Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Jesus is Coming and He is Pissed!" The Ten Worst Stephen King Adaptations

In the last article we looked at the very best that Stephen King movies (those movies based on the works of Stephen King and not--generally--made by him) have to offer. Today we're looking at the other side of the coin. For every good King movie there are three stinkers and choosing the worst can be just as hard as choosing the best (sometimes it's harder, believe me). But even some of the worst Stephen King movies have a certain charm to them, as you'll see below. After a heavy internal debate, I've decided not to include sequels and prequels of King works that were not based on any actual stories by King, one because I wanted to stick to adaptations, but mostly because I didn't want to fill the list with Children of the Corn sequels.

10. Quicksilver Highway (1997). This is somewhere in the middle of the many, many collaborations between Stephen King and director Mick Garris. Sometimes they're great (Riding the Bullet, as you saw on the last list, was top notch. As is The Stand) sometimes they're really not great (this one, and another movie you'll see a little later on down the list) but usually they fall into that flat dead zone in the middle. Quicksilver Highway has one big thing going for it: Christopher Lloyd. This was the late 1990's when he was just starting to drift out of relevancy and he shows up here as a traveling salesman of sorts, selling terrible anthology tales. The movie claims to be "from the minds of Stephen King and Clive Barker" which sounds like the best movie ever made, but what it really means is that it's a half-handed adaptation and ultra low-budget adaptation of some of their weirdest stories ("Chattery Teeth" by King, and "The Body Politic" by Barker). An anthology of two stories is awkward, and you wind up spending the whole time looking for connections between the stories that just aren't there. Matt Frewer is entertaining as always.

09. Graveyard Shift (1990). This was the first story that Stephen King ever sold. And as a story, it's very entertaining in an EC comics sort of way. A Maine textile mill has a very serious--and deadly--rat infestation. As with so many King stories, it's a different story when committed to film. Graveyard Shift feels so completely like an old-school Charles Band movie that I'm still amazed that it isn't. The rats are weird, skinless muppets (or just rats, scuttling about--but mostly muppets) and the big "Queen Rat" needs to be seen to be believed. It also has the worst Maine accents ever committed to film, which is saying a whole lot. Brad Dourif shines in a minor role.

08. The Lawnmower Man (1992). Of all the probably hundreds of Stephen King adaptations this is the one King sued to have his name removed from. Take that in. Although, to be fair, it's mostly because the film was the result of taking two scenes from King's short story of the same name, and shoehorning them into a pre-existing and completely unrelated screenplay called "Cyber God" and then calling that an adaptation. The result is a very, very awkward movie. The bumbling idiot of the script is now a bumbling lawnmower man so that the title has relevance, while the plot revolves around a virtual reality program that can alter reality in which the idiot is king and can become all powerful. Cyber God, as a title, actually would have made sense, and then maybe this pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan vehicle would have been somehow relevant. But taking King's name off the movie doesn't solve the issue of chimpanzees in Tron suits. Actually, the movie is a little bit wonderful, but not exactly good.

07. Dreamcatcher (2003). Stephen King has a talent for being able to put the most ridiculous shit (see what I did there?) on the page and writing it in such a way that we not only fully believe it, but it terrifies us. Dreamcatcher was the breaking point. Dreamcatcher is basically a retelling of It at a hunting lodge in northern Maine, adding an autistic boy for flavor, and replacing scary cosmic clown with aliens that come out of your poop. It's not exactly a fair trade. Morgan Freeman spends the movie wishing he was in another movie.

06. Trucks (1997). Here we have a truly special treat. One Stephen King story (and not a bad short story, at that) that actually made the list twice. "Trucks" featured in the Night Shift collection along with a slew of top-notch King stories. Trucks sticks closer to the story than its previous adaptation, Maximum Overdrive, but much like that film, the story is not the problem here. For one, the budget really, really shows. It's low and bad and no matter how many bad movies you take in, you'll feel bad for watching it. Basically, a bunch of people find themselves trapped at a gas station when 18-wheelers become sentient and decide to take over the world. Somehow, this still manages to be the second-worst adaptation of the King story.

