The Puppet Master is back, and his killer dolls are up to no good — again. In the 13th (yes, 13th) installment of the popular Puppet Master franchise, Puppet Master: The Little Reich, Edgar (Thomas Lennon) moves home after a divorce and discovers a creepy puppet among his deceased brother's belongings. Some research reveals that the puppet was made by the notorious Andre Toulon, and a convention celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Toulon murders will feature a puppet auction.
Edgar heads to the convention with his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and his third-wheel boss Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) to make some quick cash. But then the evil puppets come to life and go about committing hate crimes, made all the worse given the auction's diverse selection of guests. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is set in an alternate timeline that disregards much of the oft-conflicting previous canon: Toulon is a Nazi, and he created hate-mongering puppets.
To prepare for The Littlest Reich, SYFY WIRE spoke with Pellicer about her first role in a horror film and what it's really like working with those terrifying puppets.
What drew you to this role?
Jenny Pellicer: I actually really love the character of Ashley Summers. She was really quirky and kind of dorky, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to play that. I feel it's perhaps a bit closer to my personality most of the time. She was just lovely. Then, halfway through the movie, she goes from quirky outfits and walking her cat on a leash to annihilating these puppets. It's just bananas!
So I go from quirky-dorky to this sort of Lara Croft-style woman. I thought that was really badass. And it was just pure fun. This is the 13th Puppet Master. I've never done a horror film, and I thought this could be a lot of fun. I was lucky enough to be Thomas Lennon's girlfriend. That was the most brilliant part of it.
Thomas Lennon is more known for his comedic roles. Was it hard to keep a straight face working with him?
Yes. All the time. I think one of the loveliest things is that I [now] consider him a close friend. He was such a pleasure to work with. He's much more experienced than I. He has worked in comedy, and Puppet Master — this Puppet Master — is funny! So he was perfect for this role.
I was genuinely in tears and doubled-over laughing most of the time, which worked perfectly for this kind of movie. It's pure fun. Everyone on set is there, having a great time. There were plenty of times where it was late at night, trying to get through a night shoot, and you're like, "Please keep it together. Don't break, don't break, don't start laughing." He would just have us all in stitches. He would do this thing before a scene, if we were holding hands, he would give me a little squeeze, and I would know we were going serious.
Were you familiar with the franchise before you took the role?
I had heard of it, but to be honest, I'm a chicken when it comes to horror films and gore and the genre. I'm super-squeamish, and I'm a wuss. So I haven't really seen that much [horror]. Prior to starting this project, I did my homework, and I thought, "Oh my god, I'm going to be terrified all the time by these little puppets." Which I was because they are incredibly creepy.
Can you tell me a little bit about working with the puppets?
It was a great team that worked the puppets and did the special effects. Tate Steinsiek was in charge of the [puppetry] special effects. It was very bizarre. They are really terrifying. Especially Blade. There were certain moments where I'd be holding Blade, or Blade would be in the corner, just looking at us.
They are very haunting. Really scary.
Did it ever feel like they started to "haunt" you?
Yeah. For sure. It was the creepiest thing in the world! Plus the place we were shooting, the Ambassador Hotel in Dallas, is really, really creepy. From what I understand, it was deserted in the '70s. It is a beautiful hotel, but it has an incredibly ominous feel to it, with several floors, several rooms all pretty much empty. Random stains on the walls. I knew they used it to shoot a few things before, so there was leftover blood. Things would constantly be dripping.
I had this nightmare where, out of the corner of my eye, I would see someone playing a practical joke on me. I kept thinking someone was coming in. "What is happening? Is it a ghost? Are the puppets coming to get me?"
It really does start to toy with your mind. All puns intended!
Were there any practical jokes on set?
I bought a giant plastic thing, you put it over your head, and it can be like a cat face or a horse face, all different things. So we would put it on and go into an empty room and randomly usher people in, then [whoever was in the mask] would be standing in the corner, very Blair Witch Project-style. It scared the shit out of people.
I'm sure there were many other pranks that were played that I wasn't privy to because I made it very clear at the beginning that I did not want pranks played on me. I would die. That would be the end of me. It would be over. They respected that. Even so, I scared myself tons of times. Trying to play pranks and scare other people, I would hide behind a door and then I'd get scared when they would get scared.
After this experience, would you want to be in another horror movie? Was it more fun than you expected?
It was tremendous. Yeah, I definitely would [be in another horror movie]. I'd love to be in a psychological thriller, as well. The more that I have watched horror films, now that I have worked in the genre, and explored it, I think it's really exciting.
The same three Swedes, [director] Sonny Laguna, [director] Tommy Wiklund, and [associate producer] David Liljeblad, are actually making another movie, and they wrote one of the lead roles for me. The other role is for a lovely Swedish actress named Lisa Henni. It's called Old Shadows, about two sisters who inherit an old family home that they had to abandon when they were younger for mysterious reasons. They get this family home and my character, Laura, goes back to the house and discovers what actually happened and how the family was murdered. So I'm already part of another horror film, and I'm very excited about that.
That one sounds a little more serious, a little less tongue-in-cheek.
Yes. It is more Scandinavian-inspired. Terrifying in its own right. Not tongue-in-cheek.
But I love the tongue-in-cheek-ness of Puppet Master. In fact, one of my favorite moments was when Thomas and I had our sex scene. I'm really happy this is in the film because it's always kind of awkward [shooting a sex scene]. Luckily, we had become very good friends.
We were kissing, then there was this moment where he looked up at me and says, "What's your name again?" I started laughing, and thought, "Oh, you idiot." And they put it in the movie! I'm really happy because it is such an organic moment. We were both like, "This is so bizarre, what we are doing right now."
Any other ad-libbed scenes?
Tons! I'm sure a lot of the other actors had brilliant ad-libbed scenes. Thomas has such a brilliant mind. He is so quick and so funny that he contributed so much of his own imagination and lines. Craig Zahler wrote the script, and he's such a brilliant guy, so we had a great script to work with.
Yeah! There were some really great, gross kills.
I know! I saw it for the first time at the premiere in New Orleans, in the first row, and I was like, "Oh my God, help me!" It was fun to watch it with other people who really know the genre and know Puppet Master. They were screaming and enjoying and yelling "Noooo!" and really passionate.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich hits theaters and video-on-demand platforms on August 17.