Friday, March 25, 2011

Film #60: Puppet Master II (1991)

Death can be an embarrassing thing.
After all, autoerotic asphyxiation is probably not the way Kill Bill’s David Carradine wanted to be remembered… but will be forever, at least in his death.
Still, of all the embarrassing ways to die, death by puppet has got to be the worst.

First of all, puppets are just so lame. They are shriveled, ugly and have been completely void of any entertainment value since their cave-man creation (let alone in the post-TV age)… at least if you believe Chris’s rantings (see below).

When killed by a puppet, everyone at your funeral would be all like “did you hear, Gary was murdered by a puppet?” and the listener would say “A f&$%ing puppet? Are you serious? What did he do, double cross the Cookie Monster in a back-alley Snickerdoodle deal? He couldn’t outsmart a puppet?”

Then the uproarious, sustained, and corpse shaking laughter would ring throughout the room… and right down into Gary’s dead ears.
That said, you gotta feel shame for the puppet victims in this week’s horror flick, “Puppet Master II.” And boy, are there a lot of them.

A group of investigators from the FBI’s “U.S. Office of Paranormal Claims” visit an abandoned hotel in order to study its, you guessed it, paranormal claims. The group, which includes lovely fire-crotch Carolyn Bramwell, hope to catch a Casper, or at least find out the cause of previous crazy events that went down in la casa.

The hotel was shackled up after one occupant had their brain involuntarily removed, and another went insane with ravings of seeing murderous mini-spirits.
To boot, there is a creepy abandoned cemetery in the hotel’s backyard, seeing as the property was originally built by a mystic who believed she could channel the dead. When a hotel’s strange, in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Mulder and Scully wannabes!

Meanwhile, a band of killer puppets that live in the hotel visits the backyard cemetery and raises their bandage wrapped puppet master Andre Toulon from the dead. Toulon is a former Nazi-German era puppet genius who can create living, mechanical puppets by distilling human frontal lobes into puppet blood.

Having not seen Puppet Master I, we assume Toulon was killed in the first movie, buried in the hotel backyard, and now been brought back to life by his puppet friends to take revenge on the living.

Toulon isn’t too pleased that the FBI is snooping around his hotel. After all, he has dreams of collecting enough brain-blood to create an army of living killer puppets that he can take to Hollywood and become a star! You know, just like Taylor Swift.
He can’t have the FBI snooping around!

In a former life before the Great Second War, Toulon toured the world with his puppets, alongside beautiful wife Elsa. Once War broke out, the Germans wanted Toulon to use his talents for war, not entertainment. When he refused, they went all Nazi on him and killed his wife.

But, oh my, look at that, one of the FBI investigators looks exactly like Elsa (of course). With a taste of blood in his mouth and a tingle in his pants, Toulon commands his puppets to get rid of his hotel guests and bring Carolyn to his puppet lair.

How many people will be shamed with a puppet death?
Will lovely Carolyn be turned into Toulon’s captive wife?
Can Taylor Swift's evil reign of terror ever be stopped!?
Find out in the 1991 spectacle that is “Puppet Master II”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.3
Chris Dimick puppeteers:
“Pick on someone your own size. Words to live by, but like David Bowie, do they go both ways? It’s not fair for a big bully to pound a whittle weakling. But should a shrimp slugger be able to ass-whomp a gentle giant? Probably, but that doesn’t mean it is fun to watch.

The scenario is just too improbable. Therein lies the problem with Puppet Master II. Watching shin-high puppets put the hurt on full grown humans is fun at first. It’s unexpected that such small packages produce such a wallop.

But after awhile the confrontations between the “devil dolls” and their victims just gets ridiculous. In real life, it’d be insanely easy to defeat an out of control puppet, just due to size alone. Yeah, these puppets are somewhat undead and have a bevy of weapons at their disposal. But in all the death scenes, the victims just made it too easy to have their forehead drilled in, or their necks choked and slashed.

Is a knee high doll choking your neck? Well, grab the friggin’ thing and break its head off! Or kick its tiny butt down the stairs! Or just run, you dumbass, your legs are five times as long as theirs! It’s a puppet, dork! Done!

