With the possible exception of science fiction, it’s arguable that no film genre possesses such a loyal fanbase as horror. As anyone who has attended one of the dozens of horror-specific conventions that take place in the U.S. each year can attest, horror fans are a fiercely loyal group, endlessly supportive of their favorite genre names and always hungry for new content to consume. One film company that has been successfully plying its trade within the genre for decades now is Charles Band’s Full Moon Pictures, a prolific maker and distributor of low-budget fright flicks.
For as long as Full Moon has been in business, the company’s flagship property has been the Puppet Master franchise, a series of films revolving around a cadre of murderous marionettes that are alternately cast as forces of good or evil. First brought to life by a man named Andre Toulon, the original 1989 Puppet Master cast the tiny terrors squarely on the evil side, as they cut a swath through a group of psychics staying at an old California hotel. Extremely profitable for Full Moon, the first Puppet Master has subsequently been followed by nine sequels, and a spin-off movie where the puppets battled the villains of the Demonic Toys franchise.
With Puppet Master‘s recent creative fortunes trending downward in the eyes of many fans, it’s probably a good thing that Transformers producers Di Bonaventura Pictures are partnering with Caliber Media to reboot the flagging franchise. The idea going forward is to create a revamped Puppet Master cinematic universe, with S. Craig Zahler – writer of the acclaimed 2015 horror/western Bone Tomahawk – on-board to pen the first script, entitled Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
As anyone familiar with prequel/sequel Puppet Master III is no doubt aware, Toulon created his punishing puppets in Berlin back during World War II, although he didn’t decide to use them for anything more than entertainment until after a vicious Nazi leader murdered his wife in cold blood. With III regarded by some as the best entry in the series, the WWII theme has remained a staple element of many of the entries going forward, and one assumes The Littlest Reich will be no different.
The plot of The Littlest Reich is set in present day, and centers on a recently divorced young man who discovers a mint-condition Blade puppet in his deceased brother’s closet, and attempts to sell it at an Oregon toy convention that just happens to be conveniently celebrating the 30th anniversary of the “Toulon Murders”. Naturally, a mysterious force brings Blade – and all the other puppets at the gathering – to malevolent life, and chaotic mass death ensues. The murders in question are presumably the ones that took place in the original Puppet Master film, making this likely more of a Jurassic World-style soft reboot than a full-on erasure of the series’ previous storylines.
With a big-time producer behind it, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is likely to have one of (if not) the highest budgets in the franchise to date, hopefully enabling the series to finally escape the often cheap-looking effects and production design that has plagued some of the later Full Moon sequels. The first few Puppet Masters were well made films – at least as far as low-budget horror goes – and there’s no reason to believe that The Littlest Reich can’t return to that former level of quality.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich has no current release date.
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