The Doktor Will See You Now. See You in Hell! Blu-ray Available on Amazon.com!
The sudden death of a World War II veteran leaves the employees and residents of Shady Oak retirement home to mourn his loss to their humble community. April, new to the Shady Oak employee family and starting her very first day in the wake of resident’s death, is tasked to assist clean out the family-less resident’s leftover belongings. Along with a couple of other orderlies, April discovers a trunk bound with a chain lock and breaking into it proves to be a creeper endeavor when the contents of the battered chest is a single doll, dressed in a blood-stained doctor’s gown with a hideously grinning skull upon it’s shoulders. Soon after, the handful of residents and orderlies of Shady Oak are being hunted down and the maniac-looking doll with a scalpel is suspected to be cause of the grim reaper knocking early on the retirement home attendees’ doors.
One-by-one, and slowly and surely over the decades, Full Moon continues its campaign in broadening the “Puppet Master” universe. For 34 years and an over three dozen films, including same universe and spinoffs, “Puppet Master” has been the porcelain, wood carved, and rubber-molded face of Charles Band’s Full Moon empire. “Puppet Master’s” legacy continues to live on animating inanimate dolls into malevolent marionettes with their strings cut. 2020 saw the release of the company’s first character standalone with the more popular, if not the poster doll, Blade in “Blade: The Iron Cross.” Next, the span of a year between 2021 and 2022, Baby Oopsie from the “Demonic Toys” universe became the subject of a television series compiled until a three-part TV movie released by Full Moon on Blu-ray and DVD in the last six months. Presently, Full Moon has ventured back to the “Puppet Master” universe with their release of “Doktor Death,” officially titled “Puppet Master: Doktor Death,” that resurrects the miniature medical murderer last seen from “Retro Puppet Master” in 1999. Helmed by the director of “The Dead Hate the Living!” and “The Hills Run Red,” Dave Parker chapters in a darker, gorier edge to the “Puppet Master” series that makes Dr. Kevorkian look like Florence Nightengale. “Puppet Master: Doktor Death” is a production of William Butler’s Candy Bar Productions, produced by Butler, who directed the “Baby Oopsie” television series/movies, Charles Band, representing Full Moon distributing powers, and alongside Josh Apple, Greg Lightner, and Mikey Stice.
The non-anthropomorphic cast is about as fresh faced as they come with young actors and actresses who likely weren’t even twinkle in their parents’ eyes yet when “Puppet Master” was released. A new generation, integrated as victims and conspirators, are folded into this new line of a “Puppet Master” offshoot, beginning with Jenny Boswell in her sophomore feature film role as Shady Oaks’ new employee, April. Having traversed from California to a small town in the middle of nowhere to work a retirement home, April mentions her strange choice of life-changing circumstances was due in part of searching for a lost relative. This morsel of mystery puts an enigmatic taste swirling around in our mouths, but Boswell plays the statement casually enough to not throw up warning flags in a natural delivery of her character’s new girl innocence and candor with the rest of her Shady Oak counterparts, which include a perverse man-child Flynn (Zach Zebrowski), a pay for promiscuity Jennifer (Emily Sue Bengston, “Smiley Origins”), and all-around nice guy Ryan (Chad Patterson). Intertwined by their occupational relation are the patients, clients, or residents, if you will, of Shady Oaks that are more of an interesting, eclectic bunch than the genre trope orderlies that become run of the mill victim fodder for Doktor Death. Rick Montgomery Hr. (“Gore Orphanage”) plays the wealthy old perv with uncontrollable pinch fingers for the female bottom, John Capocci (“Praetorian”) is an unfiltered opinionate and avid golfer, Melissa Moore (“Sorority House Massacre II”) as a painter who whips up portraits embedded in her clairvoyant visions, and Tary Lyn Bergoine as a mute kleptomaniac living in fear off an oxygen tank. See – much more interesting and with concrete performances to express who they are precisely as individuals. “Puppet Master: Doktor Death” fills the cast void with Erin Eva Butcher, Asthon Wolf, wrestler Jesse Guilmette, and Bill D. Russell.
