Awfully Good: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

Director: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Stars: Thomas Lennon, Michael Pare, Barbara Crampton

A collection of Nazi dolls are brought back to life and begin committing murders and hate crimes in a hotel horror convention.

I don’t know what events in the universe gloriously conspired to bring us a (comparatively) higher-quality, bigger budget, star-studdeder entry in the PUPPET MASTER franchise nearly 30 years in to it, but if this is proof of an omniscient deity that loves us, I’ll take it.

Nobody asked for a prequel to THE HAPPENING, which is what made THE INCIDENT M. Night Shyamalan’s biggest twist yet.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH was written by S. Craig Zahler, the man behind the amazing BONE TOMAHAWK and BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99. I’m not sure what made Zahler, who ostensibly could have his pick of projects after that cinematic one-two punch, want to revisit Charles Band’s goofy demonic doll series, but you’ll be glad he did.

Along with Zahler comes a number of actors and actresses more recognizable than you’d expect in the direct-to-video 13th film in a forgotten horror franchise. That includes comedy writer-actor Thomas Lennon, who turns in an impressively serious and somber performance as the lead, THE SHELTER star Michael Pare, Charlyne Yi and horror legends Udo Kier and Barbara Crampton (who also appeared in the original 1989 PUPPET MASTER).

And that was the last time Ted ate at Arby’s.

While the writing and acting are definitely better, this film plays almost like a bizarro spinoff/reboot of PUPPET MASTER. Whereas the original films depicted the puppets as creations of a Holocaust survivor, THE LITTLEST REICH instead reimagines them as tools of the Nazis, resurrected decades later to mercilessly slaughter any non-Aryan victims they come across. That may piss off some hardcore fans of the traditional canon, especially since the puppets don’t have the same personality they do in the other films, but I venture there’s enough that works well here to make it worth at least giving it a shot.

As someone who grew up on Charles Band movies, this take on the characters is definitely meaner than the original series, which was oftentimes comical in its ridiculousness. Instead, LITTLEST REICH is downright nasty by comparison, and not just with regards to the level of gore. There’s a streak of coldness to all the kills and how serious everything is played. (Which is itself funny considering you’re watching Lt. Dangle from RENO 911 fight pint-sized dolls.) Everyone has motivations, relationships or at least an emotional beat that makes you feel bad if not uncomfortable when they all die horrible, painful deaths.

It’s never hard to predict what male puppeteers will do when given two female puppets.

And if there’s one reason for horror fans to watch PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, it’s because of the gore. The film is full of some of the craziest, most creative kills I’ve seen in a long time. Remember THAT scene in BONE TOMAHAWK? That’s a gallon of rainbow sherbert compared to some of the stuff in this movie.

Here’s a good example: a man is happily relieving himself in a hotel bathroom when a flying puppet comes in and decapitates him so that his head falls in the toilet and his lifeless corpse continues to pee on it.

Can we get a Cuddly Bear spinoff movie, please?

And that’s just the tip of the blood-red iceberg. The movie is full of so many gruesome disembowelments, dismemberments, burning bodies and slashed throats that you’ll lost count. There’s one kill that’s so disturbing it may actually put people off from having children.

By the time a baby Hitler doll (named Junior Führer) tears open a guy’s spine and proceeds to burrow inside to the point where he starts controlling the man like a puppet (IRONY), you may be thinking this movie jumped the shark. But Zahler doubles down to let you know he knows exactly what he’s doing: When they discover the dolls inside the body, a Jewish character picks it up, throws it in a nearby oven and says, “Let’s see how you like it!”

The live-action MUPPET BABIES movie took a turn.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH rides the line between good fun and bad taste just right. A lot is seemingly done for shock value, from the brutal gore to some of the Jewish/Nazi content, which may turn off some viewers. But don’t think Zahler isn’t aware of this himself. One of the last lines in the film is a character saying: “Lots of terrible shit happens to people who don’t deserve it.”

At the end of the day, let’s just be amazed that this movie even exists.

Some overacting and some genuinely funny lines. (“Bitch ass puppets…”)

The film’s best kills. (Spoilers, very NSFW)

Apparently murderous Nazi dolls make women want to get naked and have sex.

No strings attached! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • A puppet kills someone
  • Markowitz is made fun of
  • There’s nudity
  • Thomas Lennon can’t remember his girlfriend’s name

Double shot if:

  • The puppets control the humans

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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