Director Matt Wisniewski’s puppet horror short Toy Terminator is his follow-up to the 2019 short film Pappy’s World, and somehow it is even more irreverent and mind-boggling than its predecessor.
Pappy the puppet was a maniacal Christmas present in that earlier short, and here he makes a return as the best friend of a human (Fred Polone, who co-wrote this short and Pappy’s World with Wisniewski and also starred in the earlier short). Said human’s house is a torture chamber for puppets other than Pappy, and when the unhinged human falls asleep after dinner, the puppets seek revenge on Pappy.
Polone plays over the top — in a good way — as a gleefully maniacal man who may be suffering from some sort of post-war PTSD. The character is certainly at war here, as well, with the bizarre-looking puppets in his home and in his mind with other conflicts, too.
The humor is edgy and dark in Toy Terminator, and plenty of absurdity is at play, as well. Wisniewski invests the short with frenetic, dizzying energy. The puppet creations boast bizarre designs and the puppeteers do a fine job of animating them.
Toy Terminator recalls — and is a valentine to — low-budget controversial puppet horror films (think the Puppet Master franchise and Meet the Feebles, for example). Wisniewski and Polone have struck again, carving themselves a squirm-inducing — on multiple levels — niche in the world of current horror shorts.(3.5 / 5)