05. The Running Man (1987). It kinda hurts. One of King's most poignant, scathingly accurate pieces of sci-fi, predating The Hunger Games in social commentary, with dead-on black humor about the nature of violence and television (it predicted a whole lot)is... turned into a loud, explosive action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Social commentary? Punching! Hitting things! Explosions, yay! A story about a man forced to compete in mindless violence for people's entertainment is now simply mindless violence for people's entertainment. I guess Arnold gives some of his best inaudible screaming here, but it's kind of painful other than that.

04. The Mangler (1995). Oh, Tobe. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and how far, and how fast. Tobe Hooper exploded onto the scene with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and made something culturally iconic, and yet his second movie, Eaten Alive, was one of his worst. He's had hits and misses and movies you completely forget, but the misses make up most of it. Yet he can do it. He has it in him to do it. He's the only director to appear on both the list of best and worst Stephen King adaptations here (because he did Salem's Lot, and that was incredible), and I think that sums up his career pretty well. Point is, The Mangler is not one of his finer works. But with an evil, possessed industrial laundry machine it would have been hard for anyone to really make that work on the screen, but at least he does it in true Hooper style. When the machine starts moving around to stalk its prey, the movie really becomes a treat. Robert Englund appears under a ton of old age makeup and some random bionic legs and totally hams it up, being apparently the only person to understand what kind of movie he's in.

03. The Tommyknockers (1993). There have been a lot of Stephen King miniseries to make it to television, and many of them have had high ambition but have not quite had the budget to make the story work on film. This is one of those true rare miniseries treats to apparently have neither ambition nor budget. To say it's the worst King miniseries is nothing short of a milestone. Granted, the book is oft-malingned as King's worst, but I enjoyed it. Clearly more than the filmmakers did. Most of the plot lines from the book are completely removed, characters who appear in one or two scenes (mind you in a big book centering on a whole town) are fleshed out into primary antagonists. Seemingly made with the thought "Traci Lords seducing men with alien lipstick is clearly more important than whatever the book was about, I don't know, I didn't read it." In their half-assery they could have at least changed the ending to something more film-able. One hilarious note about the book: King wrote this tale of a struggling alcoholic at the height of his own alcoholism without ever realizing he had written it about himself until much, much later.

02. Sleepwalkers (1992). Remember up there when I talked about the frequent collaborations between Stephen King and Mick Garris? Well, with this as a starting point it's amazing they ever put together anything worthwhile at all. Sleepwalkers was directed by Garris with an original screenplay from King himself, which just completely boggles my mind. I cannot believe Stephen King wrote this movie, like, I have actual denial about it. Because there is nothing about it that works. Anyway, the story is about a couple of cat people who suck the souls out of teenagers. The cat-people are a mother and son who are 100% no questions asked romantically involved, and in a very physical son. Also, last name Bates, hardy-har-har. The movie also suggests that these soul-sucking people who both turn into cats and can only be killed by them (I know) is the origin of vampire legends, which is a little like finding out Santa Claus actually is real, but he kills cats because he's allergic and bangs his own mom.

01. Maximum Overdrive (1986.) "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." This is what a terrifying, coked out Stephen King says in the trailer for this movie. Yeah, side note, in addition to taking this list, it's probably the worst horror trailer of all time. Stephen King does not just narrate the trailer, he tells you everything looking right at you with those weird coke eyes and staring into your soul. Stephen King probably doesn't want to remember himself in the 80's, but man he went out of his way to make sure no one ever forgot. Anyway, this is the first adaptation of "Trucks" only it's about all machinery deciding to rise up against man at the same time (there's an unfortunate vending machine incident, in a movie that is a series of unfortunate incidents) Emilio Esteves tries to take the spotlight as leading man, but the real leading man is a big angry 18-wheeler that wears the Green Goblin's face like it just massacred a toy store. If I haven't said it already, Stephen King wrote and directed this film himself. Hell of a way to find out you're just not a director, and he has wisely directed nothing since.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Fun is Fun, And Done is Done:" Top Thirteen Stephen King Adaptations

Stephen King, master of the modern horror story, and still reigning er, king of cinematic horror. His works don't always translate to the screen with the same power they had on the page, but when they do, they do. And that's what we're looking at today. For the purposes of the blog, we're only going with the horror movies derived from King's works. Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption are both incredible and have enough things said about them. From small town terrors from vampires to clowns, to isolated psychological terrors to psychic predictions you really don't want to be right. King's work covers every kind of horror there is, things in the darkness of the night and the darkness of the soul. Horrors from without and within. And when everything comes together on the screen (which as you can see from the wealth of adaptations, is not the norm, but I digress) it, well, shines.

