A man looks to sells his brothers puppet linked a murder 30 years earlier at a small-town convention but all hell breaks loose when an ancient evil animates the other puppets and sends them on a bloody killing spree.
Directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund offering Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is head and shoulders above many of the original sequels. However, this reboot sadly lacks that cinematic production values or execution the long term remake/reboot/reimagining hardcore Puppet Master had fans hoped for. From the producers of The Meg and Bone Tomahawk, based on Charles Band's beloved cult horror The Puppets Master (which sadly when straight to video in 1989). It sounded like a VHS horror fanatics dream, and it almost is, redeemed by some well executed and eerie puppet effects and a strong latter half.
Even though lacking finesse in the sound and editing department there's plenty of blood, make up effects, puppet design and nods to the series to at least perk an interest, even if some of the addition puppet characters are as forgettable and hooky as the 1980-like T and A on display. That said, the redesigned classic puppets (although not all present) are greatly welcomed. Most of the beloved puppets appear, Blade, Torch, Tunneller and Pinhead respectively.
Usually a bit part actor Thomas Lennon is on fine form here in a lead role. The cast are solid enough. Notable are Michael Paré, an unrecognisable Udo Kier as Toulon and Barbra Crampton in a perfect role as a cop' turned tour guide. There's also a humorous post credit's scene which actor Skeet Jenkins set up earlier as Cuddly Bear with Only Fools and Horses prowess.
S. Craig Zahler's delivers an enjoyable screenplay which works best when being played on the nose with surprise deaths feel. Story wise it's a rework of Charles Band's original, reminiscent of the evil Toulon shindigs of part two, echoing an Assault on Precinct 13 vibe in the more impressive final act where Laguna and Wiklund shine. Credit to Zahler the narrative, opening in 1989 then moving to present day, which thread then hark backs to World War II (of the 3rd instalment) gives it some freshness, weight and mystery, the idea of multiple puppets also works in its favour.
While not the sharp big budget production fans had hoped for, it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully with zombie Toulon walking into the moonlight in the closing a follow up will do for the puppets what Chucky's recent well received instalments did for Child's Play resurgence. Who knows, fingers crossed producer of this 2018 offering Jack Heller (director of 2014's Dark was the Night) will take the reigns if Laguna and Wiklund are unavailable.