The Puppetman movie poster

The Puppetman

In theaters October 13, 2023


96 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , ,

Michal (Alyson Gorske) is the daughter of her mother’s killer known as The Puppetman (2023), currently waiting on Death Row for the needle. David (Zachary Le Vey) had always claimed it wasn’t him, but what killer doesn’t disavow responsibility? He is also her father and as the execution date draws near, she finds herself acting more erratic than normal. She walks in her sleep, draws three lines of blood on the walls, and unnerves her roommate Charlie (Angel Prater). While the college campus empties for winter break, Michael, Charlie, and their friends, Jo (Anna Telfer), Glen (Cameron Wong), and Danny (Kio Cyr) plan to cut loose with a little booze and relaxation. One by one under the shadow of The Puppetman, they will find themselves acting under no will of their own, hurting themselves and others, and only Michal can break the curse.

That’s the idea anyway. For its premise, The Puppetman really is no different from movies like The Fury (1978) or Scanners (1981) except we’ve got possessions and the government isn’t involved. Waiflike and vulnerable Michal doesn’t strike anyone as violent or vengeful so when people start dying around her, she’s not the first suspect. There’s even a sketchy psychic, Ruby (Caryn Richman) involved, and everyone seems to know Michal’s business better than she does.

I don’t know if I wandered off or was flipping through my phone, but everyone’s motives from police to “consultants” seemed to change at whim. It made keeping up with the story as well as following the plot a little difficult. For a 96-minute film, it seemed long and if we’re being honest, the ending was so slapdash, you could only be surprised if you were 12 years old and this was your first horror movie experience. If you can’t hear the dun-Dun-DUN just before the credits roll, you checked out well before I did.

The Puppetman gets points for simultaneous deaths and even the death of who you thought would be a character through to the end. The practical SFX really are top-notch because who doesn’t love broken faces? Writer-director Brandon Christensen previously gifted the world with Superhost ( (2021), which I loved for its off-kilter suspense and deranged antagonist, Rebecca (Gracie Gillam), but he’s unable to capture that same sharp wit and thrilling pace. The Puppetman feels too by the numbers and in its attempt to subvert the research montage, loses the momentum of the reveal, leaving it to characters we’ve already met and don’t trust. There are too many ideas and not enough thread to weave them all together.

No entity is going to make you watch The Puppetman, so pick up that remote and keep scrolling.

The Puppetman (2023) is unrated, but call it PG-13 for swears, falls from roofs, broken jaws, library immolations, barbell mishaps, a police station firefight, and death by lethal injection.

The Puppetman is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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