Puppet Master: Doktor Death (2022)

Puppet Master: Doktor Death


April is the new transplant in town and has just become a member of the nursing staff at the Shady Oaks Senior Living community. But when it comes to starting a new job, she’s picked some poor timing. Sadly, one of the residents had passed the night before, so everyone’s in a melancholy mood. April and one of the other nurses are tasked with going through the recently departed’s possessions, when they come across a locked trunk containing a strange looking puppet wearing medical scrubs. A third nurse takes possession of the doll, because I guess the rule of “dibs” applies when it comes to sudden deaths in nursing homes. But it’s not long after the body is taken to the morgue that more people start to mysteriously die at the nursing home, and April begins to strongly suspect that something besides old age is the culprit for all these sudden deaths.


Well, I’ll be horn-swaggled, they actually managed to release the new Puppet Master movie… And early no less! Color me genuinely shocked. Apparently this came out at the end of October (2022), but it just showed up in my feed recently, so I figured I’d get it out of the way before I remembered how much this series tends to piss me off. Why am I watching this during my unofficial “shorts” month, you may ask? Why, because the movie only clocks in at a whopping 59 minutes. That’s right, the film isn’t even an hour long, and is even shorter if you skip those unnaturally long credit sequences that Full Moon is rather (in)famous for. So I don’t know about you, but I feel like if your film is only barely longer than the typical length of your average TV drama episode, then a short your movie be.


After dealing with Nazi’s for the last (double checks) four films (dear gods…), it seems Full Moon decided to go back to the basics, to the very formula that got them started. So instead of fighting war criminals, the series has returned to its slasher roots, basically trying to recreate the vibe from the first Puppet Master film. You’ve got a handful of people wandering around a large, often unusually dark building, and they slowly get picked off one-by-one. Pretty basic. The only difference is the building isn’t full of psychics (there’s only one this time (but she’s just as useless as the group was in the first film, so that fits)), and instead of a collection of strange puppets with varying abilities, there is only one mini murderer, the titular puppet character known as Doktor Death. For those of you who need a refresher (or more likely for those who don’t care and just need to know), Doktor Death is a character from one of the much maligned series entries, Retro Puppet Master, having been created after Andre transferred the soul of his fellow puppeteer and med student friend, Duval, into the body of the skull-faced puppet, and, up until now anyway, has not been seen nor heard from in the 23 years since his introduction. But at some point in that film Andre Toulon did mention that he would eventually tell us what happened to the new puppets that appeared in that film, so perhaps this is Full Moon finally getting around to do so. You know…. Two fraggin’ decades later.

Better late than never, I suppose…

One of the biggest problems the film has though (because this is a Full Moon production, so of course it has many, many problems), is that we actually still don’t know what happened to Doktor Death, or any of the other earlier puppets, for that matter. The last time we saw him he was with Andre fighting mummies and getting revenge for his death, and the next thing we see him do is suffocate a helpless, mute old woman. Like, WTF? That’s a HUGE personality change and motivational shift, and at NO time does the movie ever try to explain why he’s seeming suddenly become so blood-thirsty. I know they’re imitating the feel of the first film, but even in that movie the puppets at least had the excuse of being controlled by a power-hungry psychopath who was trying to kill all his “friends,” so that they wouldn’t be able to stop him later. But here, there doesn’t seem to be any motivation whatsoever. Doktor Death just seems to be knocking people off for funsies. Like, gleeful, gleeful funsies. He’s not being controlled by anyone, and he doesn’t appear to be seeking revenge. He just seems to be getting a kick out of killing a bunch of random, old folks. I mean, I could understand wanting to off the first guy, because he’s the one who seemingly locked him into the trunk to begin with, and when you do something like lock a murderous, sentient puppet in a trunk you’re basically just asking for trouble. But everyone else around was just, like… There, minding their own business? Like, once you were freed from the trunk why not just, you know, leave? I don’t know. It just feels like a very strange plot decision, even for this series.

Maybe he got super bitter from being trapped in the trunk, I don’t know.

But other than that, this is actually a surprisingly decent slasher from Full Moon. Which means that by any other standards it would be considered mediocre, at best. But considering the studio we’re talking about, I’ll take what I can get. Yeah, the characters fit your typical dumb molds, but beyond the one intentionally dumb idiot, the characters (shockingly) actually don’t make any ridiculously stupid decisions. The plot may have been simplified and shortened, but that just means that the film’s pacing moves at a decent clip and the story surprisingly stays on point. And while there are a couple of instances of the bad CGI that I’ve come to expect from these films, with the exception of the glaringly poor computerized rainstorm outside, most every other effect looks like it was practical, minus a couple of minor hiccups, so you don’t have any of these weird visual disconnect moments while you’re watching the film. The one thing they still haven’t improved upon is the puppet movement, meaning that the murdering little miscreant still doesn’t have any true moments of animation (I think those days are likely long since gone), but what is there isn’t too bad. I don’t see any strings, he’s moving more than simply “wobbling” back and forth, and they’ve removed the whole “actor in a puppet suit” visual that they’ve used in the last two films, so the puppet’s proportions remain blissfully consistent. So all in all, the film ends up working surprisingly well for the incredibly cheesy slasher that it is. I am a little peeved that they knocked off a couple people off-screen, and we only saw the end result of their deaths and completely missed their grisly demise, but at this point that’s a minor quibble.

Though I do find it amusing that the puppet not only killed the painter, but also looks to have taken the time to hang his portrait up on the wall before moving on to his next victim.


But under no circumstances should you try to use any of that to try to trick yourself into thinking that this is a good movie. This is a Full Moon film, so let’s be real. They literally shat out ELEVEN films in 2022 alone, including two (yes, two) centered around Baby Oopsie Daisy, the wise-cracking demonic baby doll from their Demonic Toys franchise, alone. These are not the kinds of people who are focused on quality film-making. At this point I’m almost convinced that they’re just making crap to see how long it takes for people to stop giving them money and they go bankrupt. Because their funds are clearly so limited that they’re struggling to hit ‘hour long’, let alone ‘feature-length’ at this point. Hell, right in the middle of this film they stopped what they were doing to give you a recap of the first half of their own film. As if they assumed your attention span was so short that you’d already forgotten what had happened in the last 25-minutes (or more likely that they planned to split this into two ‘episodes’ and that was the break point). This is that kind of movie.


So no, Puppet Master: Doktor Death is not a good film. It’s a slightly entertaining film and it might be good by Full Moon standards, but it’s not “good” good. That said, it’s good enough to watch if you’re a fan of slashers and you’ve got about an hour of time to kill. But beyond that and diehard Puppet Master fans (which I’m sure must exist or they wouldn’t still be making these things), I can’t think of anyone else who might be interested.

Puppet Master: Doktor Death is available on a variety of streaming services.

Puppet Master: Doktor Death is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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