The Greatest Horror Movie Moments!
by: Dr. Boogie

Puppet Master

When making a horror movie, it's important to know the difference between something that is scary, and something that is merely creepy. Monsters, for example, tend to be scary. On the other hand, puppets are almost universally creepy. Clowns can be both simultaneously.

In 1989, director David Schmoeller gave us what is arguably the scariest puppet-related film to date, Puppet Master. In the film, a group of psychics converge on a hotel for the funeral of Neil Gallagher, a former colleague and all-around a-hole who was in search of an ancient Egyptian technique used to bring inanimate objects to life. One by one, the psychics are killed off by puppets, although to be fair, their deaths are mainly the fault of their own incompetence, as it is shown several times that the puppets can be easily picked up and tossed away.

Most of deaths in the film are forgettable simply because the victim could have avoided their fate by doing something other than staring in shock at the creepy puppet running at them. There was, however, one final death in the film that stands out among the others:

'No, I am not Martin Short's older brother!'

Meet Neil Gallagher. He's been posing as a corpse for the better part of the movie. Technically, he is a corpse, as he has resurrected himself using the aforementioned Egyptian technique; the same technique that puppet master Andre Toulon used to bring his puppets to life. It's an incredible achievement, one that no one else seems to have attempted in the centuries-old history of the technique. What's more, Neil claims that he is "much stronger now than he ever was in life." If this is true, then he must have been an invalid while he was alive because he is barely able to fight the dumpy college professor protagonist in a badly choreographed fight scene.

Eventually, Neil gets tossed into an old elevator, and the real fun begins:

Nice sweater.

Prior to this moment, the puppets had been doing Neil's bidding, but all that changed when he decided to slap one of them around a little. Pinhead, the disproportionately-strong puppet, shuts the door. Neil doesn't take kindly to the interference. He gives Pinhead a little toss and struggles to open the door, which is somehow locked from both the inside and the outside. Pinhead recovers and sweeps Neil off his feet. Now Neil is really angry.


He pops Pinhead's tiny head off his huge body and tosses both aside. The elevator door continues to give him problems, but not as much as the drill-topped puppet, Tunneler:

This is why spearing is illegal in football.

He drills into Neil's leg and gets a toss for his efforts. As Tunneler and Pinhead recover, Neil starts to realize that he is no match for two small puppets. He tries to make his escape through the roof of the elevator.

The hat really completes the look.

Unfortunately for him, the knife and hook-wielding puppet, Blade, is waiting for him. The daggers in his eyes are a clear signal that trouble is ahead for poor Neil.

'Girl, lemme get those digits.'

Blade uses his namesake to chop the fingers off Neil's right hand. Neil loses his grip (literally) and falls back into the elevator.

How you know you drank too much Sprite.

At this point we see the reason Blade was able to chop through Neil's fingers so easily: his flesh and bones have been replaced with mysterious green goo. Apparently, Neil is now little more than a series of goo-inflated sacs.

He's being outwitted by puppets. Who's the real pinhead here?

Anyway, Pinhead holds Neil in place with his tiny hands. Before Neil can think about how absurd it is that a tiny puppet is overpowering him, Blade drops in and impales his remaining hand. Tunneler steps up to the plate...

He should be through the second chin in a few hours.

His drill starts to make short work of Neil's neck. Keep in mind that the film's hero is on the other side of the elevator door watching all this happen. That's right, folks: the hero is so lame that the killer puppets have decided to take care of the villain themselves.

What comes out the other end is even scarier...

Blade pops off his knife hand so he can use his hook to give Leech Woman an assist. It should be noted that Leech Woman is probably the least dangerous of all the puppets (apart from Jester, who does nothing but spin his head around). Sure, leeches can be dangerous, but it takes forever for her to puke up one of the damn things. Also, where the hell are those things coming from?

Eh, it doesn't matter. The enormous leech in his mouth is pretty disgusting, but it's not really killing him.

I'm sure there was a spine somewhere in there.

The neck drilling isn't really working either, possibly on account of all that green goo we saw earlier. In spite of his small cranium, Pinhead is smart enough to know that more must be done to end all this:

Don't look at the camera!

He gives Neil's head a sharp twist, breaking what's left of his neck. Neil claimed earlier that the only way to stop him would be the complete destruction of his body, but that turned out to be just as big a lie as the bit about being stronger dead than alive.

And so, the two remaining protagonists are shown some time later, presumably having explained away the dead bodies, the killer puppets, and the strange goo man with the maimed hand and destroyed neck, to the police.

The one last thing I'd like to point out is that prior to his gruesome second death, Neil reanimated the dead maid to aid him, and while she did stop the protagonists from escaping the hotel, she just sort of disappeared during the final conflict. I believe this rather large loose end was dealt with in the second film, hence its title "Puppet Master II: Maid in America".


Have any questions or comments about this piece?


Reader Comments

Oct 26th, 2010, 11:31 AM
If only the sequel really was Puppet Master II: Maid in America.
Oct 26th, 2010, 03:16 PM
What a trip this film was.
Sloth, PhD
Oct 26th, 2010, 03:48 PM
Best part of these movies was always cheering on the puppets.
Forum Virgin
Oct 27th, 2010, 02:37 AM
Anyone see the horrible Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, movie a few years back with Corey Feldman as Andre Toulon. I honestly love crap movies, but Feldman's acting was so bad I had to turn the channel.
Forum Virgin
Feb 28th, 2011, 09:51 PM
yeah, i saw it
Forum Virgin
Mar 2nd, 2011, 12:24 AM
I want to see it.
aint nobody
Mar 3rd, 2011, 12:33 AM
think the only puppet masters i haven't seen are retro and axis of evil or whatever it's called

Click here to return to the Features homepage