Monday, April 17, 2017


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*

I've reviewed almost none of the myriad productions of entrepreneur Charles Band, who apparently never met a creepy little doll he didn't like. There's not usually much to say about even the better Band films, though his longest running series, PUPPET MASTER, is watchable if one is in the mood for creepy mixed with silly. My main reason for seeking out this 2004 film-- made for the Sci-Fi Channel and apparently "non-canon" according to Band-- stems from my interest in the dynamics of crossover properties.

By and large, the film builds its sketchy storyline largely from PUPPET MASTER mythology, and the less developed DEMONIC TOYS mythos is more or less grafted on top of that. The evil-looking puppets of the former series eventually took something of a "good monster" role in some installments, given that these magical mini-mannequins were created by a basically good mad scientist. (The puppets even end up fighting Nazis in one film, I forget which). In contrast, the DEMONIC TOYS had enjoyed one solo movie and a crossover with Band's mini-superhero DOLLMAN, and then remained in mothballs for almost ten years before appearing in this teamup flick. It's thus not too surprising that the Toys don't get as much attention as the Puppets. The script doesn't even bother to revive all the terrible toys from the 1992 DEMONIC TOYS film for this roundup.

A summary of the plot isn't really all that rewarding. Suffice to say that a modern descendant of the original puppet-master, a nutty but basically nice scientist (Corey Feldman), finds himself using his ancestor's puppets against a madwoman (who has control of the Demonic Toys) who plans to unleash demon-possessed toys on children on Christmas Day. The Puppets get all the best scenes, the Toys are forgettable, and the two teams of "tiny titans" only contend in the last minutes of the film, using what looks like a very cheap form of stop-motion animation. The overall feel of the film is more silly than creepy, and the most entertaining aspects are Feldman's wacky scientist and Vanessa Angel's wacky villainess.

Throughout this blog's history I've tended to categorize "monster-films" as dramas unless the plots were strongly determined by the modes of adventure, irony or comedy. Thus I've linked even a film as goofy-looking as GAMERA VS. GUIRON-- in which a "good" fire-breathing turtle fights a "bad" quadruped with a knife for a head-- with the drama's reputation (in the works of Northrop Frye, at least) for *purgation,* for using evil to cast out evil. PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS always seems to be right on the edge of turning into a complete comedy, similar to a situation I noted in the almost-spoofy spy-film OPERATION KID BROTHER. But like the Gamera films, as absurd as PMVDT becomes, it never puts across the *jubilative* scheme of the pure comedy, and so this, like the more overtly "scary" films in both serial-properties, lines up with the trope of "good monsters casting out bad monsters."

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