go ahead and throw that script right out the door and just start hashing out ideas on these cocktail napkins I keep in my pocket for some strange reason.
Slasher films on the level of Puppet Master are about one thing and one thing only: the kills. Everything else is just dumb stupid words designed to get the dumb stupid characters to and from each of their inevitable deaths, and that’s fine. There’s a reason that the slashers are often compared to pornos: Narratively speaking, they’re almost identical to one another, only the boning parts in the latter are swapped out for death scenes in the former (and occasionally, boning parts followed by death scenes). But even with an arsenal of malevolent puppets possessing wholly unique powers, the Puppet Master series often fell short when it came to death scenes. Chalk it up to the puppets being, you know, puppet sized, but the vast majority of the kills in the Puppet Master franchise boiled down to the Blade and the gang getting their victim on his or her back and just kind of attacking them from all sides.
It gets a little predictable, is all I’m saying. Even as a Jiu Jitsu practicioner, I wouldn’t want to see a movie in which every fight scene started with a guy entering another guy’s guard, so let’s maybe start thinking of some ways to spice up the offensive attack of the puppets in general.
The point is, hire the Final Destination guys to dream up some Rube Goldbergian traps for these merciless marionettes to take people out with. Dig Macaulay Culkin out of whatever hole he is in and ask him how he was able to thwart the attacks of two fully grown street thugs as a child on not one, but *two* separate occasions. If you want to make a truly scary movie in a time where teenagers are lighting themselves on fire in the shower and Periscoping their own suicides, you’re going to need to pull out all the stops.
Do. Not. Consult. Michael. Bay.
LOOK ME IN THE EYES WHEN I SAY THIS, misters di Bonaventura and Vahradian: Michael Bay is poison to this project.
He may be the man that earned you those gold plated Ferrari’s with cocaine dispensers built right into the stick shift, and he may be coming off his best film in years, but trust me when I say that attaching yourself to Bay in any way shape or form is the dumbest thing you could do here. The man is a titan of the action genre, no doubt, but could not have a worse eye for horror. Just look at some of the projects he’s been attached to as a producer: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Friday the 13th, The Hitcher, The Amityville Horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street…all remakes, and for the most part, all garbage. Considering that you’re already stuck with the somewhat difficult task of making a horror movie about killer dolls not garbage, there is no need to bring in Bay to tell you that your killer doll movie is lacking a distinct number of 18-wheeler explosions and a giant CG puppet in the third act. You saw what he did to Shredder right?
LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT IT AND KNOW TRUE SHAME.
In conclusion, follow these three simple rules and rest easy knowing that Puppet Master will not only prove faithful to its source material, but dethrone The Force Awakens as the highest grossing film of all time in its first weekend. In exchange, I ask only to be listed as a creative consultant in the film’s credits and for one million dollars cash.
We'll keep you updated on the development of Puppet Master: The Little Reich