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Review: ‘Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich’ raises game of venerable horror franchise

Review: ‘Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich’ raises game of venerable horror franchise
Thomas Lennon and the puppet Blade in the movie "Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich." (Braulio Ramirez / RLJE Films)

The long-running “Puppet Master” series may not be as well-known as “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th,” but for nearly 30 years, it’s been entertaining splatter buffs with one simple, silly premise: What if a bunch of creepy-looking little toys started murdering humans?

For the most part, the “Puppet Master” saga has played out in cheap, convoluted straight-to-video productions, but “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” ups the series’ craft-level considerably, rebooting the franchise with the help of “Bone Tomahawk” and “Brawl in Cell Block 99” screenwriter S. Craig Zahler.

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Thomas Lennon stars as Edgar, a comic book artist who sees a business opportunity at a convention dedicated to André Toulon (Udo Kier), who in this “Puppet Master” iteration is a Nazi, notorious for his crime-spree and his miniature marauders. Edgar happens to have inherited a Toulon original: a “Blade” doll he hopes to sell to one of the conventioneers.

Zahler doesn’t burden co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund with much plot. After Edgar and his buddy Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) arrive at the Toulon-fest, the attendees’ puppets start disappearing. Soon, the killing starts. The film follows a formula: Introduce eccentric characters, then slaughter them in appropriately disgusting ways.

Between the punchy dialogue, the skilled cast (some comic actors, some genre stalwarts) and the impressive animation, “The Littlest Reich” is good, sick fun. It’s got puppets, it’s got gore. Who could ask for anything more?

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‘Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Playing: Starts Aug. 17, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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