Or, as Nick said at one point during the movie, “if they want to stop the puppets, they should just shut them in a room that has a door handle that's at normal height.”

As a horror movie fan, I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief when watching a film. One almost has to in order to be a lover of this genre. But there are times that my disbelief gets suspended so high that it gets acrophobia and claws its own eyes out before falling to a bone crunching death.

That’s happened with Puppet Master II. Parts of it were fun, and you get your share of hilarious early 90s outfits, but come on movie, the humans just got killed too easy by villains that could easily be stomped into submission.

Come on people, die with some self-respect!”

N-Rating: 2.0
Nick Rich puppeteers:
“The crap kids will watch.
As mentioned, this week's film was screened due to technical difficulties and as I was perusing our options I stumbled across Puppet Master II - a long lost film from my childhood. I have fond memories of watching rad puppets get their comeuppance in awesome ways... which led me to suggest we check this flick out as our pinch-hitter... as I stated: the crap kids watch.

Where to start? First off, as bad as it is seeing a fond memory from your childhood sullied, it was oddly entertaining to see what entertained young Nick back in the day. That being said, I would say this film is strong evidence for parents having a heavy hand in what kind of media they allow their children to consume. By no means am I slandering my parents, as kids will always find a way to get their hands and eyes on things they probably shouldn't, but I can't help but lament the loss of a childhood filled with classic horror movies from the 40s and 50s as opposed to the nonsense of 90s Skinemax fare. Nostalgia alone, not merit, elevated my rating of Puppet Master 2 to the 2.0 mark.

I still dig the idea of intricate little creations that can surprise you with their firepower, and while gimmicky, it is still interesting to see what emerges from the puppets in this film. (Introducing a special new puppet became the gimmick of the franchise with part 2 introducing a flame-throwing puppet - limited use in the story, but just plain awesome!) But as Chris mentioned, it really ceases to be threatening at a certain point. Sure, it's believable that a puppet with a drill for a head can kill a drunk sleeping man (did I really just say that?)... but once the rest of your crew gets past the initial shock and realizes that there are murderous puppets on the loose, there really ceases to be any serious threat.

Of course, you could argue that if there really were murderous puppets people wouldn't take the threat seriously, even after one of their friends got aced. I would be inclined to agree with this point as humans have a history of being be terribly arrogant and a 15 inch foe is indeed less than intimidating. This would have been a good argument if the filmmakers has played this angle more. Instead, after the first puppet-induced death the cast is appropriately scared, but just seems to become conveniently stunned after each initial assault (thereby allowing the puppets to easily dispatch them). I don't know about you, but if I'm being attacked by a tiny demon puppet I'm going to be fairly alert - even if my Achilles tendon is slashed. I know, I know... tough talk for a guy with tendons still intact.

Add to this ultra-unrealistic situation a Darkman wannabe with a German accent and you have a hokey-hoedown. One that is entertaining to watch at times, but lacks any real cinematic value.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you ever wanted to be a puppeteer and are still lamenting the loss of your dream... or if you literally have nothing else to do - no wait! Check out some classic films if you find yourself in that situation.”

Things We Learned from Puppet Master II:
-People hated wearing belts in the late 80s, early 90s.
-But they loved tucking in their shirt.
-The FBI has a Paranormal Division.
-Don’t ask country folk “Are there any Satanists in the area?”
-The taint of every particle of that hotel has absorbed the fury of horrible death.
-Melted frontal lobe and black magic can bring puppets to life.
-Most women bring skimpy lingerie on work trips.
-The cross of prophecy is a heavy burden.
-11 p.m. is late for investigators.
-Think of the children when employing evil arts.
-Kids love to torture things.
-Nothing like drinking red wine in bed:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Investigator Carolyn begins to fall for the hired psychic’s son, Michael. While discussing the Puppet Master, Carolyn gets upset and Michael embraces her.]

Michael: “Just let go, Carolyn, let go!”
Nick: “Go where?”
Chris: “Into Michael's sweet, sweet arms.”

Special Note:
When Life Gives You Lemons…
Puppet Master II was not originally scheduled for this week’s viewing. Upon longing onto Netflix to watch 1946’s Valley of the Zombies, Nick and I were horrified to find the Netflix website shut down for technical difficulties.

