Puppet Master II (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus heads towards Halloween with a horror sequel with killer toys.
Beginning in the graveyard out the back of the Bodega Bay Inn, we see our star puppets digging up the remains of Andre Toulon from his grave. Not long after, a group of parapsychologists, led by Carolyn Bramwell (Elizabeth Maclellan), are sent to the hotel to investigate the strange murder of Megan Gallagher and look into the lunatic ravings of a now insane Alex Whitaker. The puppets begin to attack the new group in a series of wild puppety ways and when a strange, bandaged man named Eriquee Chaneé (Steve Welles) arrives stating that he has inherited hotel, things begin to get even stranger, especially when we discover he is in fact the resurrected Andre Toulon.
You know it’s really Halloween when dodgy horror sequels begin to turn up and when it’s the first sequel to the Puppet Master franchise it doesn't get much dodgier. As a piece of fun horror, toys are always the go to department for creepy silliness. Chucky has become the king of toy based horror but the puppets in puppet master, now like ten or so movies into their own franchise bring their fair share of nasty, even if you know full well they'd be easy to fight off really.
Here in the second of the series, the story is thin, the scares are thinner and it's really only the semi gory killings, the creepy as hell visuals of the bandaged and non bandaged Toulon and the single topless scene of Charlie Spradling that makes this an real adult movie. What holds it back is how straight this is all being played as all the while it's wildly unbelievable in how its moving through the messy plot. The majority of this feels decidedly 80s (even though the film was released in 1991), with hokey TV style dialogue, characters that respond to these bizarre supernatural situations and the deaths of their friends far too easily and really a ridiculous set up all round.
As the movie travels on, things get sillier and it's really only the visuals of Toulon's master plan and the human sized puppet he's going to transfer his soul into that could ever creep out an audience. It's not all that gross but everything is just plain offbeat weird about this film's outcome and just how much is packed into the final ten minutes is almost impressive. The cliffhanger alone, with a life sized puppet and all our little puppets setting out on a bit a road trip is enough to question how the hell there were more sequels after this this but somehow Puppet Master lives on.
Beside the odd effects shot, Puppet Master II actually looks pretty bloody great for its age and low budget cult status. Colours glow off of the screen throughout and edges are wonderfully sharp all things considered. There is a veil of grain over the image giving the presentation a slight look of viewing it through gauze but it's just not a big deal given the overall result here.
Lighting is vastly improved in this upgrade and is a big part of how this HD presentation comes to life. There's a pretty big difference between an exterior naturally lit scene and an interior set based scene in overall quality but everything still feels fairly fresh. Even the darker scenes hold up. The darkness enables the grain to become more apparent but even so the colours still manage to pop in albeit in a reduced manner.
This is only a stereo track but it has a good deal going for it given the source material. There's a hiss to quieter moments, especially exterior ones but other than that the audio is solid. Dialogue is good and strong and there's even a fair bit of ambience to the outdoor settings which was quite surprising, with clicking crickets and general sounds of nature. The score is cheap and sort of weak but it comes to life when it needs to and the more thrilling scenes provide a good all round horror experience for the era the film was made in. Of course the suspense is weak but gorier moments sounds better than they ever have on home release I'd imagine.
The commentary with Charles Band is a track from a guy who knows his stuff and knows how to sell it. He talks up the differences between model work in the films he's been involved with over the years and how they compare to the modern CGI effects. He also talks up the many sequels of Puppet Master and other projects for his studio and how a low budget still provides amazing results. He's not all that specific a lot of the time and he rambles a little from time to time too but its usually something to do with franchise even if its not about Puppet Master II specifically. Funnily enough, he does get specific for the topless scene though, in fact it almost clicks him back into the film.
As well as the commentary, we also get the Charles Band Intro (02:35 HD), presented from the set of Puppet Master 10!!!. It's actually quite a personal introduction to the Full Moon releases in HD and the film's history on home releases. It's breifly skims over the improvements made for the Blu-ray format and the forthcoming titles to look forward to as well. This is great stuff for fans.
The archival 'Full Moon Video Zone Magazine Making of' (21:37 SD) is a great retro look at the film and it's effects as well as offering up trailers of the studio's other projects. There's also the film's trailer, two 'Rare Toy Commercials and a 'Full Moon Trailer Pack' featuring trailers for their newer stuff.
Puppet Master II was low budget when it was made and age hasn't been kind to it really, despite it still outshining most modern low budget horrors that seem to fill up our retailer's shelves of late. On a technical level the puppets still sort of hold up in a retro nostalgic way but the story is lousy and if even one actor wasn't hamming it up, it might sell the scares a little bit more.
The Blu-ray is technically sound. The video and audio takes advantage of the HD upgrade and fans of the series should be very pleased with the results. The extras are also pretty great for fans of Full Moon and their productions, so this release should sit well with the Puppet Master crowd, even if the general modern horror audience will struggle to get the appeal.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 22nd October 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Commentary, Introduction, Trailers, Making Of
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dave Allen
Cast: Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles
Length: 88 minutes
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