Starring Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, and Charlie Spradling
Running dangerously low on juice, the puppets of Andre Toulon use what’s left of their magic elixir to bring their master back from the dead to make more all the while paranormal researchers are investigating the hotel for suspicious activity. Aren’t they in for a surprise?
They’re back. No strings attached.
Taking place not long after the events of the original film, a group of paranormal researchers descend upon the Bodega Bay Inn where they intend to look into the insane ramblings of survivor Alex Whitaker. Looking into the inn’s past they learn some odd facts about the place and it’s former owner. While the medium on the team gets the initial heebie jeebies, the rest of the team of straight thinkers stick around until one of them is drilled in the head by a puppet with a drill on its head. They take the puppet out and learn about its mechanical body but they aren’t sure how it moves on its own.
The next day they are surprised to find that someone has been living in the inn with them; a bizarre man who covers his body and wraps his head like he’s the Invisible Man and even giving his last name as Channée (a play on Lon Chaney who was an icon in the golden age of horror films) Claiming to be the new owner, Channée allows the researchers to stay though he really wants Elizabeth. Channee, unsurprisingly, is Toulon in disguise and sees Elizabeth as his reincarnated wife Elsa, who was killed years ago by the nazis. He’s been sending his puppets out to bring fresh human brain pieces, the special ingredient in the magic potion, so they might as well go after the researchers since time is of the essence.
Puppet Master II is a bit of a step up from the original film, which was a little on the boring side. The story is farfetched but this is a fantasy horror film, you just roll with what the film throws at you; hey, you’re already suspending disbelief because it’s a frickin’ killer puppet movie. The best parts, of course, feature Toulon and his puppets. Toulon, played by a terrific Steve Welles, seems like he’d do anything for his puppets until he meets Elizabeth/Elsa and his thoughts quickly turn to being with his lost wife again, even if it means turning his back on his playthings. The film features flashbacks to 1912 when Toulon was taught the secret to immortality from an Egyptian magician who was looking for someone to pass it along to.
The puppets are featured quite a bit more in the sequel as each one seems to have a key scene or two where they get to do their thing, except Jester who just mopes around. There’s a new addition to the team as well with Torch, a puppet with a temper, and a flamethrower, to take out his victims. Thanks to the special effects artists, the puppets move and look better this time around. Yes, you may notice strings and know which ones are simple rod puppets, but the stop motion is a step up and combined with the rest of the puppetry really make these deadly dolls fun to watch.
The franchise has kept going all these years and is still going on right now. There have been some missteps along the way but early on this is one of the better films in the series and worth a watch.
Story: 6 – It’s really the same thing as the last movie but I really enjoyed having an undead Andre Toulon along for the ride this time.
Blood: 6 – Another step up from the original as Tunneler uses his pointy head on someone’s skull, Blade carves up a face and Torch gets to test his toy on several victims.
Nudity: 8 – A topless Charlie Spradling always makes my day.
Overall: 7 – A big improvement over the original film, this is the one you want to start with.
-Paramount requested that Leech Woman be killed off because executives did not like the puppet.
-Torch is able to shoot a flame about ten feet long. It’s probably because of this that the puppet is rarely featured, if at all, in the later sequels.
-Fans of Charlie Band’s earlier killer doll film, Dolls, will notice that Mr. Punch is on Toulon’s shelf in the background.