Scanning through the list of movie years we had yet to watch, and comparing this with free horror movies available on, we finally decided to cut our losses and just substitute in Puppet Master II as our 1991 film. Typically we try and select only the first movie cuts for our RDHP plates. But every now and then things go wrong and you just have to settle for a warm plate of Spam.

While we got out of our normal alternating decade rotation, we’ll be back on track next time with our 1940s flick.

Puppet Master wasn’t great, but hey, we’ve seen worse!

RDHP Point/Counterpoint:
Five Reasons We Love, Hate Puppets

Though they embrace in warm love for horror, Nick and Chris stand divided when it comes to puppets. Here, we list five reasons to support our stance.

No love for these stuffed “entertainment” devices here in Chrisland. While many may love Jim Henson’s creations or Jeff Dunham’s “comedy” hand socks, I feel puppets are lamer than Rebecca Black’s song writing. Here, five reasons to back my puppet hate.

1. They are creepier than a windowless van near a playground.

2. They have a hand up their ass.

3. Someone else has to talk for them. Speak for yourself, tools!

4. They have limited body movement.

5. The Muppet Show and its movies are overrated, unfunny, and boring. Die remakes!

As anyone who has read the RDHP before knows - Chris has issues. Clearly, his hatred of puppet-kind is yet another one of these issues... I mean, clowns I can totally get behind, but puppets??? Come on man! Have you no heart? Have you no soul? Think of everything puppets have done for you:

1. They taught you your ABC's. (Don't even TRY to pretend they didn't Chris!)

2. They made it so you could understand the crazy demands your parents made of you as a child (such as eating).

3. They allowed you to express yourself in that time of your life when you were to shy to do it yourself. (Note: some people never grow out of this phase).

4. They facilitate cross-cultural exchanges.

5. They are one of the few things that can still creep you out as an adult! How many things can horror aficionados say that about? Thank you puppets for nurturing our childhoods and haunting us ever since!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Film #59: C.H.U.D. (1984)

What does C.H.U.D. stand for?
Must be: Children Hiding Unstoppable Diarrhea.
That’s a hard thing to hide, especially from Mommy’s prying-eyes.

No? How bout:
Cute Humans Undressing Daily.
Come on, you’re saying even the Tuesday 2 pm to 6 pm strip shift is cute!?

Not that either, eh. Then it’s gotta be:
Corporate Hindus Undermining Democracy.
Gitmo is filled with button-downed Hindus trying to take down the USA, right?!

Ohhhh, I see, C.H.U.D. actually stands for:
Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.

This encoded name pretty much describes the plot of this week’s 1980s stop in horror time, “C.H.U.D.”
Grumpy New York City Police Captain Bosch gets even grumpier when a rash of missing person’s reports hits his neighborhood – including the disappearance of his own beloved wife.
When trying to get more resources for an investigation, Bosch gets the run around from the police chief and city mayor. Now why would they want to prevent an investigation?

Bosch aims to find out. He discovers that several of the reported missing persons are homeless people who live in the underground labyrinth of NYC’s train, sewer and utility tunnels.
Former criminal turned soup kitchen reverend A.J. Shepherd reported several of his underground patrons missing, and Bosch smells a lead.
Soon Shepherd helps Bosch investigate the situation by leading him through the NYC underground.

Meanwhile photojournalist George Cooper, who recently did a story on the underground livers, gets pulled into the mystery by his former sources who claim they’ve seen monsters running through their tunnel-hovels.
Cooper, Shepherd and Bosch discover the Environment Protection Agency and Department of Energy are also actively investigating in the tunnels. But what would these government types be looking for down there?

I’m gonna bet some Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. These C.H.U.Ds are former homeless people who mutated into fanged, clawed, and cuddly creatures thanks to large amounts of radioactive waste dumped down the sewer.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles these ain’t!

Will Bosch and his misfit team track down their missing loved ones?
Is the government to blame for the horrific creatures feasting underground?
Were even the models in the 80s unattractive?
Find out, in 1984’s city-grime coated “C.H.U.D.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews:

C-Rating: 3.0
Chris Dimick chuds:
“Is Uncle Sam the kind of relative who as a kid taught you how to swing a baseball bat… or the kind that hustled you out of your paper route money in a game of Three-Card Monty?

