Thursday, November 25, 2010

Puppet Master 5

So here we are. It’s Thanksgiving and I just wasted a good chunk of my morning by watching a pretty terrible sequel in a pretty silly franchise based around murderous puppets that have largely stopped being all that murderous. Fortunately for me, this was “The Final Chapter”, ending out the series on a low note, so I don’t have to review any more of them after this. That there are four other films in the DVD collection I bought is a fact I am choosing to ignore.

As the film was made back to back with the fourth, it starts shortly after the events of the last one, which we find out about by way of a lengthy montage of the entire fourth film, complete with every bit of puppet fighting or violence, just to make absolutely certain that anyone who watched the fourth film will feel like their time has been wasted (and to help pad this film’s running time, but that just goes without saying for this series). Anyway, our hero Rick (Gordon Currie) has been picked up by police as their lead suspect in the murder of the female scientist at the start of the last film, but he’s freed soon enough to go back to that damnable hotel to lead the puppets once more in their war against evil gremlin lord Sutec, slightly complicated in this by his boss Dr. Jennings, who wants to secret formula for animating the puppets to help make his company Biotech, “a major scientific industrial concern”, fabulously rich.

The film falls prey to the same problems that have plagued the series up to this point, as well as a few new ones. For one, it continues the general problem inherent in being one of the most blood-free horror franchises since the old Universal films of the 30s and 40s. Not that I automatically require that a horror movie be wall to wall gore, mind you, but it helps a lot when a horror movie has so little else to offer. Here again half the kills are off-camera, and the on-camera ones are generally so shadowy that we never get a clear look at what’s going on. Again, these movies all went straight to video, so they didn’t need to worry about MPAA censorship at any point (alright, the first one was originally intended to get a theatrical run, but that’s all). They made the conscious decision to make these films borderline PG for violence for reasons that completely escape me.

The movie also contains pretty much every other problem I’ve complained about in the other films, from the constant padding (once more we have opening titles going on for several minutes while set against a black screen just to try to prod the film along to 80 minutes), acting that starts at laughable and then goes downhill, a great deal of characters wandering around that damn hotel because they can’t afford more interesting locations, and a completely retarded storyline, my favorite part of which was when the girl in the coma at the hospital manages to achieve a psychic bond with the hotel computer (and despite the film coming out in 1994, the computer is one of those lovely green text on a black background deals one would expect more from the 80s) so she can give Rick some great advice like “HELP ME” and “KILL BEAST”. Wow, what a great contribution there. And Rick, while I have to agree that the average audience for these films is probably not the most highly literate one could find, when the computer screen is reading out “LIFE FORCE” in giant capital letters that take up pretty much the whole screen, you don’t automatically have to repeat it out loud to make sure we understand what those crazy letters and word shapes are trying to tell us.

I guess Jeff Burr should be proud, in a way. He took a series that had started out pretty retarded and managed to make the two worst films in the series up to that point. That’s quite an achievement, assuming of course that his idea of an achievement is to destroy whatever series he’s working on. Given that he also made what is easily the worst of the original Texas Chainsaw movies (Leatherface) and made a terrible sequel to a pretty underrated late 80s horror movie with Pumpkinhead 2 (I haven’t seen his Stepfather 2, so I can only guess at how wonderful that must be), I have to think that he’s been doing this sort of thing on purpose, or at least that his idea of good is very, very different from my own.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I’m going to just drink now until I can’t remember the word puppet.

Rating: *

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