Between “Demonic Toy’s” “Baby Oopsie” and “Puppet Master’s” “Doktor Death” spinoff projects, “Doktor Death” has a tighter story and more effective gore. Granted, “Doktor Death” only has single under-an-hour film to its name but with completed and out in the world today, “Baby Oopsie” came off the rails as the series progressed with Oopsie’s look appearing different between the opening drive and the two latter parts, the story unhinges itself with the arbitrary introduction of a fembot, and doll kills that dwindled into dullness. So, if you’re like me and was irked and turned off by “Baby Oopsie” when it was all said and done, you are likely hesitant to jump right into Full Moon’s next departure from the foremost franchise. Don’t. “Puppet Master: Doktor Death” may have the same aesthetic veneer but the guts of story are better compacted to keep audiences on track and the “Doktor Death’s” malevolent malpractice renders a far better disturbing slasher. On the flip side of that coin, most of the deaths happen offscreen. Out of “Doktor Death’s” personal 8-kill body count, only one is visually graphic within the scene. I would say two but the character is later found not dead but just severely injured and we’re left unresolved with their life status. The other deaths are done offscreen and are implied, denoting signs of demise with blood splatter against the wall or glass, a bloodied club repetitively bashing into a victim just out of the frame, or bodies are misappropriated post-mortem, posed in different discoveries of death, one in a very neat, very marionette, way. The short runtime falls in sync with the nowadays Full Moon line of quick, cheap, and dirty modern movie, but what it also does is provide quick pacing into “Doktor Death’s” acrid atrocities against the elderly and their clueless caregivers and also opens up the potential for a sequel with a revelation, open ended finale that’ll surely see the return of psychotic puppet.
Dave Parker brings his knowledge of blood-soaked carnage and maniacal macabre to a resurrected retro puppet for “Puppet Master: Doktor Death!” The Doktor is in and has arrived on Blu-ray home video from Full Moon Features with an AVC encoded BD25 presented in high-definition 1080p and a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1. From my last few previous views of Full Moon productions, there hasn’t been a whole lot of effort into creating an atmosphere but this latest entry levels out what’s been missing from contemporary Full Moon Features for some time, a dark and gloomy, evocatively tropey canvas that looks past the mundane sheen of digital recorded image and into another world of terror. In regard to storage format and compression, there was anything to note that stood out with artefact reproach. The Blu-ray comes with two audio options, an English Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 mix and an English Dolby Digital 5.1. Toggling between the two audio format, not a ton of variance between them, if any at all, that has to make you wonder about the credibility of the multi-channel mix. In any case, both formats offer a well-balanced diet of dialogue, ambience, and soundtrack with dialogue in front and prominent. Range is diverse with all the squishiness of Doktor Death’s puppeteering his golems inside an internal organ orchestra. The Full Moon release offers no subtitles for SDH. Bonus features only include a Full Moon Video Zone featurette of Retro Puppet Master with Charles Band, the original trailer, and other Full Moon trailers, including “Retro Puppet Master,” “Puppet Master 3,” “Don’t Let Her In,” “Piranha Women,” “Blade: The Iron Cross,” “Weedies: Halloweed Night,” and “The Resonator.” case physicality includes a traditional Blu-ray snapper with Doktor Death predominantly taking up the entire front cover with trademark maniacal grin, glowing eyes, and double fisting hypodermic instruments – a scalpel and syringe. The Disc art is pressed with the same front image. The film comes region free, uot rated, and has a runtime of 59 minutes, confirmed against IMDB.com’s listing of 75 minutes. So, either IMDB is incorrect, or the film is heavily edited down. “Puppet Master: Doktor Death” not only expands upon the legacy of the franchise but beefs up the ancillary side puppets that didn’t receive enough screen time and with a constructed filmic narrative worthy of Full Moon’s early canon of films, going back to the Doktor is a necessary follow up.