The folks behind C.H.U.D. seem to believe in the latter, and they are not alone. The 1980s horror genre is filled with references to corrupt, untrustworthy government, the kind of federal organization that trashes the environment, spits on the little guy in the name of absolute power, and oozes with glib corruption, nepotism, and shoddy morals.
In C.H.U.D, the government cover-up of spilled nuclear waste comes at the expense of innocent civilians. But above this plot, the film asks the question; can we trust our government at all?

As a collection of human beings, the federal government is bound to make many mistakes. Also, an organization that large is bound to be rife with inefficiencies and lack coordination between departments.
But these inherit foibles are very different than a government that works solely to benefit its own high-rank members, and not the people it represents.

Democracy is not perfect. Far from it. But it is the system that makes the most sense. Sure, majority ruling doesn’t always lead to the best choices being followed. Just because a group of people believes something is just and right doesn’t mean that ideology is true.

But this is why we have free speech, the right to public protest. Don’t like what your government is doing or saying, rally up some like minded Americans and throw the bums out! Seems like the Middle East is finally getting this.

Problem is, rooting out corruption isn’t that simple. With seemingly endless financing and iron-fisted power, government officials and agencies can easily blow smoke up citizen’s asses while corruptly doing whatever they please to get ahead – far from the eyes of anyone who isn’t on the take.

But what is the alternative? Anarchy? Yeah, maybe. Get rid of them all, we can run this thing ourselves, right?! We don’t need the government to tell us to wear seat belts, or force us to wear pants, or make us pay taxes!

We also don’t need them to ensure our water supply remains toxin free, or run prisons so criminals are kept out of the populous, or monitor nuclear energy facilities and weapons, or… wait, we do need that.

Anti-government talk always brings to mind this brilliant Whitest Kids U Know sketch, which asks just what would happen if anarchy prevailed:

I cheer C.H.U.D. and films like it that call out government corruption. In addition to this attribute, the film was a fun look at grimy, trashed 1980s inner city New York. The best part of the movie was the seriousness the plot, actors and situations demands from its audience.

Most 1980s horror movies took themselves very seriously, and with great effect. You almost forget the city is terrified by radioactive mutants from below snacking on humans. The more they played the situation as real, the more it seemed plausible.

These films came before all the self-aware horror films of the 1990s, spawned mainly by Scream – with its wink-wink-I-know-I’m-a-horror-movie-with-a-soft-plot-but-we’re-having-fun-right? take on the genre. CHUDs are loose and eating people! This is serious business people, the movie screamed. And you know what, it makes you feel its serious. To boot, Daniel Stern and John Heard turned in their best performances this side of Home Alone (Heard was the McCallister Dad in Home Alone, Stern one of the Wet Bandits).

But while films like these remind viewers to double-check the work of our government, they shouldn’t encourage thoughts of abandoning the governmental system all together (Crowd says: “they shouldn’t encourage thoughts of abandoning the governmental system”… sorry, Airplane reference.)

Can we trust our government? Probably not. Should we trust our government? Yes, but not without a firm stink-eye planned on those who handle its business.
The ideals of democracy are greater than any human race can ever achieve… but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to achieve them. After all, society has progressed too deep for the non-government alternative.

Like him or not, Uncle Sam is part of our family. But that doesn’t mean we can’t teach him some manners.”

N-Rating: 1.9
Nick Rich chuds:
“Right out the gate I have to apologize to any of the C.H.U.D.s out there reading this - this rating is not exactly fair. Like many things in life, my viewing of C.H.U.D. was flavored by the state in which I found myself in while experiencing it... and that state was one of extreme exhaustion:

You see, things have been a bit tiring on the west coast end of the RDHP with things such as dwelling shifts, tsunami warnings and 'clock dancing' to concern myself with - thanks a lot Ben Franklin! (BFF's we are not, but he may fall back into my good graces.)

