SEPTEMBER 19, 2010
I'll give it this much, Puppet Master II is an improvement over the original: there's more puppet action, the villain's plan is slightly more coherent, and it's a few minutes shorter. But it also suffers from a lot of the same problems, and is marred by the fact that it's practically a remake of the original at times. I would suggest just watching the opening of the first film (the scenes with Toulon), just to get your bearings and some context, and then watching II for the best possible experience.
The main problem, once again, is that the film is incredibly bright at all times, despite a different director/DP team. And whereas in the first film it was just an annoyance, here it actually makes the movie ridiculous, as folks will be talking as if it WAS night but it clearly is not. At one point, our main characters plan to check up on a disappearance "first thing in the morning" (something you might say at midnight) with full daylight streaming through all the windows. Later, our heroine asks some guy to spend the night after because he must be tired from driving all day, and again, you expect someone in the next room to be making brunch. Do these people all have night school to attend or something? Film a fucking scene at night! Or at least throw some blackout material over the windows.
We also once again have our villainous puppets turning hero at the end of the film, but at least in the first film it was because the human villain began smacking around one of their own. Here it's because they realized they were being "used", which doesn't quite work. So our killer puppets don't actually want to kill? What do they WANT to do, on an average day? However, I do like that they are weaker in this one, because it allows for hilarious scenes of the humans stomping on them or whacking them with lamps and such. It's a bit depressing that they had to work in a "the puppets aren't as strong" subplot to explain full grown, purportedly intelligent human beings to be able to simply kick 12 inch puppets that don't move very fast, but hey, at least we get to see one of them tossed into a fire and another one get whipped by a small child (in one of the weirdest scenes in the movie).
Like I said though, there's a lot more puppet action this time. They kill off Tunneler and Leech Woman pretty early on (with Leech Woman never really living up to her name in the movie), but the new guy, Torch, is pretty cool, with his bullet teeth and penchant for potentially immolating children (did I miss it? Do they ever say whether or not he crisped that kid?). And Jester gets in on the action this time, after an appearance so brief in the first one that I missed it entirely. The animation is just as good, though there are a few strings visible every now and then - it seems they didn't want to use stop motion as often.
Speaking of strings, there are a number of hilarious goofs in the movie along those lines, but the best has to be when a lamp is knocked over and you actually see a grip or someone catch the damn thing before it falls to the ground. And this is on a cropped version, you can probably see his face on the 1.85 transfer (if one exists). Ironically, the lamp gets knocked over after being turned on, so before that is actually the only time in the movie that there's a horror-movie esque dark shot. IMDb says there's another shot where you can see the guy holding Jester to move him around, but I missed that one.
It's also a bit odd that the only sort of creepy thing in the entire movie doesn't show up until the last 5 minutes, when Toulon gets enough brain fluid for his formula and uses it to transform his soul (or whatever) from his Claude Rains-esque "temp" body into one that's essentially a human sized wooden puppet. Seeing this thing walk around and talk is possibly the most frightening thing Full Moon has ever done, and it's a shame it wasn't introduced earlier in the film.
Everyone tells me how good part 3 is, but I don't know if they mean it's good for real or if it's just good compared to the other Puppet Master movies. Hopefully it will show up on Netflix soon enough so I can find out, though hopefully future installments will be given a decent, non-cropped transfer. But who am I kidding, like Band will pony up the dough for that? They didn't even bother for the largely featureless boxed set that they charge 100 bucks for, which is about double what you'd pay for a James Bond set featuring about as many films in 2 disc collector editions. A steal, really.
What say you?