The Puppet Masters – USA, 1994

‘Trust no one’

The Puppet Masters is a 1994 science fiction horror film directed by Stuart Orme (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) from a screenplay by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and David S. Goyer (The Forest; Blade II; The Unborn), adapted from Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same title. It stars Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal, Keith David, and Julie Warner.

When a flying saucer reportedly lands in rural Iowa, The Old Man (who runs a secret branch of the CIA), decides to investigate. He goes in person, accompanied by agents Sam (who is his son) and Jarvis, as well as Dr. Mary Sefton, a NASA specialist in alien biology.

They find that aliens have indeed landed and are planning to use their mind-control powers to take over our planet. The aliens are slug-like creatures, and they are attaching themselves to people’s backs, taking control of their victims’ nervous systems, and manipulating those people as puppets…

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“Sure, it’s hardly original and we’ve seen it many times before. But the stylish production reminds us of The X-Files and it makes us feel safe. We know this is gonna be a tense little experience without going downright silly with spaceships and laser guns. It’s down to earth and the focus is on the paranoia and some delicious slimey creature effects…” Ninja Dixon

The Puppet Masters is an overlong, repetitive, and shallow picture that fails to capitalize on its gripping opening minutes, sinking rather quickly into absurdity and boredom as more and more characters predictably come under the control of the parasites. It lacks chills and legitimate scares…” Martin Liebman,

” …The Puppet Masters is an ideal go-to if you’re in the mood in being shamelessly entertained. It’s cool, action packed, stunt heavy, sexy and filled to the brim with freaky tentacle abusing aliens.” Arrow in the Head

” …things get rather dull as the film plods on to its predictable conclusion, but the “hive” sequence is pretty cool.  It’s not in the same league as Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers remake from the same year, but so what? There are plenty of worse alien invasion flicks out there you can waste your time with.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

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“That everyone, heroes included, get to temporarily experience the aliens’ string-pulling powers is a nice touch; the fact that their emotionless personalities while possessed are no more flat and robotic than their regular demeanors, however, is emblematic of this supernatural adventure’s pervasive dullness.” Nick Schager, Lessons of Darkness

“The characters in the film seem to come post-informed by the body snatchers genre – they automatically seem to know what it going on and are prepared to fight it – and the rapidity of the progression is confusing. The film becomes far more interesting when it gets to the scenes with the agents chasing the parasite through the OSI offices.” Richard Scheib, Moria

” …The Puppet Masters becomes a choppy, un-suspenseful succession of chases, melodramatic showdowns and routine special effects. Mr. Sutherland invests his role with a glowering ferocity that lends the film a psychological weight whenever he is on the screen. The rest of the cast, rather like the Iowans once their bodies have been taken over, merely go through the motions demanded by the genre.” Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Cast and characters:

  • Donald Sutherland as Andrew Nivens (The Old Man) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Don’t Look Now; Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors; Castle of the Living Dead
  • Eric Thal as Sam Nivens – Down aka The Shaft
  • Julie Warner as Mary Sefton – Dexter (TV series); Flatliners
  • Keith David as Alex Holland – Pitch Black; The Grave; They Live; The Thing
  • Will Patton as Dr. Graves – Boarding School; The Mothman Prophecies; Copycat
  • Richard Belzer as Jarvis
  • Tom Mason as President Douglas
  • Yaphet Kotto as Ressler – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare; Warning SignAlien
  • Sam Anderson as Culbertson
  • J. Patrick McCormack as Gidding
  • Marshall Bell as General Morgan
  • Nicholas Cascone as Greenberg
  • Bruce Jarchow as Barnes
  • Benjamin Mouton as Higgins
  • David Pasquesi as Vargas
  • Andrew Robinson as Hawthorne – Hellraiser
  • Benj Thall as Jeff
  • William Wellman, Jr. as Doctor
  • Dale Dye as Brande
  • John C. Cooke as Lt. Abbey
  • Michael Shamus Wiles as Capt. Earley

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Wikipedia | IMDb | Related: The Brain Eaters

Categories: 1990s, adaptation of a novel, alien, Blu-ray, body horror, possession, science fiction

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2 replies

  1. Never understood why folks didn’t like this one more.Guess not enough lame one liners and explosions and too much intelligence.

  2. Yes, I remember this movie. Wow, great storyline and photography. Trust no-one is a truly suitable quote for it.

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