In any case, I was not in top mental condition when I had the privilege of screening C.H.U.D. - well, I assume it was a privilege... I mean, there were cool 80s actors, grimy surroundings, agitated New Yorkers, subsurface dwelling monsters, what's not to like right? At least that's what I kept telling myself in hopes of coercing my brain into staying awake during this viewing, but apparently C.H.U.D. was not saucy enough to awaken my gray matter from its slumber cravings; hence the 1.8 rating.

To be honest, I hold its inability to keep me mentally engaged against C.H.U.D. (that, and the fact that having a period after each letter in its name makes it the most annoying movie title to type in the history of the RDHP). Movies are supposed to excite and engage the mind, to flood it with all sorts of ooey-gooey chemicals your brain can't help but secrete because of what its being shown on the screen! C.H.U.D. made my organ of imagination feel neither ooey or gooey and even if at the time of the viewing I felt thin, like butter spread over too much bread there no excuse for that!

While the story was mildly appealing, there was just something lacking in the execution of this flick. The monsters didn't instill terror, you didn't care about the peril the characters were in and the conspiracy in the movie was clich├ęd... perhaps they should have made the C.H.U.D.'s goth to spice things up:

Or have them trapped in the 70s (now that's scary!):

Now that would have kept me awake (especially if they were carrying boom-boxes blaring The Cure or Bee-Gees). See? I can be kept awake when the dream fairies are relentlessly ravaging my mind! It doesn't take Cure-esq monsters to do so either, there are plenty of commonplace things that can keep me awake when I am slumber inclined, such as:
  • Being shot at
  • Flossing properly
  • The prospect of finding the end of the rainbow over the next hill
  • Riding the bus downtown
  • The threat of death if I fall asleep
  • Being at Comic-Con
Unfortunately, as I learned, C.H.U.D. is not one of those things (its especially unfortunate that C.H.U.D. is not Comic-Con... I really wish it was Comic-Con).

Hrm. Maybe they got the translation of C.H.U.D. wrong in the movie... I have a sneaking suspicion it really stands for Can Harken Unconsciousness Definitively. That would make a lot more sense considering... consid - ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzzz..... zzzzz....

Disclaimer: No C.H.U.D.'s were harmed in the writing of this review. All haircare products and cosmetics used were to enhance what the C.H.U.D.'s were 'already working with' and resulted in increased self-confidence.

The Skinny: Check this flick out to study the 80s mustache in its natural habitat, or if you'd like to do a NASA-level test on sleep resistance after being awake for 36 hours straight.

Things We Learned From C.H.U.D.:
-Street-sweepers are futile.
-Fun answering machine messages were once important.
-1980s panties are “foul.”
-Fashion perfume smells like “sheep dip.”
-Police station scenes in the 80s must have random prostitutes in the background scenery.
-No modern man would have a 1980s woman.
-It’s not fair to bring a child into the world if it has a zombie father.
-Every 80s actor appeared in C.H.U.D., even John Goodman.
-The sequel to this movie should have been named “C.H.U.D. 2: Still Chuddin’.”
-Don’t trust the government.
-The power of the press is a powerful thing:

Quote of the Viewing:
[A mustached NYC police sergeant screams at Cpt. Bosch to drop the missing person’s case and move on to other crimes. His mustache twitches with rage.]

Nick: “The mustache isn’t happy, Bosch.”
Chris: It’s constantly frowning, actually.

RDHP Presents:
Reasons to Trust Your Government
You bunch of pinko commie terrorists! Not trusting your own government, are we? Well, why don’t you just move your stinkin’ butts to Russia if you dislike the old U.S. of A. government so much?
Not that anyone should have to, but here are 10 reasons why you should blindly love and trust your trusty government. Read this twice, and then curl into a wet pile of patriot tears! And that’s an order!

1. They never, ever make mistakes!

2. They trust youuuuuu!

3. They smell like Grandpa’s corncob pipe and a summer breeze.

4. They're great with handling your money!

5. Environment is their first priority.

6. They’ve never spoken a lie.

7. Uncle Sam has such a friendly face.

8. Who else is going to protect you in the Zombie Apocalypse?

9. They’ve undisputedly won 3 out of 7 of the last century’s wars. 43 percent ain’t bad!

10. One word: Nukes (they can point at your town)