Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is disreputable cinema at its most unapologetic and tongue-in-cheek. Full of gratuitously violent slaughter, bad taste jokes, and a shameless disregard for moral decency, the film is 90 minutes of riotous politically incorrect mayhem that does not give one single fuck about your wokeness. If you’re the type of person who thinks movies with “problematic” content shouldn’t exist in modern times, then a film about Nazi puppets committing hate crimes against minorities probably isn’t for you. The S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) penned reboot of Full Moon Features’ beloved tiny terror franchise is out to entertain first and foremost, but if it shocks and offends people as well then so be it. You’ve been warned.
But if you’re in on the joke it’s a hoot. As provocative as The Littlest Reich is at times with its exploitation tendencies, the Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund co-directed movie isn’t meant to be taken seriously either. Some people will be outraged, of course, but that comes with the territory when you make movies this unabashedly crude.
The film opens in Postville, Texas, in 1988, with a deadpan Andre Toulon (Udo Kier) voicing his disdain for lesbian barmaids in a scene that’s equal parts hilariously offensive and downright uncomfortable. This revelation of same-sex relations, however, makes the women natural targets of Toulon’s puppet henchmen, who are out to do their master’s ideologically-motivated dirty work. Suffice to say, things get bloody.
We then skip ahead to the present day and meet Edgar (Thomas Lennon), a comic book creator who’s just moved back home to live with his disapproving cop father following a messy divorce. It is there where he also finds an old Blade doll, which inspires him to head to a convention dedicated to the aforementioned Toulon murders along with his girlfriend, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and his colleague, Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). The convention is also full of attendees of the black, Jewish, gay, and other marginalised groups, which makes the event an ideal hotspot for pint-sized Nazi dolls to wreak havoc.
Like all reboots should aspire to be, The Littlest Reich re-imagines the original mythology to present something that’s fresh and exciting while still respecting and honouring the original’s aesthetic. The decision to repackage Toulon and the puppets as genocidal fascists is certainly bold and may not go down well with some fans of the original franchise who preferred them without the bigoted ideology. That being said, Nazis are bastards and therefore always make for good villains. In this case, it’s a creative decision that pays off as these little bastards are everything you could ask for from miniature evil. I don’t want to go into details since the gore-drenched murders deserve to be viewed unspoiled, but there are two kills in this movie that went there.
But if you’ve seen any movie Zahler wrote then you’ll know he likes to make the violence graphic and unforgettable. However, the star of the show here is Tate Steinsiek, the SFX co-ordinator set to find a place in the heart of every gorehound after they see his work here.
As for the puppets themselves, their designs don’t differ too much from their Full Moon counterparts, which in a way makes The Little Reich feel like a perfect complementary film to its alternate franchise. Fan favourites like Blade and Pinhead are instantly recognisable, but some forgotten blasts from the past also make a comeback while new rascals are introduced for good measure. Unlike the original saga, though, here we get several versions of the pint-sized assassins which takes away from their uniqueness to an extent, though it does make for a tour de force of bonkers massacring. This is one heavily-populated hate crime hootenanny.
Genre fans will also be pleased to see appearances from Barbara Crampton and Michael Pare who, like Kier, are always a treat in every movie and TV show they’re a part of. But really they’re only there to lend some cult icon gravitas, as most human characters in this movie only serve to pass the time between murder montages. That being said, the array of colorful characters are fun to spend time with despite their lack of development. Cuddly Bear (Skeeta Jenkins) is destined to become a fan favorite, and he steals the show in every scene he’s in with his larger than life personality.
With a prequel in the works called Aryans Ahoy!, Cinestate and Fangoria have plans to turn this into a franchise. I hope they churn out at least 20 of these movies and don’t change their unapologetic approach. As far as cinematic bloodbaths go, the new saga is off to a brilliant start. However, the prequel is an ideal opportunity to dig into the past of this new despicable Toulon, who makes a very disturbing but nonetheless memorable impression during his brief screen time. Wherever they decide to take it, I’m on board.