13. It (1990). What's there to say about It? It's classic. Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a thing of legend. In truth, everything I could say about It at this point probably wouldn't be doing it any favors. Because when people talk about the great qualities of It (and rest assured, they are there) they are generally only talking about the first part of this two-part miniseries. The story centers on childhood nostalgia and confronting the (in this case literal) demons of the past. All of the flashbacks find themselves part of the first part of the miniseries, almost a self-contained story. As a result, the second part falls flat. But God, that first part. Pennywise makes himself known in memorable ways to each of the children and the young cast outshines their older counterparts.

12. Creepshow 2 (1987). One of the standards one can't help judge a Stephen King movie by is: how Maine does it look? Sometimes they fall very flat. Creepshow 2 gets major points for shooting in actual Maine. The opening puts us off to a wonderful start with the second chapter of the EC comics styled anthology, with Tom Savini giving a splendidly over-the-top performance as The Creep. He spins us three yarns: Old Chief Wood'n Head follows a vengeful wooden Indian who seeks to avenge the deaths of the shop owners who took care of him and return Indian treasure to its people. The second story, The Raft, is what most people seem to remember about this movie. It's based on the story of the same name from King's collection "Skeleton Crew." A bunch of horny teenagers swim out to a raft in the middle of the lake where they are picked off by a ravenous, mysterious oil slick and it's just as wonderful as it sounds. The third and final story "The Hitch-Hiker" was originally intended to be included in the first Creepshow, but time and budget saw it cut out and replaced by the "They're Creeping Up on You" segment that we'll get to later. Creepshow 2 is one of the last great 80's anthology movies, but it was not a bad note to go out on.

11. Silver Bullet (1985). Werewolf movies often seem harder to come by than great vampire or ghost movies. But the 80's, whether they're good or bad, they're entertaining. Luckily, Silver Bullet leans heavier on the good side. With a script by King himself and performances from Corey Haim and Gary Busey in their absolute prime. handicapped Marty, his sister, and his Uncle Red seek to put a stop to the werewolf plaguing their small town. The werewolf effects weren't exactly up to the quality of other films of the era, like The Howling or An American Werewolf in London. But still, better effects than the Howling sequels. So there's that.

10. Riding the Bullet (2004). Not, in fact, a sequel to Silver Bullet (although I would like one of those, movie Devil.) This is the best of Mick Garris's (thousands of) Stephen King adaptations. A young man has to confront death, the nature of it, and learn a thing or two about glorifying it as he has a hitch-hike that turns out to be very literally life and death while going to see his mother in the hospital after a potentially fatal stroke.

09. The Mist (2007). Frank Darabont shined with his versions of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Here, he decided to try his hand at adapting some of Stephen King's actual horror stories. This is a very Lovecraftian story about people trapped in a supermarket, surrounded by very thick mist and the creatures inside of it, trying desperately to get inside. The controversy surrounding the ending of the movie has caught a lot of people to keep this off their lists, but it's a hell of a ballsy ending and King himself has said he thinks it's better.

08. Christine (1982). First of all, John Carpenter. Secondly, this is a great allegorical, unsettling love story about a boy and his first car. Nothing ever comes between Arnie and Christine. Not bullies, not his best friend, not his actual girlfriend. Arnie has power, has something of his own for the first time in his life, and he will let everyone die before he lets that power go. The car is a major character, somehow believably terrifying. Christine remains a great film in Carpenter's career, and an underrated classic.

07. The Shining (1980). What? The Shining isn't number one? Don't get me wrong. The Shining is a powerful, incredibly unsettling and atmospheric horror film but as a King adaptation it sort of falls flat. What started out as a creeping haunted house story about a man's trouble with his own past and his own doom built on false promises and succumbing to evil, becomes a story about a very unstable man in a delirious, shattered narration of a trapped mother and son trapped with a father who cannot be held on a leash much longer. Still powerful, still has great performances, and it still has fantastic imagery. But when a thousand people give you a thousand different meanings, then that means the meaning was lost in translation.

