I don’t think anybody can argue that Corey Feldman wasn’t a staple of the 1980s. Appearing in popular films like Stand by Me, The Lost Boys and The Goonies, this goofy-looking little bastard managed to systematically worm his way into the hearts and homes of millions of movie lovers worldwide. He really is an embodiment of the era. That spunky young pip with the never-say-die attitude, who would always seem to overcome even the direst of odds. He fought against the deadliest of foes – gangsters, vampires, Jason Voorhees – but he would always come out on top in the end. He was the dinky, bespectacled dork that secretly lived inside all of us, and we absolutely adored him for it.
Flash forward two decades into the future and Corey is at it once again. Except that this time, he’s not sparring against the likes of Keifer Sutherland and his bad mullet. No, he’s up against perhaps the most dangerous adversary of all. This time, he’s battling against the forces of the Devil himself.
A Steaming Pile of Sequels
Now, sequels are definitely nothing new to the horror genre. There are more than enough of those same, tired old franchises that just seem to keep on recurring like a bad urinary tract infection. I’m sure you know the feeling. When you first wake up in the morning and plop down on the toilet, and suddenly a ghastly sensation strikes you like a tidal wave of malodorous brimstone. That’s right – they’re releasing yet another installment of Saw. Oh, the humanity! But seriously, it seems like every few years they’re coming out with another sequel. Another addition to the constantly growing line of fresh, steaming coils of cinema that are already littering the aisles of your local Walmart superstore. If the original movie had experienced any kind of success, no matter how mild it may have been, you’d better believe that they’re going to be releasing a follow-up soon after.
The Toys are Back in Town
The Puppet Master series is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first entry debuted to a generally lukewarm reception in 1989, and it was all downhill from there. It was then subsequently given two more decent entries afterward in 1990 and 1991. Over the years, the list of movies only kept on expanding, with each entry gradually getting worse and worse. Although the franchise did garner a significant cult following during that period, by the time it reached its fifth installment it was but a shadow of its former self.
The Demonic Toys franchise isn’t nearly as prolific an offender as Puppet Master. It did see another addition that was made after the first installment with Dollman VS The Demonic Toys in 1993 but had thankfully called it quits after that. That is, until a whopping eleven years later. And that, my friends, brings us to the film we’re going to be discussing today. Puppet Master VS Demonic Toys was initially released as a TV movie on the SciFi Channel in 2004. It was directed by Ted Nicolaou, who had also worked on a string of other low-budget productions since his first in 1984. Aside from Corey Feldman, it also stars Vanessa Angel, Danielle Keaton, and Silvia Suvadová.
‘How the Puppet Master Saved Christmas‘
The plot of Puppet Master VS Demonic Toys is, for a lack of better words, pretty stupid. It’s essentially a Christmas movie. The film opens with the holiday season rapidly approaching. In her secret, underground lair, the evil head of a huge toy corporation is cooking up an absolutely dastardly plot. With the help of a demon, who she summons through means of human sacrifice, she plans to ruin Christmas. What a stinker. The method of achieving this cartoonishly-wicked goal? The mass-production of toys – or vessels, in this case – to be possessed by a horde of demons come Christmas morning.
Meanwhile, an eccentric toy-maker and his teenage daughter are burning the midnight oil in his workshop. This isn’t just any toy-maker, though – it’s Robert Toulon: the great-nephew of the original Puppet Master, Andre Toulon. The pair are busy little bees, carrying on the legacy of their long-deceased ancestor. Robert is trying to crack the secret formula for life. The very same formula that Andre had used to animate his puppets so many years ago. After much tinkering, the process is finally successful and the puppets are back in the realm of the living, once again. What Robert and his daughter don’t know is that they are being watched. The head of Sharpe Industries, the previously mentioned evil corporation, wants his formula and the puppets for herself – and she will stop at nothing to get them.
How the Witch Stole Christmas
The events that follow this initial introduction are, for the most part, muddy and convoluted. There is a demon, summoned twice in the film – both times recycling the same actress to play the role of blood sacrifice. Kudos on the blonde wig, though; you almost had me fooled. There is a running subplot about how said demon wants revenge on the Toulon family name, for skimping on a deal made long ago in some bygone age. Demons are notorious for holding grudges, you see. They’re a real pain in the ass like that. In exchange for the massive sacrifice of innocents on Christmas morning, coupled with the acquisition of the last of the Toulon bloodline, the demon is offering the head of Sharpe Industries, Erica Sharpe, the power to conquer the world. Ms. Sharpe, of course, eagerly jumps at the chance.
What begins as industrial espionage soon builds into kidnapping and attempted murder, as Ms. Sharpe tries to fulfill her end of this infernal bargain. Robert Toulon, his daughter, and eventually an attractive policewoman named Sgt. Jessica Russell, quickly find themselves in a real pickle. They need to stop Ms. Sharpe and her demonic cohorts from completing their diabolical scheme before sunrise on Christmas Day and save the world from total damnation. A ridiculous premise if ever there were one.
Satan Claus Conquers the Discount Bin
This truly is a dreadful film. While it is bright and colorful, it lacks the gritty quality that gave the previous installations of both franchises their original charm. It feels cheap, like a gas station sandwich, and goes down just as poorly. While there certainly are worse chapters in the Puppet Master universe (I’m looking at you, Curse of the Puppet Master), it offers no consolation for this wretched infliction of processed cheese. The story is full of non-sensical plot holes and is executed in an extremely clumsy manner. There are plenty of ‘wait – what?’ moments throughout, where the characters come to grand conclusions in incredibly strange, illogical ways. The whole thing just has a tendency to leave you scratching your head in bemused puzzlement.
Another area in which the movie fails is with the look and feel of the Puppets and Toys themselves. They look phony and frail. This is perhaps the most non-threatening incarnation that they have taken across the entirety of both franchises. It is extremely disappointing, to say the least. An enormous part of what made the titular series so popular with fans is how cool the featured creatures in them had always looked. The use of stop-motion animation and handcrafted designs have given way to more modernized, plastic abortions. In terms of both style and substance, the whole thing just felt lacking.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I actually like both the first Puppet Master and Demonic Toys movies. I can even say that I like some of the films that followed them. They are a guilty pleasure that I definitely indulge in, from time to time. In fact, I think that my vitriol originates from a place of love. I wanted to like the movie. Although I did thoroughly appreciate Corey Feldman’s wacky, balls-to-the-walls performance in Puppet Master VS Demonic Toys, it was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable viewing experience.
Overall, I award Puppet Master VS Demonic Toys 2 out of 5 Cthulhus. I had infinitely more fun making fun of it than I did actually watching it.(2 / 5)
For more B-movie madness, check out my review on HauntedMTL of Tammy and the T-Rex (1994), here.