Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys
Erica Sharpe is the owner of a very successful toy company. This year, her line of Christmas Pals have become the season’s hottest new commodity for children. Millions have been sold and will undoubtedly be opened by happy, joyful faces on Christmas morning. But Erica isn’t just selling dolls out of the goodness of her heart. Turns out all the Christmas Pals are actually Demonic Toys, and she’s made a deal with the demon Bael, who wants to use the toys as a way to steal the souls of the children throughout the world in phase one in their nefarious plan for world domination. Erica of course is expecting to be the world’s new ruler, but she’s not 100% down with the current terms of their agreement. Along with her new title of supreme ruler, she also wants an army of loyal, indestructible toys that will unquestionably do her bidding, and the crass, sass-talking Demonic Toys just aren’t living up to her expectations. So she sets her sights on toy-maker Robert Toulon, great nephew of Andre Toulon, and his set of four, living puppets, in the hopes of accomplishing her perfect plan.
I’m not even sure where to start with this one. Technically it’s a Christmas film, so I probably should have waited a bit to watch it in December, but damn it, I’m a professional crappy movie watcher and I’m on a roll, so here we go….
If you’re wondering where this film fits, quality-wise, with the rest of the series, then the first thing you need to know is that Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys is a Made-for-TV movie that was created for the Sci-Fi Channel, during a time when the spelling of their name actually still made sense. So already we’re off to a bad start. But it’s also a Made-for-TV movie that combines not one, but two of Full Moon’s creepy killer doll franchises (because Charles Band apparently has some serious issues he needs to work through) into one: Puppet Master, which at this point had lost whatever mojo it had years ago, and Demonic Toys, which no one would blame you for never having heard of before now, because at this point it hadn’t had a sequel in over ten years, and no one liked it or the first film to begin with. Oh, and the film’s star power consists of Corey Feldman as a very befuddled looking toy-maker who’s trying and failing to pull off one of those deep-throated Batman voices. And yes, you read all of that right. Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys is an early attempt to create its very own kind of cinematic universe using Full Moon properties (without actually being made by Full Moon), by combining two of it’s dying franchises, in the form of a Made-for-TV movie, that features a bunch of murderous puppets and Corey Feldman trying to kill another group of animated toys that are being lead by an honest-to-god demon, all in an effort to save Christmas. That’s it. That’s what this entire movie is about.
Ho ho ho, you bastards.
And even considering that…Even considering ALL of that, it STILL ends up being better than Puppet Master: The Legacy. But only just marginally, because let’s face it, the bar for that movie set was set so low that all these filmmakers had to do was accidentally trip over it and they still would have managed to come out ahead.
I probably shouldn’t have to point this out, but the acting in this film is truly and undeniably bad. But it’s all bad in a “so horrible it becomes amusing” kind of way. It’s clear that everyone knew just how ridiculous this movie was, so they said ‘to hell with it!’ and cheesed up their performances. The main villain is basically an adult sized version of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if someone had given her a company to run and a demonic spell book instead of a bar of chocolate. She has only one competent henchman, and he just rolls his eyes at her throughout the entire plot, all while her minions skate through life being horribly inept at their jobs. Mr. Henchman at least seems semi-decent in his role, though I noticed they did dub a couple of his lines, so I don’t know what’s going on there. He wasn’t the only one though. All of Sgt. Russell’s lines end up being dubbed as well for some reason. The actress was born in Slovakia, so perhaps she has an accent they thought would be too distracting, but whatever the reason it couldn’t have been worse than the horribly distracting dub job they did. But they didn’t dub any of Danielle Keaton’s lines, who plays a young Alexandra Toulon. Her character almost acts as if she’s in the wrong type of film, like she just accidentally walked onto the set from one of those self-aware slashers, and she can’t actually believe what she’s seeing, but she’s a sassy teen, so she’s just gonna roll with the punches, kinda performances. It actually works surprisingly well for this film, oddly enough. At the very least she’s got a nice set of screaming lungs on her, so the film was able to fill its ‘scream queen’ quota so it can still try to pretend it’s a horror movie.
Meanwhile Corey Feldman is wandering around like some sort of weird cross between a mad scientist and an ungainly school boy. I think they were trying to make his bumbling attitude funny, but it doesn’t work and he just comes across as very awkward instead. Which, coincidentally, actually matches the weird AF hairdo they insisted on giving him, and I still can’t tell if that’s a very unfortunate wig he’s wearing, or if they intentionally puffed up his hair to look like some kind of ruffed grouse. Either way I’ve got some serious questions for the film’s hair and makeup department.
Our film’s “hero”, ladies and gentlemen….Basically how he looks throughout the whole movie.
