[Review] TOY TERMINATOR: Man vs. Puppet in Irreverent Horror Short

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 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.