Puppet Master II (1991)
The evil living puppets return to the Bodega Bay Inn and this time they're hunting some Paranormal Researchers to take their brain fluid for the Undead puppet master, Andre Toulon.
REVIEW: Recently I decided to do a re-watch of the entire Puppet Master saga, leading up to my first-time watch of Puppet Master X: Axis Rising. Even though the rest of the series is a re-watch, I've only seen most of them once before and it was a long time ago, so I remember very little about most of the movies, so it's almost like a first-time watch for the majority of them all over again. With the first movie having gotten a review about a month ago, tonight's movie was the second in the series, Puppet Master II, with the sometimes-subtitle of His Unholy Creations.
Puppet Master II is one of those near-perfect horror sequels, much like Friday the 13th, Part II – It takes what we know from the first movie and builds upon it, extending our knowledge on various things in this universe (in this case the the evil living puppets and how they actually work), while also ultimately being an all-around better, more entertaining movie. For starters, they fixed my biggest problem with the first movie – they wrote out the survivors of that with a few lines of dialog, and replaced them with brand new characters that are much more likable, more relatable, and were competently acted. These characters I didn't mind spending time with at all, so the parts of the movie that weren’t focused on the puppets were still enjoyable and not as difficult to sit through as they were in the first movie (except that really awkward, out of nowhere tacked-on romance subplot that felt pretty disjointed with the rest of the movie).
This time around the human characters are Paranormal Researchers who arrive at the Bodega Bay Inn hotel after hearing about the events of the first movie, to investigate the mysterious going-ons, which is actually an excellent entry in the series to watch this day in age, what with programs like Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Destination Truth, and other such being all the rage – Full Moon was ahead of the curb with this one! Of course it isn't long before the evil living puppets come out of the woodwork to cause mayhem for our Paranormal Investigators, and the bloodshed starts all over again. I was also thrilled to discover that this entry returns to the awesome location of the empty shutdown hotel of the first movie, as I felt that that creepy location was one of that entry's strongest aspects and it continues to be a great setting once again here. I actually love the Bodega Bay Inn as a horror setting so much that I honestly wouldn't mind it at all if every entry took place there.
As for the puppets themselves, thankfully they get more screentime in this entry than in the last, and they are much more the focus of the movie, as opposed to last time where they played second and even third fiddle for the majority of it. They still look amazing and move realistically, and all the puppets from the first movie return, plus even a really awesome new one (who oddly enough never shows up ever again in the series, I believe. Also, where was he during the events of Part 1? He just shows up with no explanation and disappears from the series after this entry just as mysteriously).
Even though at this stage in the Puppet Master series the puppets are currently evil, it was still pretty sad to see a couple of them get destroyed as over the course of just these two movies alone, you really start to get a good feel of their personalities and character traits, and it was so easy to fall in love with each of these little critters. But don't let that fool you too much – these are still vicious killing machines that once again are the cause of quite a few excellent blood-filled death scenes that any horror fan should be proud of. Hell, that new puppet I previously mentioned got one of the best kills of the movie – burning a snotty little kid alive with its flamethrower arm; This series does not shy away from child killing like many horror movies do, and even the ending of the movie seemed to hint pretty heavily that the puppets were on their way to a mental institution for children to start causing their murderous mayhem there (an ending that, sadly, gets 100% ignored in all future sequels).
While Puppet Master II is indeed a huge improvement over the first, it's still not quite perfect as I felt it fumbled the ball a little bit with one of its subplots: The original creator of the puppets, Andre' Toulon from the intro of the first movie, is back from the dead here and having the puppets kill our human characters in order to obtain brain fluid from them that he needs to complete the 'puppet master formula' as it's called, basically whatever the secret formula he uses to bring the puppets to life, he's using to bring himself back to life and he needs so much of that brain fluid to complete it and allow him to transition his soul into a life-size doll replica of himself so he can live forever. Thing is, he treats the puppets with such utter hate and disrespect, which is in complete contrast with what little we saw of him in the first movie (and what we will come to see of him in all future entries) – in everything else we see of him, he was a kind and gentle soul that loved those puppets as if they were his children, not the evil hateful creature he seems to be here. Of course you can explain that away by going the 'what's dead should stay dead because when you bring them back, they're not truly who they were before but now something evil' route, but it would have been nice to get some actual in-movie explanation of that being the case. As it stands, it remains an aspect of the movie that I heavily dislike and it stands in the way of making this a perfect entry in the series.
The misstep with Toulon's return aside, as well as that tacked-on out of place romance subplot that came with it, everything good from the first movie is carried over to this one while everything bad about it was greatly improved, in addition to taking the time to add to the overall mythos of the puppets and how they came to be. Puppet Master 2 can go into the books as one of the few horror sequels that manages to not only stand side-by-side its first entry, but completely surpass it.