The Puppet Masters (1994)

Unfortunate enough to share a name with a brand of dirt-cheap Charles Band movies (but completely disconnected from them) I always figured that The Puppet Masters would be just as schlocky. It ain’t art, but it is decent, low-brow, brainless entertainment.

A bunch of alien manta-rays land in Iowa in a confusing opening sequence. The authorities arrive and discover that the locals are slowly being turned into mindless slaves to their alien hosts. Sound like the X-Files? It very much does play out like a 3-part episode with virtually the exact same character dynamic and interaction. The tagline for the movie is even ‘Trust no one’.

It also feels like a John Carpenter movie in some respects (the presence of Keith David, who really ought to be in every movie, only adds to this). And while it’s a fairly non-epic movie it does feature some nice anamorphic Panavision photography and a bunch of character actors to keep you entertained in-between the silly plot developments.

As well as feeling the X-Files it also comes across as an Invasion of the Body Snatchers rip-off, odd since co-star Donald Sutherland was in one of those movies. Four years later another very similar film called The Faculty also featured mind-controlling alien parasites, as well as the Brain Slugs from Futurama. But apparently it’s taken from a novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein but with little in common, perhaps thanks to a zillion re-writes.

These kinds of movies often have some kind of political subtext, but Puppet Masters embraces its low-brow but clever silliness and ends up a guilty pleasure.