written by S. Craig Zahler
directed by Tommy Wiklund & Sonny Laguna
by Walter Chaw The thirteenth instalment in Charles Band's "Puppet Master" epic is the first real reboot of the series, one that transforms titular master Toulon (now played by Udo Kier, of screenwriter S. Craig Zahler's own Brawl in Cell Block 99) from a Holocaust survivor into a full-on Nazi. It's a dangerous creative decision that, I think, fatally misunderstands the appeal of the previous twelve films in this VHS-quickie-born series, which was mainly an opportunity for cheer-worthy cheap-o practical effects work and a loose mythology about some guy who made enchanted killer puppets once upon a time--a sort of amok-time "Transformers" with toys called "Leech Woman, Decapitron, Tunneler, and Shredder Khan" doing the mad toymaker's murderous bidding. What becomes clear early on in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is that because they're now the product of a deformed Nazi, the puppets' targets will primarily be the same minorities targeted for extermination by the Nazis. If the aim of the piece is still to offer cheer-worthy practical effects, celebrating the ultra-gory eradication of the LGBTQ, black, and Jewish population--yarmulkes and all--takes on, you know, an uncomfortable cast. It's like the bomb's-eye view of the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor that was greeted with loud opening-night appreciation: What is it, exactly, that we're cheering here? Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is arguably worth it for the moment an exhausted Michael Paré says "[this] incident is turning into a happening," but really there's no amount of forced levity that can make this movie seem all right. There's plenty of nudity, plenty of (PLENTY OF) gore, but once a line is crossed from fun to vile in this picture, and it's crossed right around the time a pregnant black woman is killed in just the worst possible way, there's no going back.