FOUR-LETTER WORD BEGINNING WITH `F'
Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in almost one-thousand magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Black Gate, Galaxy, Fangoria, Writer's Digest, Flesh and Blood, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories (DAW Books).
Collections of McLaughlin's fiction include Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, Pickman's Motel, Raising Demons For Fun and Profit, and At the Foothills of Frenzy (with coauthors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight). With regular collaborator Michael McCarty, he has written Monster Behind the Wheel, Partners In Slime, All Things Dark and Hideous, Professor LaGungo's Delirious Download of Digital Deviltry and Doom, and Professor LaGungo's Classroom of Horrors.
McLaughlin is the coauthor, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry. An expert on B-movies, McLaughlin writes a blog on cinematic horror at www.BMovieMonster.com. You can watch some strange little movies he has created at www.YouTube.com/McMonsterBook. He is also a successful marketing and public relations executive who writes articles for business journals, newspapers, and websites.
To find out more about McLaughlin's work, visit www.Facebook.com/MarkMcLaughlinMedia.
Horror With No Strings Attached:
A Salute to the Puppet Master Series
Welcome to my manic mannequin matinee, where we discuss humankind's various phobias as manifested in horror movies. The fright du jour is Pupaphobia, or fear of puppets -- but we won't be talking about just any puppets. We will be discussing the murderous marionettes from the Puppet Master series of horror films from Full Moon Pictures.
Like Pinocchio, the mannequins of the Puppet Master series are capable of ambulating without the assistance of strings. According to the films, they were created by a mad genius/puppeteer named Andre Toulon, and throughout their adventures they encounter a variety of other unsavory characters. These include the crazed academics Dr. Hess, Dr. Jennings, and Dr. Magrew, as well as Sutekh, an evil pharaoh from another dimension, and his pint-sized minion, Totem.
The authorities, nasty persons and even nastier creatures are all after these wee, wondrous psychotics, who are animated by Egyptian magic. Let's take a few minutes to get to know them, shall we?
These grotesque puppets are about a foot-and-a-half high, more or less. Blade has a face like a stylized skull-mask, topped with a shock of white hair, and he always wears a black hat and trenchcoat. One hand is a hook and the other is a steel blade.
Jester looks like a lean, merry harlequin with a face divided into thirds, horizontally. The three sections spin rapidly and when the parts stop spinning, Jester has a new expression.
Pinhead has a beefy body, huge hands, and a surly bald head the size of an avocado pit. He wears a red sweater, blue jeans and fingerless gloves.
Tunneler has puffy, half-closed eyes, a thick-lipped mouth, and a dunce-cap-like drill on top of his head, so that he can tunnel through walls and enemies. His outfit of choice is a dark-blue military outfit.
Ms. Leech is a pale, hollow-eyed lady who regurgitates leeches onto her victims. She wears sexy gowns and has long, thick black hair.
These were the main puppets featured in the first movie in the series, released in 1989. Many other vile, weensy terrors have appeared in the franchise over the years. In the second one, we meet Torch, who has a spiked helmet for a head and a flamethrower for a hand. In Part III, we are introduced to Six-Shooter, a cowboy with six arms, each wielding a gun. Six-Shooter gives new meaning to the phrase: armed and dangerous.
There's also Decapitron, a puppet whose head can morph; Cyclops, a one-eyed, ogre-like bruiser; a horned devil-man named Mephisto; and many others, including some early drafts of the main puppets presented in the quirky sequel, Retro Puppet Master.
There have been many movies about evil little fake folks over the years -- from films with sinister ventriloquist dummies to evil-doll movies to Trilogy of Terror and its sequel, both of which feature the savage Zuni fetish doll. But the Puppet Master movies are in a class of their own because the horrid micro-buggers have made the transition from villains to heroes. Fans have come to care about them, even as they fear them. But how can that be...?
As children, we love dolls and action figures because we can play with them, even cuddle them, and use them to act out our dreams and ambitions. They excite our giddy brains. And, that's why we fear them, too: they stir up the dark side of the imagination.
On a lonesome, chilly night, a child can look at his or her cherished plaything, lying among all the other toys on the floor, and suddenly see hideous potential. Didn't Dolly just MOVE? Isn't Dolly CREEPING CLOSER? Certainly not, such things cannot happen! Or can they...?
The Puppet Master monsters are both cute and gruesome... despicable and adorable... so really, how can any audience of horror-lovers not be enthralled by such intrepid baby monstrosities? We simply have to love them! That's why this franchise keeps popping out the sequels -- more sequels than the The Amityville Horror or Jaws or Phantasm.
The Full Moon gang was also wise in creating a wide and audacious variety of puppets for the franchise. Such variety! So many zany junior horrors for our amusement! So the next time you're out looking for a little something to watch -- heh heh, get it? A "little something"? -- check out some Puppet Master sequels.