Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991) directed by David DeCoteau
I remembered this one as being the best of this series. Puppets vs Nazis! The origin of the puppets! Seventeen years later (!), meh, not so exciting. Much time is spent with the evil Major Krauss having vaguely angry arguments with the not-as-evil Dr. Hess regarding the Nazi's project to reanimate the dead for cannon fodder. Hess repeatedly stops Krauss from dragging puppet master Toulon into his torture chambers, ensuring the only interesting thing we see the Major do on screen is die. Krauss's death is also the only interesting part of the titular revenge. Toulin has his puppets kill a few other Nazis in revenge for them murdering his wife, but they're nothing special. Krauss's death, though neat, almost felt out of place. It was more Hellraiser than Puppet Master, involving ropes and hooks and such.
An ambitious movie -- especially for Full Moon, being a period piece and all -- but ultimately unfullfilling. It's not looking good for me keeping this box set in my DVD collection. I know it only goes downhill from here... (6/10)
Phantasm III (1993) directed by Don Coscarelli
I like this one more every time I watch it. I, like many other others, had been originally disappointed with this sequel. "Too goofy" was the main complaint, followed closely by "I hate the kid." The kid really isn't that bad. He's a good actor -- better than the lady that plays Rocky -- and he fits into P3's theme of doing everything from the previous movies in a bigger way. They crash the hearse in a spectacular flip far better than how they destroyed the Hemi in P2. The Talls Man's hands transform into cool hand-demons, much scarier than the rubber finger-fly from P1. There's an order of magnitude more sentinals and dwarves in P3 than any other film. And, Tim is a hardened, ass-kicking version of Mike from P1 (made obvious by the duplicate shot of Reg and Tim at the fireplace talking).
This is not to say I like Tim more than kid-Mike from P1. Mike from P1 is an average kid, easy to relate to. Tim's greatest flaw is that he is not, especially in light of Mike from the previous movie, which makes him seem a bit cartoony. Fortunately, I think, the kid's acting reigns this tendancy in a bit. And, c'mon, you have to love the Home Alone parody when he's introduced: of course, the robbers would be killed by the precocious kid's traps.
The big reveal in this movie is that Mike, like the Tall Man himself, has a large sentinal where his brain should be. "Reg, don't believe everything you see. Seeing is easy. Understanding, well... takes a little more time," says Jody after Mike runs off. Though the Tall Man strongly implies that he is, I don't think Mike's always been one of the Tall Man's kind. I think he did something to Mike, maybe when he was in his coma at the beginning of the film. Mike, I'm fairly certain, would've noticed that he has yellow blood at some point in his life before then. Alternatively, Mike could've woken up into another reality after his coma, one in which he's a Tall Man-thing raised as a human.
My guess is that Liz was also a sphere-head -- or potential sphere-head -- explaining why Mike and her could communicate telepathically. This would also be a reason for why the Tall Man takes her head with him after the car crash. I wouldn't have been shocked to see her appear as a sentinal in P4, brainwashed into serving the Tall Man.
Anyway, P3 throws out some answers -- the Tall Man is building an army, using corpse bodies for dwarf soldiers and corpse brains to control the sentinals -- and raises even more questions before it ends. This is why I love the Phantasm series. It has the *cough* balls to never explain itself completely. So few movies can get away with this. It's refereshing when a director/writer says: "you're smart enough... come up with your own theories."
Side note: I'm glad to see Anchor Bay has changed the title card:
This "Lord of the Dead" stuff always smacked of Universal's interference. It was also written in a rather goofy font on the original VHS/LD releases, not at all matching the gothic "Phantasm" above. It's much better that P3's title card matches the other sequels. (8/10)