06. Pet Sematary (1989). Once again, major points for filming in Maine. And, major points for a horror movie directed by a woman (even rarer then than now). Also, a script by King. It would have been hard to mess this movie up, so luckily they didn't. It doesn't live up to the novel (does it ever?) But it's one of the most terrifying adaptations, for sure. A haunting rendition of "The Monkey's Paw" and what happens when you repress or refuse to accept death and its place in the world. As Jud Crandall so eloquently put it: "Sometimes dead is better."

05. 'Salem's Lot (1979). Tobe Hooper barely held onto his career after his debut masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But every hit he had after that was worth it, and Salem's Lot shines the brightest. Still the most powerful miniseries adaptation. One of the best of King's novels is adapted into a story of small town secrets boiling to the surface, through vampires. Mr. Barlow, the Dracula figure of King's novel, is reimagined as a silent, stalking Nosferatu-type figure. The vampire effects, cheap as they were, still scare the living hell out of me.

04. Creepshow (1982). Creepshow, is simply put, a masterpiece. This is the only film on the list actually starring Stephen King himself, and good lord does he shine. The tagline is "The Most Fun You'll Ever Have Being Scared" and it is 100% right. With a script from King and the directing talents of George Romero, plus Tom Savini handling make-up effects. Each segment is delightful. We've got a mogul returning from the grave for his long overdue Father's Day cake, Stephen King as a lovable hick covered in alien moss, Leslie Nielsen burying Ted Danson in the sand and leaving him to drown followed briskly by Danson's revenge, a monster in a crate who's been stewing hungrily for a very long time, and a germ-obsessed business tycoon with a major bug problem.

03. The Dead Zone (1983). David Cronenberg's most accessible movie does not sacrifice anything visually. It's still a powerful, character-driven film and Christopher Walken gives the performance of his career. A man wakes up from a coma five years after an accident, and he wakes up with some extra talents. He can see what's going to happen to people. Either right away, or a little way down the line. He tries to be reclusive, but he can't stop helping people, and he learns to live with it. But when he shakes the hand of a man running for president, he sees the potential end of the world. A nuclear holocaust and a man crazy enough to bring it about. So the question he must ask himself: if you knew Hitler, and you knew what he was going to become, would you kill him?

02. Misery (1990). First of all, Kathy Bates. She gives an all-time great performance for which she received a well-deserved Academy Award as a reclusive woman who pulls her favorite writer out of a car crash and keeps him bed-ridden so that he can write a new book, just for her. Here, we see some of the author's fears come to light: the number one fan. And she, like the movie, is completely unforgettable.

01. Carrie (1976). The first is the best, but there's been plenty of great ones along the way. This is the perfect marriage of a great King story and stylish, quality film. Brian de Palma shows his skills as one of the all-time greats, and Sissy Spaceck and Piper Laurie give unforgettable performances as telekinetic, lonely, friendless Carrie White and her deranged fundamentalist mother, the true monster of the piece. The film unravels along with Carrie's psyche right up until the prom, when enough is finally enough and we are treated to one of the most lavish, colorful and iconic massacres in horror movie history.

So there you have it. That's my take on the best horror films from the minds who adapted the mind of Stephen King. Stay tuned for my list of worst Stephen King adaptations coming soon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Evil Comes in All Sizes: Ranking the Puppet Master Series

So, I recently delved into a massive, masochistic undertaking. I sat down and watched all the way through the Puppet Master franchise. For those of you who don't know, Puppet Master was a 1989 movie from legendary B-Movie producer Charles Band--the man responsible for such movies as Re-Animator, Ghoulies, From Beyond, Laserblast, Trancers, Subspecies, Demonic Toys and a whole slew of others. It was the first film from Full Moon Entertainment after the bankruptcy of Band's Empire Pictures. Puppet Master was one of the most successful home-video releases of all time upon its initial release and has launched a legacy of straight-to-video horror fare and merchandising, not to mention becoming the most successful straight-to-video series of all time.

