The name Charles Band should sound mighty familiar to horror fans. If not, some of the movies he’s been involved with will: Re-Animator, Ghoulies, Troll, Dolls, Demonic Toys. None of them more so than Puppet Master. Since 1989, Band and his merry… err, band of misfit directors, have put out 12 Puppet Master movies — including the crossover vs. Demonic Toys entries.
Now, they’ve gone the reboot route. Entry number 13, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, is here to wreak havoc on 4K UHD. How this received a 4K transfer is beyond me, but for interested parties, maybe this is exactly the kind of 4K title we need to get more horror goodies brought to this home video era.
In The Littlest Reich, Edgar (Thomas Lennon) is living with his parents, dealing with the death of his brother and divorcing his wife. While rummaging through his brother’s boxes Edgar discovers a creepy looking Nazi doll and finds there’s an upcoming auction in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Toulon (Udo Kier) Murders.
With Edgar’s girl-next-door-turned-insta-girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and comic store employee Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) in tow, the trio head out for what they hope to be some quick cash. Instead, they wind up in a fight for their lives as the Toulon dolls come back to life and start killing off any “undesirables” they can get their tiny hands on.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich aims to disembowel 4K, but arrives unequipped with a 2K upscale, no HDR, and a simple 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Even if you take into consideration the higher bitrate, there’s not much of a difference between the 4K and 1080p presentations. Detail is nice and sharp to help lend the extra nastiness of the practical effects. Blacks are heavy with no crush and free of compression issues.
On the audio side, it’s not like this would be the kind of film screaming for a Dolby Atmos/DTS:X track. The 5.1 gets the job done and is exactly what you expect from a low-budget horror film. Dialogue is mostly intelligible and the rears kick in as needed. Bass is surprisingly kept to a minimum, but the film relies more heavily on visual gags than musical stingers. It’s a fairly front heavy mix, but most of the time there’s not much action happening anyway. Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.
The limited special features available are all of the standard EPK variety. While they could have wound up being more entertaining than the movie, they’re not. “Behind the Scenes of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” (5:55) dives into filming in Dallas, the special effects, locations, and stunt work. “The Cast of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” (6:55) features the cast discussing their roles expressing the excitement they lack on-screen about their characters.
“Puppets: From Concept to Creation” (1:44) consists of sketches and digital composites of the puppet characters. A “Photo Gallery” includes on-set pics and finally, “Lightning Girl Comic: From Sketch to Final” (:40) is where I ran into a playback issue which completely froze my player — I did not return.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is prime example of being so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. It takes itself way too seriously — a huge misstep considering the amount of comedic actors involved. It’s also the kind of film that finds entertainment out of one of the puppets entering a pregnant woman’s body vaginally, then claws its way out of her stomach, and takes off with the fetus dragging the placenta behind it.
Directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund — along with screenwriter S. Craig Zahler (showing none of the brains he brought to his own Bone Tomahawk or Brawl in Cell Block 99) — seem pretty intent with lowest common denominator jokes, but at least rely strictly on practical effects.
The title alone will be a deciding factor on whether you sit through Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. And for those considering a blind buy, at least the 4K is only a few dollars more than the standard Blu-ray, which is included. Boring and tone deaf, the 4K is barely better than the Blu-ray, but, if more of these movies are bought in 4K it can hopefully get the studios to release more old school treats for us.