PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS came out the year after FREDDY VS. JASON and a few months before ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, but eight years before THE AVENGERS, so it is an important milestone in cinematic universe crossover events. According to Wikipedia, though, it is “non-canon.” Produced for The Sci-Fi Network (before they had their own proprietary spelling), it doesn’t have Charles Band or Full Moon’s names anywhere on it, but it was directed by Ted Nicolaou (THE DUNGEONMASTER, TERRORVISION, SUBSPECIES, BAD CHANNELS, DRAGONWORLD) and written by C. Courtney Joyner (PUPPET MASTER III, DOCTOR MORDRID, TRANCERS III, plus PRISON and CLASS OF 1999).
Although I’m not all that familiar with either the vast PUPPET MASTER saga or the rich DEMONIC TOYS mythos I did think this one might be worth watching this week when I read (in Yuletide Terror, once again) that it was a Christmas movie.
Corey Feldman (EDGE OF HONOR, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) plays Robert Toulon, proprietor of Toulon’s Puppet Hospital, which looks like a business on the outside but from inside seems to just be a basement where he and his daughter Alex (Danielle Keaton, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, PINOCCHIO’S REVENGE, BABY GENIUSES) do experiments mixing chemicals and blood in beakers and injecting them into the famous PUPPET MASTER puppets Blade, Pinhead, Jester and Six Shooter (but not Leech Woman). Although I guess they’re on their own alternate dimension timeline, please note that these are the original Greatest Generation anti-Nazi puppets, not the hate criminals from the S. Craig Zahler version.
This Toulon is the great grand nephew of o.g. puppet master Andre Toulon, and there’s some back story I didn’t really understand where his unseen ex-wife is rich and has a mansion that he borrows. Feldman has his hair sprayed grey and tries to talk in a gravelly voice, while Keaton wears her hair in piggy tails, maybe to seem like a kid. Mathematically Feldman could be her father as long as he started young, so I don’t think any of that’s necessary.
Meanwhile, Erica Sharpe (Vanessa Angel, KING OF NEW YORK, SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2), CEO or whatever of Sharpe Toys, is in the midst of promoting the season’s hottest toy, Christmas Pals. And it’s easy to see why Christmas Pals are so in-demand because what they are, they are the Demonic Toys (an ugly baby, a scary clown jack in the box, and a teddy bear with sharp teeth). They have nothing to do with Christmas. But there is an ad that shows kids getting them on Christmas and being excited, so I guess that has convinced people that it’s a product that is appealing in some way and makes sense to be described as relating to Christmas or being a pal.
I have to mention that as much as I can enjoy low budget movies there are ways that they try to go beyond their means that annoy me. Like it bothers me that this supposed top toy company makes a ladybug “toy” that looks like a middle school wood shop project, and that they give one to Toulon and, not realizing it’s a spying device, he takes it as if it’s something to actually keep and put on a shelf. I hate in movies when they have a company that’s supposed to be huge but the logos and products look like amateur home made garbage. Even a tiny local business can have a fancy sign. How does this company have people coming to a big press conference with the mayor and stuff in their lobby but they have broke-ass lettering on their building?
Maybe they spent all their money on the elevator that goes deep into the earth. The funniest goofy twist is when Erica inappropriately asks the receptionist (Dessislava Maicheva) – who’s reading Christianity Today and is named Christina – if she’s a virgin, then brings her “to meet the board of directors.” Erica’s henchman guy (Nikolai Sotirov, the announcer in UNDISPUTED II and III) uses his occult medallion as a secret key and the elevator opens to a long stone hallway and sort of a dungeon/laboratory. Erica gives the virgin to the Demonic Toys “as a play thing” and then drains her blood in an iron maiden to summon the demon Bael (Christopher Bergschneider, also the special effects coordinator, later the puppet designer for PUPPET MASTER X: AXIS RISING). The so-called “Supreme Commander of the Infernal Army” already knows Erica. He asks her how the sales of Christmas Pals are going.
It turns out this is a HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH deal. They’re using capitalism against the humans, making kids beg their parents for this so very, very appealing product, and then on Christmas those fuckin things will come to life and murder everybody or whatever. Bael calls it “the greatest sacrifice of innocents the world has ever seen, upon the holiest of holy days, the birthday of the Nazarene.” He expects to “be hailed as the most nefarious demon in history” for this grand marketing achievement. Erica’s on board because she won’t have to make toys anymore, since there won’t be any kids left. But also she hates her pain-in-the-ass Demonic Toys and wants Bael to make “toys like the Toulon puppets, that will serve me.” That would be a vote for PUPPET MASTER, right?
Maybe the villainous scheme should’ve involved the Puppet Master puppets instead of making them just a side deal unrelated afterthought. At least that’s how I was raised. To be fair they do later introduce a historic connection between the two killer doll franchises.
Anyway, the demon dresses up like Santa Claus for the climax. Demon humor, I think.
Feldman is a little awkward playing this character, but at least underplaying his attempts at humor. The other lead is Sgt. Russell (Silvia Suvadova, “Russian Model,” THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT), a cop who responds to a disturbance call when Toulon’s place gets ransacked, and he awkwardly semi hits on her and she later has to arrest him and then is convinced of the magical shit going on and is part of the team with the puppets and everything.
There is some crude but kind of cool puppetry and stop motion of the puppets and the demonic toys. The short scene sort of promised by the title is one of the more fun parts. The puppet or doll that gets the most play is probly Baby Oopsy Daisy (Rendan Ramsey), but he’s also the most obnoxious. He’s like a gruff asshole guy who says things like “Yeah, well, I got a job for her. In my diaper!” I mean I would say he was a dumb rip off of Baby Herman from WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT except this character farts and shows his butt several times throughout the movie, usually laughing proudly afterwards, which makes him a wholly unique creation.
Off the top of my head I can name at least one Corey Feldman small evil things Christmas movie that’s way better than this. In my opinion PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS is not a holiday classic, but I can’t speak for everyone’s beliefs.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.