The Puppetman (2023) Movie Review – This cliched horror movie lacks imagination

This cliched horror movie lacks imagination


“The devil made me do it.”

“There was a solar eclipse.”

“It was my doppelganger.”

“I didn’t have any breakfast that morning.”

These are all defences for murder that are unlikely to hold up in court. If somebody were to stand before a judge and say “Somebody was using me like its puppet,” that would also be a poor defence for anybody convicted of killing somebody.

But in The Puppetman, a rather lacklustre new horror entry currently streaming on Shudder, people are being controlled by something that possesses their bodies and makes them do unspeakable things. 

In the opening scene, a man brutally kills his wife while telling her “It’s not me.” The judge clearly didn’t believe this story when he showed up in court as we discover he was imprisoned for the crime and put on Death Row.

Following the harrowing prologue, the movie moves into the future where we meet the man’s daughter, Michal (Alyson Gorske), who hears news about her father’s impending execution. This information is troubling enough for the stressed-out young woman but her life becomes even more traumatic when people start dying around her.

It’s not long before Michal realizes their deaths might have something to do with an entity named Dolos, aka The Puppetman, who may have migrated to her body after controlling her father. Is this demon now pulling her strings? There will be no spoilers here but to be honest, you likely won’t care about the movie’s plot turns due to the muddled mythos surrounding The Puppetman and the bland lead character that is difficult to root for. 

These shortcomings are disappointing as the movie does begin quite well. The murder of Michal’s mother at the beginning of the story is suitably horrific and when we discover Michal’s parents locked her in a cage when she was younger, the plot begins to intrigue. Were they abusive towards her? Did they consider her dangerous? These are the questions you’ll likely ask yourself after learning of her imprisonment.

But when we fast forward to the future and meet the older Michal and her college friends, interest in the movie quickly begins to wane.

For a while, the story is less focused on horror and more centred on Michal’s psychological battle with her grief and personal traumas. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the writing was more inspired but as it is, the plot points surrounding her mental state are actually rather dull. 

Things get better (at least for horror fans) when the people closest to Michal start dropping like flies. One person falls to their death from a building, another sets herself on fire, and in one horrible moment, a day at the gym takes a very nasty turn for one unfortunate victim of the titular monster. These deaths are gruesome to behold and are genuinely unnerving and they do much to maintain interest in the movie whenever it threatens to send the audience to sleep. 

Sadly, the movie falls down when it tries to explore Michal’s childhood and her relationship with her parents, and the ways in which this troubled family have connections with the string-pulling demon. As we aren’t given enough backstory into the mythos of this evil entity and the reasons why it is seemingly making people do terrible things, it’s difficult to become invested in the events that happen on screen.

During the midway point, we are introduced to a psychic who speaks in ominous tones when she warns Michal’s friends about the demon known as Dolos. To save Michal, they must “trick the trickster,” according to the worried clairvoyant, but despite the potential for a juicy face-off after this revelation, we get nothing of the sort. Writer-director Brandon Christensen (Superhost) fails to ramp up the tension or excitement levels thanks to the boring and messy screenplay that lacks imagination and coherent thought.

So, what we have here is another disappointing movie on Shudder. It’s elevated by the memorable death scenes and the promising beginning that holds unrealized potential. But the whole project is undermined by the workmanlike script that climaxes with an ending that is just as confusing as the events that happened before it.

Perhaps Christensen forgot to eat his Weetabix on the morning when he came up with the idea for his movie. Or maybe he wrote the screenplay during an eclipse which distracted him from his thoughts. Or perhaps he did have a better movie in him but a controlling puppetmaster forbade him from writing a good script when he was sat at his computer.

None of these defences will hold up in front of horror fans who will be disappointed by this cliched and frustrating horror movie. 


Read More: The Puppetman Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 4.5/10

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