puppet master reboot

In retrospect, in was inevitable. Someone, someday, was going to reboot the Puppet Master series. All long-running horror movie franchises follow the same pattern: unlikely early success leads to annualized sequels, annualized sequels lead to diminishing returns, diminishing returns lead to nostalgia-soaked sequels a decade or more after the series seeming died. And then: the Hollywood reboot. In this case, the new Puppet Master movie will be produced by Di Bonaventura Pictures, who are best known these days for the Transformers and G.I. Joe movies, and written by S. Craig Zahler, the legit madman who wrote and directed last year’s Bone Tomahawk.

This news was announced at the Texas Frightmare Weekend convention over the weekend, but The Hollywood Reporter has collected all of the details. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian and will produce through Di Bonaventura Pictures alongside Dallas Sonnier and Jack Heller of Caliber Media. Charles Band, who wrote, produced, or directed many of the original ten (!) Puppet Master movies through his Full Moon Features banner, will serve as an executive producer.

In his statement about the film, note how Heller makes sure everyone knows that the reboot will follow in the footsteps of the original series and embrace practical effects. He sure knows his audience:

We couldn’t be more excited to take the series in a new direction while embracing all the practical effects and terrifying insanity that fans of the Puppet Master films love.

A search for a director is currently underway, but the involvement of Zahler ensures that this project will stay on my radar for the time being. His Bone Tomahawk is a traditional Western, filled with exactly the kind of actors you’d expect to see in a traditional Western, that eventually stumbles into a gory cannibal horror movie. It’s deranged and spectacular genre entertainment from a genuinely exciting voice. I have no idea what Puppet Master screenplay from him would feel like, but I sure as hell know that I want to find out.

The Puppet Master series launched in 1989 with the direct-to-video original, which told the story of a group of psychics menaced by sentient killer dolls. The mixture of clever puppet effects, bizarre kills, and schlocky humor won the film a strong cult following and nine sequels followed. Charles Band’s trademark blend of low-budget kitsch and offbeat horror is on display in every entry, which depict the living puppets as villains or heroes depending on the time and place. To give you an idea of the scope of this series’ wacky timeline, many of the sequels are actually prequels, following the killer puppets as they battle Nazis prior to the events of the original film. This is also the kind of horror movie series were part five in the series is titled “The Final Chapter” and that isn’t even true when you assemble them in proper chronological order (7, 3, 9, 10, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8). The Puppet Master films are truly bizarre and if nothing else, I hope the new film retains the original movies’ inherent weirdness.

Anyway, the new film will seemingly embrace that Nazi connection since it’s called Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and it’s intended to be the first in a new series of films (of course). The plot description makes it sound like one of those increasingly common “rebootquels,” a film that presents a clean slate while also operating as a sequel to everything that came before it:

The film follows a recently divorced young man who discovers a mint condition Blade doll in his deceased brother’s closet and plans to sell the toy at a convention in Oregon celebrating the 30th anniversary of the infamous Toulon Murders. All hell breaks loose at the Postville Lodge during the auction when a strange force animates all of the various puppets throughout the convention as they go on a bloody killing spree.

There is no release date for this movie yet (you kind of need a director to set one of those right?), but I imagine we’ll be hearing more soon enough. One final (?) sequel in the original series, Puppet Master: Axis Termination, is due out this year. It will be fifth in the series chronology.

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