Thursday, September 20, 2007

Retro-Puppet Master (USA, 1999)

Yet another film by David DeCoteau (as Joseph Tennent), today's heir apparent to William 'One-Shot' Beaudine's famed nickname. Why this film got a PG-13 rating is less than easy to understand, as it is hardly any more frightening than any of the numerous no-budget horror quickies Beaudine directed, and probably not much more violent. True, Retro Puppet Master is in color, but the pace and action and general feel of the film is much more closely related to the cheapies of the poverty row era than to contemporary horror. Indeed, the deaths in this film are spectacularly bloodless, much like the deaths in any given cheapie of yesteryear.
The seventh in the popular (?) series, were it not for the prologue and epilogue and the fact that it's told as a flashback, Retro Puppet Master could stand on its own as a dull, sleep-inducing singular film, perfect for some daytime creature feature television presentation watched by kiddy couch-potatoes after school. Giving credit where credit is due, some money does seem to have been spent on costumes, but good costumes don't make a good film. None of the actors are particularly good and they all sport abominably laughable accents, but the "nice" characters do mostly have a visual appeal that it least makes them pleasant to look at.... too bad none get keddid.
The story has so many holes that if viewed in the winter the heating should probably be turned up, but young viewers won't notice them. (Biggest holes: A god strong enough to raise the dead probably can kill without the help of the dead, and if a magic sign simply drawn on a piece of paper hides the location of the hunted, why doesn't the hunted ever get the sign tattooed onto his arm?) The film tells how the puppet master Andre Toulon (Greg Sestero) got the power of giving life to puppets and manages, within its brief running time, to span from the 40s to ancient Egypt to the end of the 19th century and back to the 40s. As a horror film, Retro Puppet Master fails on every level, as it lacks suspense or anything remotely scary, but as a harmless way to introduce your kiddies to "horror" films it's an OK way to spend a rainy afternoon if you have already done the dishes and vacuuming.

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