Shockingly, the puppets actually manage to come out looking a lot better in this film than they have in the last three installments, combined. Or, I guess I should say their new iterations look better. Sometime after Puppet Master: The Legacy ended, the original dolls were all sold off at an auction, meaning all the puppets in the series from here on out are replicas created by various artists. So while most of the dolls look pretty similar, they’re all now sporting new, slightly wonky-looking faces. Well, except for Blade, but I guess it was kinda hard to screw up his design….but I digress. Anyway, despite being a Made-for-TV movie, it seems the filmmakers actually managed to garner enough of a budget for this thing, which means that the puppets are actually able to move this time, and not just in the herky-jerky way they did in the previous films, either. No, they were actually able to scrape enough funds together to fully animate most of their movements. Granted, they didn’t have enough budget to animate everything smoothly, so the puppets are often moving so fast that they look like they’re hopped up on speed, and there were a couple of instances where I could clearly see string work. But other than that this might be the best they’ve looked in years…. Until the movie saw fit to give half of them those cybernetic upgrades, anyway. Then they start looking a little hokey again. But hey, even though they look a little goofy, it’s at least nice that they also look much more lifelike this time around.
The Demonic Toys look to have also been given a facelift for this movie. I know precious little about that film, so I can only base my knowledge upon their earlier screenshots and the Wiki article, but it looks like their designs were made quite a bit more…shall we say “child friendly” for this film, I suppose. At least they certainly don’t look nearly as menacing as they do in the first film. Baby Oopsie Daisy has also been downgraded from a demonic rapist, to a crass, wise-talking little imp who propels himself through the air by fart, and Jack Attack looks more like a dog chew-toy than an evil Jack In The Box. Oh, and Grizzly Teddy’s in this too, for those who care. But all he does is stand around, make monkey noises and get shot at, so the less said about him the better. Not even sure why he’s in this movie, to be honest, cause he’s pretty friggin’ useless. But anyway, they’re all animated shockingly well, sometimes even better than the Toulon puppets themselves, so other than Oopie Daisy’s horrible cringe-worthy dialogue I really can’t complain too much.
I’d go into detail about the film’s numerous plot inconsistencies and revelations that neither hold up to scrutiny or make a lick of sense, but if you’re a fan of the series and have made it this far in, then you should have already come to expect that they’re there at this point. I won’t go into too much detail, but just know that in one revelation we learn that the demon wants revenge on the puppets because an even earlier ancestor of Andre’s apparently made a deal with him to give his puppets life in exchange for his soul. But before Bael could come to collect, the relative had somehow turned himself into a tree, so the demon couldn’t get his soul. And then later Andre used the wood from that same tree to make his puppets and that’s partially how they’re able to be given life and…. Yeah, let’s just say there’s a reason why this film isn’t considered canon to the main series and just leave it at that.
Elevator rides are always so awkward…
Believe it or not, unlike some other films in the series, Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys wasn’t just planned as a quickie cash grab by cable networks. The plot had actually been conceived of back around 1993, and had initially been planned as the fourth installment of the franchise. But it wound up getting pushed back in favor of the Totum/Sutek storyline seen in Puppet Master 4/5, and then ended up shoved to the backburner for over a decade. But the initial timing of it actually helps explain some of the film’s oddities. Back around the time the film was originally written, Demonic Toys had just come out a year prior, and Toulon’s Revenge had been released in 91’, so it was a time when the properties were still fresh and it would have made far more sense to do a crossover. It also explains the film’s exclusions and references. Certain puppets, like Leach and Tunneler, are missing from this film because they were both injured or partially destroyed at the end of Puppet Master II. And though the film ignores most of the events of the previous films and isn’t considered canon, it does have several references to Toulon’s Revenge, because at the time it was written that would have been the most recent story, and both scripts were penned by the same screenwriter, C. Courtney Joyner. What none of this explains, however, is why no one bothered to update any of the material after over a decade, other than maybe that Charles Band is a really cheap pain in the—oh, wait, this is actually the one movie in the series that Band wasn’t involved with. Well, hell…now I don’t know who to blame. Guess I’ll have to settle with blaming the Sci-Fi channel. They’re usually a safe bet.
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys is a horribly cheesy mess of a movie. Yet I can’t bring myself to hate it, because even though it’s a cheese-fest, it still ends up being kinda fun in a “so bad it’s good” kinda way. The acting is ridiculous, the story makes no sense, and the whole package is wrapped in a very shiny Christmas veneer that doesn’t tonally fit with any of the other film’s in either series. But at the same time it’s a film that also knows it’s cheesy and ridiculous and just sort of rolls with it. Yeah, it borrows too much from other movies (hello Halloween III) and it’s hammy and lacks any sense of suspense, but… It’s a cheesy Christmas special about killer animated toys and puppets, what the hell do you expect? I mean, it’s clearly not good and I wouldn’t necessarily put it in my Christmas Horror Movie rotation list, but I accept the film in the festive holiday spirit of stupidity in which it is offered. So if you like cheesy, weird as hell Christmas specials and don’t mind a bit of blood, then it’s worth at least one viewing, if only for curiosity’s sake. But if you’re looking for something that’s more in line with the earlier film’s in the series, then you can skip out on watching the puppets save Christmas.
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys is available on a variety of streaming services.
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys is also available on DVD.