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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (Blu-ray)
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (Blu-ray)
Image // Unrated // September 25, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $35.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 2, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

There are a lot of Puppet Master movies out there. A whole lot of them. And while the first f few original entries hold up rather well, some of the more recent entries in the ongoing sage of Charles Band's most famous creation are… less than great. So why should you care about Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich? There are a few reasons, actually. The first, and probably most interesting, is that the script was written by S. Craig Zahler, the same man who recently directed Bone Tomahawk and Brawl In Cellblock 99 (see them both if you haven't yet). The second reason? Udo Kier has a small role and Udo Kier is always great. Always. The third reason? This movie essentially hits the ‘reset' button on the franchise and serves as a new starting point, pushing aside all previous continuity and telling a genuinely entertaining story.

Edgar (Thomas Lennon) has just gone through a divorce and been invited back to live with his kindly mother and cranky old dad. He makes a living as a comic book artist and also works in a comic store owned by his friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). His dad tells him that if he wants to sell any of his deceased brother's belongings on the computer, he's welcome to. At first he doesn't think much of this until he realizes that his sibling left behind a rare puppet, one of only a few made by a Nazi maniac named Andre Toulon (Udo Kier) who was killed by the cops thirty years ago. Soon enough, Edgar has hit it off with the cute girl next door Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and, with grindcore loving Markowitz in tow, travelled to the other side of the state to attend a convention commemorating the murders. After a tour of the Toulon house given by officer Carol Doreski (Barbara Crampton), everyone heads back to the hotel where Edgar notices his puppet has gone missing. He calls the cops and tough talking Detective Brown (Michael Paré) shows up to investigate, just as the bodies start piling up and Markowitz almost scores with a cute anime nerd named Nerissa (Charlyne Yi).

Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, the team behind 2012's Wither, this latest installment in the Puppet Master line really goes all in on Toulon's Nazi ties (in the original run Toulon was against the Nazi's, so this is a pretty big difference). Casting Udo Kier in the part was a smooth move, he's great here even if he only appears in what is basically a prologue and, as such, woefully underused. Thankfully, the main characters are likeable. Edgar is easy enough to relate to (or at least he is if you're a comic nerd who has gone through a divorce). He's a nice guy with good intentions and Lennon does just fine in the role. He's not so much the typical Hollywood leading man type so much as he is the everyman. Jenny Pellicer honestly isn't given as much to do here, but she's cute and fun and likeable. Nelson Franklin steals a few scenes as the smart-mouthed and sarcastic best friend while Michael Paré chews the scenery quite nicely. Crampton's role in the film isn't huge, but she does fine in her supporting part and it's always nice to see her show up in genre fare.

Now, this is a pretty low budget affair, at least relatively speaking. It doesn't have the glitz or the glamour of an A24 or Blumhouse horror project of the big studio backing of a James Wan picture. But then, it doesn't really need it. The story doesn't ask for it (those expecting something more cerebral like Zahler's directorial efforts may be disappointed as this is isn't even trying to work on the same level) and as this is played just as much, if not more, for laughs than for horror we can appreciate this for what it is: goofy, gory, funny schlock. Almost all of the murders are completely over the top and admittedly very creative. The effects work in these set pieces is all practical and very well done (this film is not for the squeamish). So too are many of the murder set pieces done with a nod to the film's humorous intent. Laguna and Wilund keep the pacing quick and the cinematography and score are quite decent. The ending may be a little too obviously left open for a sequel but there's enough entertainment value to be had here that it's hard not to have a good time with it.

The UHD

Video:

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich arrives on 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack framed at 2.38.1 widescreen. The HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer, presumably upscaled from a 2k digital master, looks good but rarely advances over standard Blu-ray quality. There are a few spots in the close-up shots where you might pick up on a bit more detail and a few medium and wide shots that showcase a minimal increase in detail but by and large you're going to have a tough time telling the UHD disc apart from its 4k counterpart as there's no HDR or Dolby Vision here. As such, the colors look identical on the two discs, as do black levels. Still, the movie looks just fine given its low budget origins. Reds really pop in the film's over-the-top murder set pieces and detail is pretty good. The UHD shows no compression issues and while this was shot digitally and looks it (meaning there's no grain or print damage to note), it's a very fine representation of the source. Not a reference quality 4k release by any stretch, but still a decent enough offering.

Sound:

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, in English, sounds pretty solid. There's quite a decent amount of surround activity noticeable in this mix, and the busier and more action-intensive scenes have quite a bit of enjoyable effects work spread out really nicely through the entire sound stage. Dialogue stays clean and easy to follow, the levels are balanced well and there isn't a trace of any hiss or distortion. The music used in the movie also sounds quite strong. This isn't as mindblowing as the latest Hollywood blockbuster but for a film made on a low budget, it sounds very good. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Extras:

Extras are a bit light, but the six-minute Behind The Scenes Of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is worth your time. Here we see what it was like shooting on location in Texas, which locations were used and why, what was involved in some of the crazier gore scenes and how people have reacted to the movie since it's played. The Cast Of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a seven-minute piece that is pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be: an explotation of the main cast members that offers some quick on what makes them interesting and what the cast brought to their specific roles. Puppets: From Concept To Creation is an all too quick piece that contrasts and compares some conceptual art with how the puppets appear in the film, while Lightning Girl Comic: From Sketch To Final is a brief forty-second showcase that lets us look at the artwork that Edgar creates for his comic book in the movie.

Outside of that we get a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Both discs fit inside a black case that in turn fits inside a slipcover.

Final Thoughts:

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is gory, trashy and fun. The performances are quite strong and the practical effects work showcased in the picture will bring a smile to the face of any self-respecting gorehound. On top of that, the script is frequently clever and often quite funny. As to this release? The 4k UHD release doesn't offer much of an improvement over the included Blu-ray disc in terms of presentation quality, just some very minor tweaks, and the sound mix is identical as are the extras features. But overall, there's a lot of fun to be had here. This isn't a reference quality 4k offering but it looks and sounds just fine and the entertainment value provided by the movie makes it easy to recommended to genre fans.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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