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Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

The Puppet Master films have been an ongoing series of straight to video B-movie classics going for a few decades now. They’ve been a backbone for Charles Band the THE series in terms of doll-based horror. The Littlest Reich is the latest and the thirteenth film in the series (Or film featuring these Puppets and carrying the moniker). And of all things, they’ve decided to just up and be the best and put it out on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray right out of the gate. That’s a pretty eye-opening and applaud worthy feat here when we can’t even get a major studio to put out a bottom of the barrel True Lies release! This thing comes with a few little bonus features to accompany the film. You’l be able to grab it for yourself on September 25th, so get your pre-order in today!

Film 

Recently divorced and reeling, Edgar returns to his childhood home to regroup his life. When Edgar finds a nefarious looking puppet in his deceased brother’s room, he decides to sell the doll for some quick cash at a small-town convention celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the infamous Toulon Murders. Girl-next-door Ashley and his comic book shop boss, Markowitz, join Edgar for the doomed road trip. All hell breaks loose when a strange force animates the puppets at the convention, setting them on a bloody killing spree that’s motivated by an evil as old as time.

Holy crap, they made a legitimately good Puppet Master movie! Now, I’m not a complete hater of this franchise, but lets be honest here, at 13 films now, majority of this stuff might have a thing or two to appreciate from time to time but most of it is trashy. I think the first one is a nostalgic little bit of fun. Puppet Master isn’t even the best doll-based horror a Charles Band-led studio has produced. That would be Stuart Gordon’s Dolls. As iconic as some of these dolls have been, they lucked out in always having a new sequel year after year in the 1990s and gracing the covers of VHS tapes in the horror sections.

The Littlest Reich has its act together behind and in front of the camera in some impressive fashion. This one knows its comedy but also knows to take its story somewhat seriously. Oddly enough the writer of Bone Tomahawk and The Brawl In Cell Block 99 penned this film. Notable comedic actors Thomas Lennon, Nelson Franklin and Charlyne Yi lead this charge. Most everyone in the film is plenty likeable and you’ll actually be thrilled by their hope for survival. Michael Pare is fun to see here. But, the best thing the movie might have going for it is the return of Barbara Crampton. She plays a scene stealing cop who was on the scene following the events of the original film. Crampton’s comedic timing is on point she earns laughs at every turn.

In true fashion to the series roots, they opt to use practical effects and animatronics to bring the tale to life. This movie isn’t shy of being bloody. There are deaths that are both brutal and some that wind up in comedic hilarity akin to what you might find on Ash vs Evil Dead. I don’t know if there are big belly laugh moments, but you’ll at least be chuckle and compliment how clever they are. Oh, and this movie has moments where it “goes there” and just doesn’t not give a f*** which I found to be quite fun.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a terrific bit of comedic horror entertainment done with some talented folks in front of and behind the camera that actually care. And when I’m saying this is very entertaining and well done, I’m not just saying “For a Puppet Master movie” I’m meaning IN GENERAL. It works for both longtime fans of the series and newcomers as well. No need to watch the previous 12, just check out this one and go back if you want to. Its  really fun time!

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: I did not have access to the standard Blu-ray for comparison to this 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray presentation of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. It was finished with a 2K DI, meaning this was an upconvert. And looking at the overall image, I can’t imagine a great disparity between it and its standard counterpart. Details and depth look up to snuff with that of a regular DVD. There are some moments with some solid color pop that probably sets it apart, but overall I don’t imagine the improvement to be very significant at all.

Depth:  There are a few stronger moments depending on how the camera is set that may showcase some better depth of field. A dinner table scene early on as well as some of the wider shot interiors of the hotel feature a good separation and pushback. Motion is smooth, natural and rock solid.

Black Levels: Blacks get pretty deep and dark here, with some (Probably intentional) details being consumed. Some more shadowy moments are impressive showing some decent saturated details.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong and bold here in the image. Where this probably stands apart is some of the glow on display. This disc doesn’t utilize HDR, but there are some stronger moments. Lit up eyes of puppets, fire, tail lights, exit signs and some insides of a creature all resonate pretty vividly off the screen where I can imagine the regular Blu-ray being able to showcase it like this.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Wrinkles, stubble, skin lines, cuts, dried blood, make-up and more all look pretty clean and clear from medium and close up camera distances.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The 5.1 presentation on Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich really leaves no room for complaint given the low budget nature in both the film and home video release itself. Its a pretty well thought out, intricate little devil with some more clever sound design than one might expect from it. Everything is crisp, clean and patient. This should leave those who check it out satisfied. It does need dialed up just a couple notches above whatever your regular default is.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: There is a decent bump from the subwoofer with good penetrating slices, gunfire and crashes.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a pretty solid little 5 channel carousel here. While a lot happens up front, the travel is pretty impressive as well as many unique contributions from the rear speakers. The channels also all work together with terrific builds and room filling waves.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and have good clarity no matter how loud or intense the puppet pandemonium gets.

Extras 

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard Blu-ray edition of the film.

Behind the Scenes of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (HD, 5:55) – This discusses filming the movie in Texas and showcases a lot the special effects/animatronic work in the film.

The Cast of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (HD, 6:55) – The cast of the film drops a little bit about their roles and enthusiasm in the script. All of the important players have interviews which is nice and makes for no awkward usage of everyone else to describe what you’d want to hear someone else say. Everyone is game for 4-7 more of them depending on who says it.

Puppets: From Concept to Creation (HD, 1:44) – This shows from sketch to computer mapping to puppet to scene from the film.

Lightning Girl Comic: From Sketch to Final (HD, 0:40) – Early sketches of the comic book that Thomas Lennon’s character creates in the film.

Photo Gallery (HD, :15)

Summary 

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is honest to goodness legit horror-comedy entertainment. That’s no joke. The 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray presentation is an admirable nod to collector’s and embracing the new format, but doesn’t provide much to stand tall above its standard Blu-ray counterpart. However, there’s not even a $4 difference in price between the two and this release includes that standard Blu-ray so you might as well grab the best.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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