Automatonophobia is the term used to define the fear of wax works, dummies, or anything that has been created to replicate the human form. I didn’t know that there was an actual name for it until recently, having spent most of my life assuming that I was the only weirdo whose idea of hell was Madame Tussaud’s, and freaked out at the thought of Pinnocio, but it turns out that it’s not an uncommon phobia among so called ‘normal’ people.
I’ve always put mine down to the fact that I saw House of Wax (the original of course, not the one chocked full of Socialite) at a very young age, coupled with the fact that I’ve yet to encounter one of the things that hasn’t looked like it would try to disembowel you the second you turned your back on it, hence their popularity as the ‘big’ bad in horror culture with movies like Child’s Play, Dead Silence and the low budget diamond Dolly Dearest.
The facts speak for themselves – little people looking things are evil no matter what ridiculous outfits you dress them up in, and every Ho and Jo in the world knows it. The ones that don’t agree with my wild generalisations, are the same kind of crazies that will have a spare bedroom full of those horrific porcelain dolls, and those are the sorts of folk whose opinion just shouldn’t be taken into consideration (but FYI, probably shouldn’t be pissed off either, just in case they sick an army of frilly dressed, perpetually smiling faces after you).
Puppet Master is the story of five psychics who have spent their lives trying to discover the secrets of a long dead puppeteer, who was rumoured to hold the secret to bestowing life upon his tiny wooden creations, and the lengths some people will will go to just to avoid the big sleep (and a decent barber).
In short, the film is 80s gold.
Or at the very least, gold tone.
The story in itself admittedly isn’t anything spectacular, but amazingly it’s the little wooden fiends that make the film so likable. The stop motion and animatronic effects involved for the movements of the puppets were charming in a beautifully twisted sort of way and in particular, I found the scenes where the female doll vomits live leaches onto the bodies of her victims equally revolting and strangely mesmerising.
As the first film by Charles Band’s Full Moon Features production company, Puppet Master is easily their best release spawning at least nine other films in the franchise that I’m aware of, the last of which being the 2009 offering Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. As you can imagine, the movies predecessors become more outlandish and comical as they cling desperately to their name sake, but somehow, they never seem to entertain me any less.
If like me you were less than enamoured with Good Guy Chucky, and prefer your killer dolls less wisecracking and more quietly violent, then Puppet Master is infititely more satisfying in terms of style and substance. Call me crazy but I think Leach Woman and the puppet with a drill for a head have a little bit more edge than a ginger kid in dungerees waving a tiny assed knife.