Sunday, 28 December 2014

Puppet Master II

A posse of creepy autonomous puppets resurrect their creator in a cemetery during the dead of night.  Returning to the derelict Bodega Bay hotel where they formerly reaped havoc they gradually pick off a team of paranormal researchers that have moved in there temporarily, while Toulon, their exhumed master, masquerades as the new owner of the place.  Toulon himself recognises the resemblance of one of the investigators to his lover from decades previous, who may be reincarnated here in good old Egyptian fashion.
Continuing with a near-identical vein to the first entry in a very long series, Band obviously realised that the formula worked well enough to be a success and decided not to change it much at all.  I do feel that the exploitation elements could have been embellished - gore and nudity are there only in small doses - but essentially the puppets themselves are the draw of the show here, so I guess most of the attention is focussed on them.  They're given life by various means and it's always pleasing to watch stop motion (which makes up much of the technique used) photography in action.  They are suitably sinister designs all round.  The main problem for me is Richard Band's composition, a near relentless whiny soundtrack that rarely seems to consider the on-screen sequence that it is depicting (e.g. you might get the same feel of music in the background for someone walking across a corridor as you would for somebody else being drilled through the head).  I really try to see the appeal in Richard's work but for me his material sometimes strips a film of its dramatic potential.  While the film as a whole could have been tightened up, there are good moments spattered throughout- Charlie Spradling looks as good as ever (remaining somewhat underused in my opinion) and there's a great Action Man sequence with his child owner (who is whipping the soldier - that never happened in Toy Story!) then finding a real living doll...

Puppet Master II (1990) is a relic of the VHS era when films were being churned out specifically with the intention of putting them out in video stores.  The 88 Films Blu-ray is a nice way to experience the film.  The full HD image (1.78:1 running 88 minutes at 24 fps) is lively, bright, and often very attractive to look at - a noticeable improvement over DVD.  The DTS-HD MA audio track makes Band's score sound better than it has any right to.  The extras package is the same as the DVD, with a Charles Band commentary, an introduction to the film itself running a couple of minutes, a 21 minute historical making-of documentary, plus plenty of trailers.  The package is presented with reversible cover art so you can switch it around if you prefer, and an eight page booklet talking about Puppet Master II, the series itself, Band and Full Moon, and contains snippets of information/interview quotes from Charles Band.  It's a nice read, rounding off a good package that improves on its American cousin (which had mere Dolby Digital audio and no booklet or reversible sleeve).

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