Story: Andre Toulon (William Hickey) is a puppet maker, whose creations have more life to them than most puppets. This is due to one interesting note, Toulon has discovered the secret to life and instills his creations with the formula, which brings them to life. In order to make sure his secret stays out of dangerous hands, Toulon kills himself and takes the secret with him, although his puppets are left behind. Time passes, and the rumor that Toulon had discovered the secret of life has drawn Alex Whittaker (Paul Le Mat) and three other psychics to Toulon’s mansion, where they hope to solve the mystery once and for all. While this group has come looking for life, they find the exact opposite when Toulon’s puppets emerge to protect their master’s secret. Tunneler with his drill enabled head, Pinhead and his powerful and massive hands, Blade with his gleaming hook and bladed hand, Leech Woman with her life draining leeches, and Jester with his murderous temper all stalk these unwanted visitors. Will these psychics be able to locate the goods they came for, or will they fall victim to Toulon’s amazing creations?
Entertainment Value: I guess I just can’t resist a menagerie of murderous puppets, because I love this movie amd have a soft spot for its numerous sequels. While I can see how some might not get a kick out of these films, I can always depend on them for a good time. This is the original, the movie that started it all and introduced us to these lovable little guys. Without a doubt the puppets are what makes this movie so entertaining, and the personalities and designs of them are excellent. While I am personally a follower of Pinhead, all the puppets are cool and fun to watch. The production values on the movie as a whole might be lacking, but the puppets look fantastic and move very well. This series might have a cheesy reputation, but the effort put into the puppets is top notch and worth looking at, even if you don’t like the movies themselves. This is a horror movie, so there’s death and some blood, though gore isn’t the focus of this one. The manner is which the folks are offed is usually entertaining also, and there’s quite a bit of humor laced into the storyline. This is an easy recommendation for fans of Full Moon style horror, and if you’ve wanted to check out how this series started, this is where you need to be.
The nakedness here is limited, with just a couple topless scenes to mention. There is a narrative thread that deals with sexual telepathy however, which leads to some interesting moments, such as the “movie star bed,” an enthusiastic cowgirl session, a bathtub fantasy, and a reverse deepthroat scenario that has Leech Woman more than living up to her name. There’s not a deluge of blood here, but some gore creeps into the kills now and then. Some of the highlights include a leech attack, some fun with decapitated heads, post coital drilling and drill trauma in general, and some finger slicing that has a satisfying amount of spray involved. The dialogue is mostly basic, but there is some fun snark between some of the characters and a little humor at times. No really quotable or memorable lines though, so the needle doesn’t move much here. The overall craziness earns some points however, with the creepy, masked ballroom dance sequences, a bizarre reveal I can only refer to as the instant funeral, a dinner party of the dead, and an unconventional choice in pets.
This film was directed by David Schmoeller, who seems to have his skills at making cult classics honed well. While this might not be the perfect example of technical directing out there, I think the visual compositions used here are excellent, especially the angles used and movements the camera takes. Schmoeller also directed such films as Tourist Trap, The Arrival, Crawlspace, and Netherworld. The acting in this film is good, especially given the nature of having to work with puppets. Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti, American History X) has the lead role and does a decent turn, and the rest of the cast manages to come off well too. Even though his role is rather brief, William Hickey (The Jerky Boys, Christmas Vacation) turns in a nice performance as Toulon, the puppet master. The supporting cast also includes Barbara Crampton (Space Truckers, Castle Freak), Irene Miracle (Inferno, Torture Train), Jimmie F. Skaggs (Underworld, Solar Crisis), and Robin Frates (Man’s Best Friend, One Night Stand). Alas, no matter how good these actors performed, the special effects creations of David Allen would have always been the true stars. The puppets have just as much personality as the human actors, and they truly steal this show more often than not.
Overall Insanity: 3/10