AUGUST 4, 2011
The problem with pretty much every back to back production is that they tend to put more effort into the first part, leaving a tired crew and less money/ideas for the second. And while I was hoping Puppet Master 5 wouldn't follow suit since the two scripts were fashioned from one screenplay, sadly it does not - this is a major step back from the previous two installments, both in FX and story. It's still got a lot of dark/shadows though, so it's still a notch or two above the original entries.
The biggest problem is that it's a pretty weak followup to the events of PM4. Even though it's only a few days later, the villain of that film (the alien dude who sits on top of a bunch of skulls) barely appears in this one, let alone steps up his game. One of my issues with 4 is that he never took matters into his own hands and crossed into our dimension, but I assumed they were saving that for this one. But when he does (I think?) he is embodied by the same little totem demon things that his minions were, which makes the big showdown kind of lame. Plus, it just comes down to Decapitron doing all the work, which is not only a carbon copy of the previous film's climax, but also suffers from the same problem - Decapitron is not one of our favorite puppets.
I realized about halfway through this one that we never really see more than 2-3 puppets at once, so I was thinking maybe (hopefully) the climax would come down to that big alien dude (I forget his name, Krytek or some silly thing) taking on all of our guys at once, with them all working together, Voltron style, to take him down. Especially since pretty much every puppet to date appears; Torch is back in action after sitting the last two out, and again, Decapitron returns (this might be the first entry that doesn't actually introduce a new puppet). Leech Woman is still MIA; I guess her death in PM2 was permanent.
But no, as usual they sort of pair off at random, and even at the end of the movie, after a giant explosion takes out the hotel and returning hero Rick Meyers presumably saves them all, we only see Blade and Pinhead being confirmed alive and intact (and Decapitron, which is the one he's working on when the movie ends). Tunneler barely does a damn thing in this one, though Blade gets a lot to do, which is fine since he's the coolest. Still, with them now firmly characterized as heroes, and the animation obviously the best yet, it's a shame that they don't have more interaction. They also aren't as interesting as they were in the last film; the animation itself is good but they are back to how they were in the first two entries, as if the animators weren't bothering to do as much with them as they could.
Plus the box art promises an "all new evil", which is a bit misleading since the villain of the movie is the same guy from the last one, albeit in a more diminished role. Picking up some of the slack are a rival scientist and a team of goons he has hired to help him find/steal the puppets, but they're hardly evil, and the scientist guy even joins our heroes for a while before turning asshole again. Clu Gulager shows up as an exec at the evil rival science company, but only for one (hilarious) scene that doesn't include the puppets; I was actually looking forward to Clu taking on Jester or someone, but alas it's just a quick, almost pointless cameo scene.
I also took issue with what they did with Teresa Hill's character. While the fact that she "spends the entire movie on her back" could be interpreted as a pretty good thing, it's nothing exciting - she's actually in a coma for the entire movie, using telekinesis to send Rick messages through his computer. Hell you never even see her eyes until her final shot, when she finally wakes up, makes a "what the hell was THAT?" face, and goes back to sleep. She literally never gets out of the bed and is only on-screen for about three minutes. It would be an obnoxious way to treat ANY returning character, let alone one of the few in the entire series who I didn't mind being on-screen instead of the puppets.
And the PADDING! Granted, they were released rather far apart for back to back productions (10 months between 4 and 5's video releases), but does that mean we need a nearly 10 minute recap of the events of the previous film? In fact the entire first reel is worthless, as Rick is interrogated about the events of PM4 (yes, we see the footage and then hear Rick explain it in a separate scene) by the police, none of whom ever pop up or even get mentioned again. You'd think that they were setting up a cop character who'd follow Rick around and then freak out when he saw little puppets running around, then help him against the real killer(s), but nope. It's just worthless padding, same as a really weird dream scene where Rick imagines Tunneler drilling a hole in his girlfriend's head (which she seems to be enjoying). But at least there's no overlong laser battles, so there's something.
Hilariously, Echo Bridge's new DVD release follows suit with the film, lazily leaving the Paramount logo on the top AND tail of the film even though they are the distributors now (Par originally handled distribution for Full Moon's releases). I also wish they ported over the original "issue" of Full Moon Videozone that appeared on the VHS copy, which would have told me about the upcoming releases of other early 90s Full Moon classics like Doctor Mordrid and Arcade. Oh well.
Up next, Curse of the Puppet Master! I might have this entire series HMAD-ed by year's end!
What say you?