Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017)

Starring George Appleby, Tonya Kay, Paul Logan, Kevin Scott Allen, Tania Fox, Alynxia America, Lilou Vos, Daniele Romer, Kyle Devero, Allen Perada, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Kip Canyon, Rob Vardaro

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Women, Six Shooter, Blitzkrieg, Bombshell, Weremacht

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


If I remember right, sometime around the release of the last Puppet Master movie, 2012’s Axis Rising, Charles Band announced that Full Moon would give the people what they want and deliver a new Puppet Master film every year. They do it with the Evil Bong films, but with Puppet Master I thought it was an especially ambitious claim. It is one they did not make good on, but given the attention paid to the production of Puppet Master: Axis Termination it definitely ended up better for everyone. Five years is a long time, but a good movie is worth more than five half-ass ones with a meager handful of tepid thrills. So yeah, the new Puppet Master is a fantastic addition to the series.

The story is not the film’s strong point, but I doubt anyone would’ve expected it to be. It’s basically just Toulon’s puppets vs. the Nazi puppets like the previous Axis films, but now with better characters! Not in terms of their depth or anything high-brow like that, more like the vanilla-white couple of Danny (Kip Canyon) and Beth (Jean Louise O’Sullivan) are immediately killed off and replaced with a musclebound soldier (Paul Logan), the dwarf magician Dr. Ivan Ivanov from Decadent Evil (now played by George Appleby) and a voodoo priestess (Alynxia America). The Nazis boast a powerful magician of their own in Sturmbahnfurher Steiner Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen), as well as his boss, the strong-willed puppet master Doktor Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay). Maybe I’m just rusty with my Puppet Master knowledge, but I don’t ever remember this kind of purely magical stuff in the series, but regardless I loved the flavor it added to the film.

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The Vault (2000)

Starring Leopoldo Mandeville, Ted Lyde, Shani Pride, Michael Cory Davis, Kyle Walker, Austin Priester, James Black, Parris Washington, Java Benson

Directed by James Black

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Vault sees a group of students and their teacher taking a trip to Washington High School. This field trip is not along the usual lines, though, as Washington High is rundown, boarded up and set to be demolished. The teacher, Mr. B (Ted Lyde), wishes his students, who are all delinquents in some form, to appreciate their opportunities and their education, and he thinks that taking them to visit his old school will do this. But it’s not Washington’s place in Mr. B’s history that draws him to it, it’s more because of its history before it was a school. During the 1800s, it served as a way station for the slave trade, and so in connecting to this history he hopes his students will leave with a newfound respect and outlook on their world.

Of course, The Vault is a horror movie, so you know things are not going as planned. Before we meet the teacher and his students, we are clued in that something supernatural is afoot in the school — particularly behind a locked door in the basement: the titular vault. It’s common for B-Movies to start with something to grab your attention, but I think in this case, it would’ve been more effective to have placed the confidence on the audience and the strength of the premise. But The Vault is barely longer than an hour as it is, and I don’t know that the main portion of the movie could withstand more fattening. It’s already kind of slow as it is, so I guess I should stop now and just concede that the film is in its best state as it was released. Hahahaha.

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Vengeance of the Dead (2001)

Vengeance of the Dead (2001)
AKA Sleepwalker

Starring Michael Galvin, Mark Vollmers, Susan Karsnick, Andrea Washburn, Bob Wilson, Dan Kelly, Dick Furniss, Ashley Bodart, June Gracious, Wil Brochtrup

Directed by Don Adams & Harry James Picardi

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The early 2000s were a low period for Full Moon productions, and in the case of Vengeance of the Dead, Full Moon simply acted as the film’s distributor. The directing duo of Don Adams & Harry James Picardi would later make Jigsaw for the company, but Vengeance of the Dead (or, as they originally and more aptly titled it, Sleepwalker) is purely the product of amateur passion and ingenuity. It is a film made for the love of it all and it shows, even through the film’s slow pace and relative lack of energy. The success of selling the distribution rights to your amateur horror film is a pretty big achievement, though, and the film is definitely worthy of its release (unlike many low-budget films I’ve seen 🙂 ).

Eric (Michael Galvin) is visiting his grandfather (Mark Vollmers), because that’s what good kids do. His grandpa is a nice guy, living is a modest house in a small town. Grandma died not too long ago, so the company is welcome (although it could be said that in most cases, grandkids visiting is always a welcome occurrence). Anyway, the guys catch up over a beer or two, and they open the final Christmas present that Grandma had squirreled away for Eric: a model rocket. It’s just an everyday, normal visit until they launch the rocket and it lands in the debris of a demolished home. While looking for the rocket, Eric takes an old spoon that catches his eye… but it seems that is not all Eric took home with him!

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Dead & Rotting (2002)

Starring Stephen O’Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod, Christopher Suciu, Beth Biasella, Tammi Sutton, Jamie Star

Directed by David P. Barton

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I always hope to like the movie I’m watching, but I must admit that I started Dead & Rotting with a real sinking feeling. The title seemed prophetic of the film’s quality, and its ugly cover art (see above) didn’t reassure me any. So when I began the film and it wasn’t an immediate train wreck, my spirits lifted a bit. A few minutes in, I actually thought to myself, “This is actually pretty good!” By the end of the film, I had been converted completely, and I can now declare Dead & Rotting to actually be one of the best Full Moon films of the early 2000s. Maybe now I’ll have learned my lesson not to judge a movie by its title/cover, but with Full Moon movies like Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play still on deck for review, I’m unsure if it’ll stick.

Three prankster buddies are out for a night ride in their truck, daring each other to check out a scary house in the woods rumored to be the house of a witch. Before they can get too close, though, they meet a weird, dirty man who runs them off the property by attacking the truck with some kind of animal on a stick. One thing leads to another and the witch sets out to curse the men, asking them, “Do you know what it feels like to be dead and rotting?” It’s a fairly simple, straightforward movie and it’s also short, so I’ll leave it at that. You get the gist.