The problem? I just oversold it way too much. Because what started as a great B-Movie series about wacky killer marionette puppets has gone through massive budget cuts (for, again, a series that started out straight-to-video) and two bankruptcies (Full Moon Pictures into Shadow Entertainment into Wizard Video into Full Moon Features) and so, ten films later things are not exactly where they started. But nonetheless, Full Moon claim they're on top with yet another new Puppet Master film on the way in addition to a TV series coming to their recently launched streaming network in 2014. It's a long journey with continuity errors that would make the Friday the 13th franchise jealous and story lines ranging from unique to insane to vaguely racist, so without further ado, let's begin the countdown.

11. Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003). What's the worst thing about any TV series? That moment when they first run out of ideas and hit the inevitable clip show episode. It's one trope that obviously couldn't really translate to film, right? Well, nobody told Charlie Band. This movie marks the only one to be made during the company bankruptcy and maybe the only film of all time co-produced by Blockbuster. Puppet Master: The Legacy starts as a noble effort to bridge together to the (many) continuity errors of the series, explaining what happened to most of the characters who never appeared again and trying (and failing) to make sense of the convoluted timeline. The problem is that it goes through all this in about 15-20 minutes of new footage shot with two actors over two days, while the rest is filled in with "flashbacks" to recap the entire series so far. Oops.

10. Retro Puppet Master (1999). Another entry that started with very noble intentions, the best thing I can say about this movie is that at least it doesn't use any stock footage. This one's a prequel set in 1902 starring a bunch of people who were maybe thinking about attending acting school some day. Let's not kid ourselves, the stars of these movies are the puppets, their great designs and wonderful effects. Neither of those things are present here. Instead, Retro Puppet Master focuses on a youthful Andre Toulon (the titular puppet master of the series) and his very first batch of living puppets, which are based on the unused concept art for the original movie, no joke. And they look it. This also marks the first PG-13 puppet master film, so we can't even look forward to some interesting kills. Instead, the pseudo-puppets face off against a gang of demonic blues brothers while Toulon sometimes remembers to do a French accent.

9. Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004). Growing up as a Full Moon fan (back when they were a popular b-movie company, and had fans) this felt like one of the most hyped up movies I could ever remember. It was probably one of the movies I spent my youth most looking forward to, alongside Freddy vs. Jason. It was first announced way back in the early 90's and was going to be the second Demonic Toys film and the fourth Puppet Master film, but they couldn't pull it together at that time, or multiple times over the next twelve years. It was finally scheduled for release in 2000, with an accompanying action figure series and a plot that would have seen Traci Lords buying the puppets on eBay. But once again, this brings us back around to the bankruptcy. Around 2000, Full Moon went under, completely. Charles Band, who knew fans were looking forward to the film, also knew he didn't have anything near the money to make it, so he sold the rights to.... the SyFy (SciFi) Channel. What we have now is a 'movie' starring Corey Feldman and Vanessa Angel as rival toy manufacturers, one who owns the puppets, one who owns the Demonic Toys. The film borrows most of its plot from Halloween III as the toy lady wants to use a commercial to take over the world with Demonic Toys on Christmas morning. The showdown of the title takes under four minutes.

8. Curse of the Puppet Master (1998). The was the first major dip in quality for the Puppet Master series after Full Moon split from distributor Paramount Pictures in 1994. After Puppet Master 5 claimed to be the final chapter, this was deemed worthy to reinvigorate the franchise. This one centers on an old man who runs a doll museum and recruits a brainless gas station attendant to build him a new puppet (but what a twist, he actually plans to turn him into a puppet). This entry is actually nearly a shot-for-shot remake of, of all things, another B-movie titled Ssssss! Anyway, by this point Full Moon was so out of money that the puppets just sit there the whole time and when they do move 90% of their action is stock footage taken from the other movies.

7. Puppet Master: Axis Rising (2012). The most recent movie, made after Full Moon's declarative comeback continues to be a step in the right direction but with still too little budget to make much of any kind of impact. It's got a little more puppet action and tries to have a bit more story than the average fare (especially with what Full Moon's making these days) and it relishes in being campy as fuck. After all, this is the first Puppet Master movie actually directed by Charles Band (who won't admit he directed "The Legacy" under a pseudonym). Released under the title Puppet Master X, because Band refuses to acknowledge Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys as a film and insists this is the tenth in the series.

6. Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010). This was Full Moon's comeback tour. The first film since '04 and the first from Full Moon since '03. For the first time since 1993, the puppets have the ability to do their respective things, head drilling, head spinning, vomiting leeches, etc. without resorting to stock footage. It even tries to have a plot line, picking up from the flashback prologue of the original film and continuing the story from there. But the acting is not up to the ambition of the script, especially the racist, overdubbed Dragon Lady.

5. Puppet Master 4 (1992). We did it, guys. We made it to the watchable movies. We've made it through the Z-movies and into the B-movies. Puppet Master 4 and 5 were shot at the same time, initially intended to be one big theatrical movie titled, of all things, Puppet Master: The Movie. I don't know either. Here, we've got most of the puppets in action and the great stop-motion effects in their heyday. The plot shifts from earlier entries to a crazy story about a genius robotics nerd working to crack the key to artificial intelligence who uncovers Toulon's living puppets. But, it turns out the magic that makes the puppets live was stolen from an ancient demon who is willing to kill to get it back. The puppets find themselves the good guys, protecting the nerd and his friends from puppet-sized demon minions called Totems. It's a lot of fun from a time when Full Moon had the budget to at least half-match their ambitions.

4. Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1993). And it should have been. The last absolute blast of a Puppet Master movie is the second half of the story started with 4. The plot is mostly the same, demon sends a super Totem in his own image a couple days later to finish off the nerd and his girlfriend while a sleazy scientist wants to figure out a way to benefit from the puppets, somehow. It takes about 40 minutes to get going, but the effects are great and the showdown between the puppets and the Totem pulls out all the stops and would have been a perfectly high note to end the series on. But alas. Worth noting that the film lost one day of production because the entire crew walked off the set when their checks collectively bounced.

3. Puppet Master II (1990). This is probably the most accessible Puppet Master film for new people looking to step into the series. As a slasher, a killer toy movie, and a campy B-movie good to watch with a group, this one works the best. In other words, Puppet Master II works the best as a horror movie. The plot is very simple. The puppets have used the fluid that keeps them going to animate their creator, Andre Toulon. But now they have precious fluid left. But! A group of paranormal investigators have just taken up residence in the hotel that the puppets and their pruny master call home. Steve Wells gives a great, if awkwardly German, performance as an undead Toulon under a lot of invisible man bandages. The kills are great and one of the best puppets, Torch, sees his introduction in this movie.

2. Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991). This film almost feels like an honest to god motion picture. The plot, story, and occasionally the acting are better than a straight-to-video sequel about killer puppets has any right to be. Toulon's Revenge is a prequel set during WWII that sees Toulon as a kindly old puppeteer who just wants to entertain the children. His show, however, pokes fun at Hitler and so his company is shut down and his wife is shot. The Nazis also uncover the secret that his puppets are in fact alive and they want to find out how. Badly. This film adds weight to the series by centering the emotion, depicting Andre Toulon as a tragic antihero and lets us in on the secret that the puppets all used to be human. Shot down by the Nazis, all of them just wanted the chance to keep on fighting, and so their souls were transferred into wooden bodies. We get to see the origins of classic puppet Leech Woman (Toulon's murdered wife brought back for a special kind of revenge) and the bread-and-butter of the franchise, Blade (Nazi doctor who died trying to make amends and do the right thing, taking a bullet so Toulon could escape). Six-Shooter, a fan-favorite puppet, makes his first appearance here. He was initially designed as a ninja/mercenary type, but changed to a cowboy to visually represent Hitler's opposition.

1. Puppet Master (1989). This one is about on equal quality with the previous two, it's admittedly nostalgia that makes it take the top prize. This one will always hold a special place in my heart. It takes a little time to get going, but this is a fun and quirky little slasher about a group of psychics who are called to a hotel by an estranged colleague, only to get there and discover that their one-time friend is dead. Mix into the plot an old puppeteer named Andre Toulon who killed himself in the hotel in the 30's, and you have a steadily building thriller... about a bunch of killer dolls. The puppet effects are the stars of the film, and the puppets are indeed stars right from their first appearance. Blade, Tunneler, Pinhead, Jester and Leech Woman all get to show off their talents in unique and imaginative ways. The film that launched an ill-fated franchise, nearly a dozen sequels, but when you sit down and watch it as a casual B-moviegoer, you can kind of see why.