Directed by Brandon Christensen, ‘The Puppetman’ is a horror movie of 2023 that’ll force you to face your worst fears. Featuring Michael Paré, Alyson Gorske, Caryn Richman, Angel Prater, Jayson Therrien, Zachary Le Vey, Anna Telfer, and Cameron Wong, the film chronicles the story of Michal (Alyson Gorske), who’s forced to confront her darkest fears and childhood traumas when her friends start killing themselves one by one. Michal confronts her father in hopes of getting some much-needed answers, only to find that she’s the one pulling all the strings.
Alyson Gorske is believable in the starring role. She is especially good at portraying Michal’s more reserved personality—the introvert, the damaged soul pleading acceptance of her troubled existence. The unconventional typical horror themes like death and the battle between good and evil, coupled with concerns like childhood trauma and sexual abuse, render ‘The Puppetman’ an exciting watch. Through eerie flashbacks and spine-tingling moments, the film also casts light on the human struggle to confront and overcome the ghosts of one’s past. Given the film’s analysis of serious themes, one might wonder if ‘The Puppetman’ is based on real events. Here are the facts.
Is The Puppetman a True Story?
No! ‘The Puppetman’ is not based on a true story. Brandon Christensen, known for his involvement in films such as ‘Still Born,’ ‘Superhost,’ ‘Bliss,’ and ‘What Keeps You Alive,’ is the creative force behind the latest Shudder original. However, Brandon worked on the aforementioned films as a visual effects specialist, marking ‘The Puppetman’ his first directorial debut. ‘The Puppetman’ distinguishes itself from its contemporaries by exploring the concept of mind control, steering away from the more typical theme of demonic possession seen in many horror films.
The antagonist possesses an ability to control minds, selectively targeting and eliminating anyone it deems a danger to its own survival. Instead of the conventional possession, where a demon or evil entity takes over a single person to wreak havoc on others, ‘The Puppetman’ exercises a chilling dominion over multiple characters. Each victim is coerced into self-inflicted harm, compelling them to turn against themselves. The characters in the film, spanning from Michal to supporting characters like Danny (Kio Cyr), Jo ( Anna Telfer), and Charlie (Angel Prater), find themselves at the mercy of the evil’s mind-control powers.
When questioned why he chose to concentrate his film on “mind-control” rather than possession, writer-director Brandon Christensen stated that for the first time in his career, the original idea wasn’t his own. Producer Matt Manjourides reached out to him to collaborate on ‘The Puppetman’ project, centered around an unseen force that can control actions but not thoughts or emotions. Brandon found the disconnect interesting—the idea that actions and expressions could convey different things. Brandon appreciated the idea of ‘unnatural selection,’ where the character traits are exploited for horror.
Brandon also said that he took some ideas for ‘The Puppetman’ death scenes from the Final Destination series. When asked about the same, Brandon stated that he welcomed the creative challenge of planning a unique death, given his devotion to the highly successful Final Destination franchise. For him, writing scenes that hint at an impending death by dropping subtle clues about the characters’ fates was one of the most fascinating parts of the writing process.
Brandon continued that despite the characters’ understanding of their fate in ‘The Puppetman,’ maintaining tension and surprise was a priority. This involved creating sequences where a single misstep could lead to an unexpected death, keeping the audience engaged in the characters’ dance with danger. For instance, Danny’s self-inflicted injury signaled his fate, yet the element of surprise in how it would turn out maintained the suspense.
Brandon further remarked, “That’s one thing that Final Destination does so well. It creates these sequences where one thing can go wrong, and the tension comes from how the character dances through the dangers until the most unexpected thing takes them out. The Puppetman was a little different because the characters are aware — but you’re still trying to find those tension points. So when Danny breaks his own finger — the audience knows he’s done for; they just don’t know how yet.”
So, In a nutshell, ‘The Puppetman’ doesn’t have any basis in reality. The film is a byproduct of inspirations drawn from blockbuster hits like ‘Final Destination,’ laced with a director’s passion to send shivers down the audience’s spine, much like the shivers he felt growing up. The movie taps into the collective psyche, playing on the fear of the unknown and the eerie feeling that someone—or something—is pulling the strings. Like a kid who peeks beneath the bed, half-terrified and half-curious, ‘The Puppetman’ forces its audience to face its worst fears amid the darkness of theatres.
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