Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Puppetman, on Shudder

Michal isnot a normal, well-adjusted college student, but unlike the spoiled sociopathic millennials celebrating genocidal terrorism on Ivy League campuses, she has a good excuse. A demon used her father’s body to brutally murder her mother. Since then, the evil entity kept tabs on her, as viewers can see from the dead bodies that follow in her wake throughout Brandon Christensen’s The Puppetman, which premieres Friday on Shudder.

Michal went from foster care to college, so she will be staying in the dorms during break. So will her roommate Charlie, apparently because she has a weird obsession with Michal and her lurid family history. Unbeknownst to Michal, Charlie has video documented her frequent episodes of sleepwalking she never knew were happening. Charlie also binges true crime podcasts about her father, the so-called “Puppetman” in reference to the mysterious controlling power he blamed for making him kill Charlie’s mother.

Michal and Charlie will also be partying with three of their boring friends. At least that was the plan, until people start dying in freakishly unlikely suicides. Det. Al Rosen is out of his depth, but Ruby, the psychic who maybe isn’t a complete fraud after all, might have some insights.

The Puppetman
might be Christensen’s best film yet (far better than Still/Born and more consistent than Z), thanks to some genuinely eerie séance sequences and the super-nasty spin it puts on demonic possession. Christensen takes viewers to some dark, twisted places, which is great.

The supporting adults also help a lot. Michael “VOD release of the week” Pare is a stabilizing presence as Det. Rosen, while Caryn Richman is just flamboyant enough as the dramatic Ruby. Plus, Zachary Le Vey is massively creepy as Michal’s convicted father. Alyson Gorske is appropriately freaked out as Michal, while the rest of her dorm mates are at least sufficiently young and dumb, so that they do not look out of place.

Christensen achieved an impressively eerie vibe in
Z, but he surpasses it with The Puppetman. This is definitely a low-budget over-achiever. Recommended for horror fans, The Puppetman starts streaming Friday (10/13) on Shudder.