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Evil Bong 666 (2017)

Starring Mindy Robinson, Sonny Carl Davis, Michelle Mais, Robin Sydney, Jessica Morris, The Don, Bobby Ramos, Caleb Hurst, Orson Chaplin, Tonya Kay, Megan Sage, Samantha McGee, Brooks Davis

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Despite the numbering, Evil Bong 666 is technically the series’ 7th entry, and for my money it’s one of the best Full Moon films in years. I know that isn’t saying a lot because Full Moon’s output has been pretty lackluster for a while, but just in terms of simple entertainment it’s probably the best Bong since Evil Bong 2: King Bong. Of course, your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for the usual stoner logic and antics that fills these films, but I imagine anyone interested enough to read a review of a movie like Evil Bong 666 is on-board, strapped-in and ready to roll.

Evil Bong 666 follows the basic storefront formula of the last few Evil Bong films, but it changes up the energy by replacing the series’ star character, Larnell (John Patrick Jordan), with a new store owner, Lucy Furr (Mindy Robinson). This might seem like a small detail, but it changes the film’s course considerably. Instead of seeing Larnell and/or Rabbit (Sonny Carl Davis) handling a steady stream of customers — something we’ve seen way more than anyone ever needs to — now we have the devious, Satan-loving Lucy Furr taking care of business. It’s a whole new ballgame. It not only breathes life into the store scenes, it packs the bowl for another round. And thankfully, there’s actually not that many store scenes! I’d have preferred another David DeCoteau cameo instead of one of the lamer scenes, but you can’t win them all.

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Mini-Review: Hell Asylum (2002)

AKA Prison of the Dead 2

Starring Debra Mayer, Tanya Dempsey, Sunny Lombardo, Stacey Scowley, Olimpia Fernandez, Timothy Muskatell, Joe Estevez, Brinke Stevens, Matt Moffett, Trent Haaga

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


My first exposure to director Danny Draven was with his most recent directorial work for Full Moon: Reel Evil. That movie stands firm as one of the worst Full Moon movies in my eyes, so to start up Hell Asylum and almost immediately feel similar vibes, I knew I was in trouble. While the plots aren’t exactly the same, from what I remember of Reel Evil you could almost call it a remake of Hell Asylum. Both films feature a group of people trapped in a “real” haunted asylum to film a show/movie, expecting scares/FX but getting killed by real ghosts. Reel Evil goes into a more direct, found-footage direction to capture the proceedings, but the seeds of that are in Hell Asylum as well, with headset cams that annoyingly cut in and out to static every few seconds.

My predisposition to dislike a movie like this is not the only concern with Hell Asylum, either. It’s barely over an hour long, but something like 20 minutes of that is just unnecessary setup and filler. First we see an overlong pitch meeting — scored with ominous music — where an executive (Joe Estevez, the film’s bright spot) is sold on the idea of five hot chicks in an old mansion/asylum getting scared for the chance to win a million dollars. Then we see the girls’ audition tapes, where they explain themselves and their darkest fears. Using their fears against them was the most intriguing part of the pitch, reminding me of the Stephen King novel It, but there’s nothing engaging that actually comes of it. Next is a lengthy explanation of the rules of the game. It all adds up to extreme boredom and disinterest. Lot of repetitive, meaningless talking heads do not make for a good horror film.

Other than the presence of Joe Estevez, the only redeeming quality of Hell Asylum is its approach to gore. Full Moon’s films are generally light in this department, and Hell Asylum looks like it wants to make up for lost time. There is a distinct choice in favor of ridiculously over-the-top gore, particularly featuring lots of ripped-out intestines. I appreciated this desire to spice things up where other Full Moon films have failed, but the thing I found most enjoyable was the very small diameter of the intestines they used. We all have a basic idea of what human intestines look like, but whatever is in Hell Asylum is much smaller and stringier. Whatever they were or were supposed to be, I don’t honestly know, but wondering about this was the closest thing to engagement that Hell Asylum provided.

I put a lot of time into my writing hobby, but I don’t consider amateur writing to be hard work. Sitting through Hell Asylum, though, was a tough day at the office.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be checking in with Ted Nicolaou’s Moonbeam film Dragonworld! See ya then!

Frankenstein Reborn! (1998)

Starring Jason Simmons, Ben Gould, Haven Paschall, Ethan Wilde, George Calin, Oana Stefanescu, Claudiu Trandafir, Roxana Popa

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Frankenstein Reborn! was to be the first of a multi-film series for Full Moon called Filmonsters!, with each film bringing a classic film monster into the Full Moon fold. As a huge fan of the classic monsters (who isn’t?), I would’ve loved to see this series take off. Unfortunately it died a premature death after the release of this film and its concurrently produced sibling The Werewolf Reborn!. The movie even opens with a cool series intro, featuring the Puppet Master puppets resurrecting the monsters in a spooky graveyard. It’s similar to the scene in Puppet Master II, and some of it may even be footage from Puppet Master II. It’s been too long since I saw it to be sure, but regardless it sets the tone perfectly for a short monster movie.

When I say short, I mean it: Frankenstein Reborn! runs about 46 minutes (with a few of those devoted to the intro and credits). The brevity of the movie allows it to just rip through the story and entertain constantly, but I was also left unsatisfied. I don’t think I’d have preferred an 80–90 minute version of this movie, but it barely felt like I watched a movie. Later in the day, I thought to myself, “Oh, I guess I’m not watching a movie today, it’s too late to start one,” before realizing quickly thereafter that I had already watched Frankenstein Reborn!

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