"Theyíre back. No strings attached".

Yes, those dastardly stop-motion puppets Ė Pinhead, Leech Woman, Blade etc - really are back, this time intent on exhuming the body of their creator Andre Toulon (Steve Welles) and resurrecting him back at his cliff-top Bodega Bay Hotel.

Enter a bunch of hapless parapsychologists, led by Michael (Collin Bernsen). Theyíve ventured to the hotel too, there to investigate further into the claims of mental patient Alex Ė the only human survivor from 1989ís PUPPER MASTER.

Of course, theyíre initially too busy with playful bickering and in-flirting to realise that theyíre sharing the grounds with the zombified Toulon (adorned in Invisible Man-type get-up to conceal his rotten appearance) and his demonic toys.

But not for long. You see, itís soon established that Toulon and his puppets need a special serum made with the fluid from human brains to keep them rejuvenated Ö

And so, the puppet master sets his malevolent creations out on a simple mission for brains. That is, until he spies one of the paranormal researchers, Carolyn (Elizabeth MacLellan), and realises she is the absolute double of his late wife Elsa.

Change of plan! The plot may differ slightly but the manner in which it rolls out is in essence a rehash of that which occurred in the original PUPPET MASTER film. There is a little expansion on background details here and there but, predominantly, this is a rather brazen attempt by Full Moon Productions at recreating a formula which had proven to be so successful for its predecessor.

Charles Band stumped up a decent $780,000 budget for this series entry. And, if nothing else, itís always fair to say that any films shot under the wing of his resourceful producerís eye ensure the money is seen on the screen. Consequently, despite its B-movie acting and occasionally iffy superimpositions, PUPPET MASTER 2 is well-lit, colourful and blessed with great Gothic location design. It also helps that director David Allen came from a background working in the FX field: the animation and gore effects are highly efficient.

The puppets themselves retain that mischievous, sardonically sinister aura about them. We even get a new, flame-throwing one: Torch. Their personalities do, bizarrely, come through Ė the mixture of rod animation and stop-motion working perfectly well alongside the potentially paradoxical prosthetic gore effects to create darkly humorous, strangely creepy villains.

The warm aesthetics of the interior scenes and the colour-filtered studio lighting do undoubtedly lend the film an impressive degree of style. But itís the agreeable pace, knowingly ludicrous plot and the late Allenís comfortable carousing in FX set-pieces during the filmís latter half that really make this a worthy successor to PUPPET MASTER.

Itís unfortunate that the bulk of the cast are faceless and forgettable. The late MacLellan stands out though, proffering a likeable character who keeps events engaging even on the rare occasions that the shit isnít hitting the fan. Welles is reliably hammy as Toulon, but is required to perform from behind a mask for too long.

Richard Bandís alternately evocative and rather playful score from the first film is recycled, complementing Thomas F Denoveís lush cinematography nicely; David Pabianís script blends humour, tension and pace with a deftness not often seen in films with Bandís name on them.

Though not perfect Ė some may rightfully argue that the film is silly and not original enough to truly warrant being deemed a sequel Ė PUPPET MASTER 2 is proficiently entertaining. And thatís all that matters, surely.

88 Films bring PUPPET MASTER 2 to blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Their disc is an uncut, region-free affair.

The transfer is encoded as an MPEG4-AVC file in full 1080p HD, offering a 16x9 presentation of its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

The picture quality is excellent. This is sharp without unwelcome edge enhancement, vivid without colour bleeding, and finely textured despite a distinct lack of overzealous noise reduction. The odd speck during earlier scenes is negligible. Looking spanking new yet retaining a healthy filmic quality, fans will rejoice at this presentation.

Audio-wise, the feature comes equipped with an English 2.0 Master Audio mix. This is decent too, offering good channel balancing and fairly robust bass playback. A 5.1 mix was also advertised, but I didnít happen upon it on the screener disc provided.

An animated main menu page leads to pop-up menus which include a scene-selection menu offering 24 chapters of access to the film.

Our first bonus feature arrives in the form of an audio commentary from producer Band, who also came up with the filmís outline story. He has no problem with pregnant pauses, speaking with confidence and energy about virtually aspect of the film: the FX, casting, its director, Bandís marketing ploys for the film and beyond. Say what you will about the charismatic Charles and his low-budget canon, but he certainly delivers a good commentary track.

Band also turns up to offer an affectionate optional 2-minute HD introduction to the film.

The filmís original trailer is also remastered in HD here.

Presented in window-boxed standard definition, we also get an archive 21-minute Making Of featurette from cable TV show "Videozone". This offers some interesting behind-the-scenes footage along with brief interview snippets along the way.

"Killer Puppet Master Montage" and a "Full Moon toys" (action figures!) commercial are also in standard definition, and are fleeting diversions with self-explanatory titles (each one is less than 2 minutes long).

Finally, weíre treated to the usual plethora of trailers advertising other Full Moon titles in the 88 Films roster.

Also included in this impressive set but not provided for review purposes are double-sided cover artwork (incorporating original artwork and a new, specially commissioned alternate cover designed by Graham Humphreys), and a collectorís booklet.

PUPPET MASTER 2 is a handsome production which demonstrates Allen had the potential to become as good a director as he was a visual effects artist. Alas, he died of cancer at the age of 54, just 8 years after making this wholly enjoyable film.

Still, the legacy of his one and only feature-length directorial effort lives on in this mightily fine blu-ray presentation.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review