This past weekend at Texas Frightmare, the team behind the upcoming reboot Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich unveiled the very first look at some of the puppets that will appear in the film. They showed off a new puppet as well as new takes on two iconic puppets from the original film series. According to the producers, the new movie is not necessarily a remake or reboot but an “alternate reality” of sorts—which, technically is true of all remakes and reboots that establish a separate continuity from the original.
With amazing talent like S. Craig Zahler, Thomas Lennon and Udo Kier involved, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich will also be the first entry in the franchise to have a theatrical release—though how wide that release will be remains to be seen. Still, it’s a very exciting prospect.
The reboot looks to be a total reinvention of the franchise. This means that characters who might have been good in the original films—such as the puppet master Toulon himself—might be evil now. This is definitely aiming to take the series back to its horror roots and is already looking to be the goriest entry to date.
While there was a sizzle reel shown at the panel that also gave us a look at Pinhead, Torch and some of the new puppets, it has not been officially made available yet, so we will not be taking into account.
But that still leaves us with three puppets with which we can wildly speculate and comb over every detail, so let’s dive in.
From a technical standpoint, this is basically the Blade we know and love. Of course, you can still take one look at him and clearly see that things are different. The outfit is more or less the same. The coat is pretty standard, the hair’s a little longer, the floppy hat harkens back to the original movie. But that’s probably not what any of us are looking at.
The face is different. Blade’s facial design is iconic because it’s skull-like, but definitely not a skull. A simple skull design would have been just as jarring, because that’s not what Blade is. This newer Blade is more mummified, looking almost extraterrestrial.
That’s a bold take, but it still gives us that skull-like face and the large, dark eye sockets are still there. It even looks like Blade might still have something like the cone eyes that would pop out in the original series. Another interesting facial detail is that Blade’s death grin has been replaced with a small frown. The design definitely feels inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” which is also the infamous inspiration for the Ghostface mask.
Interestingly, while Blade’s face has been radically redesigned, the hands remain largely unchanged. He still has one knife and one hook, on the right and left, respectively. The wrist mounts are even very similar to the original design.
Next, we’ll move onto our first look at one of the new additions to Toulon’s terror troupe.
According to sources from the panel, that’s what this puppet is actually called. Design-wise, he certainly stands out. He doesn’t look to be sculpted by the same hands, but there could be a very good reason for that. This movie is based around a convention, an event celebrating macabre puppets and the anniversary of the “Toulon murders.” The plot synopsis suggests that many if not all of the puppets on display at the event wind up coming to life, not just the ones sculpted by Toulon.
Since we have very little to compare this puppet to, all I can really say is that it looks strikingly similar to the frog puppet in Deadtime Stories. It would be great if that connection could be made, but somehow that seems unlikely.
Given how absolutely non-threatening this puppet looks, I would love it if this thing has a few surprises in store. Maybe a razor-tipped tongue? Something really off-the-wall and surprising would be great.
Tunneler has gotten the short end of the stick in the last couple of Puppet Master films, with the design in Axis of Evil probably being the worst that any of the puppets have looked in any of the movies. Because of that, it’s a huge relief to see this new design. For me, this is clearly the best of the three puppets revealed at the Frightmare panel.
I love the redesign. This is still clearly Tunneler, but there’s a very interesting facial contour going on. This is one character where they could have changed everything about him and put a drill on his head and people would still have known who this was, but they elected to respect the original design. I think that paid off.
Costume-wise, this sticks relatively true to the original design, with one major exception. You might notice that Tunneler has a swastika arm band.
That’s curious, because in the original films, the puppets are possessed by the spirits of people who were slain by Nazis—not by the Nazis themselves. Granted, many of the puppet designs have always had influences from that era with the idea in mind that these living puppets were killing their oppressors in their own image, making the murderers see their own twisted faces as they died.
Here, it definitely sounds like the puppets might actually be Nazis and that will clearly be a departure. But even the title The Littlest Reich seems to make that clear. Either way, consider my curiosity piqued. I can’t wait to see more from this reboot as it unfolds.
Thanks to Shawn Gabborin for providing the photo.