Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)

Starring Levi Fiehler, Jenna Gallaher, Taylor M. Graham, Tom Sandoval, Jerry Hoffman, Mike Brooks, Ada Chao, Aaron Riber, Erica Shaffer, Zhang Xiangfu, Gu Yingfeng

Puppet Cast: Blade, Pinhead, Jester, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Ninja

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: I hope it’s better than Demonic Toys 2.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
twostar


Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is a great example of the line that separates trash and art. The film contains some of the best cinematography in Full Moon’s history and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into making this film look as good as they could make it look. After watching the behind the scenes vidcasts though, the film was actually made incredibly quickly, so the finished product is all the more impressive. On the other side of that coin, the film features some of the worst acting the company has to offer (I expect no less from David DeCoteau… No hard feelings though) as well as one of the most boring and factually inaccurate scripts I’ve ever witnessed. Because it skirts this line so well, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil ends up being neither good nor playfully bad, instead staying relatively safe and boring.

I love the Puppet Master films despite how poor a lot of them are. I came into this film excited, as the trailer made it look like they had actually stepped up the production values for once. Oddly though, instead of beefing up the FX budget or the script, they focused most of the money on the visual aesthetic, which isn’t the reason most people watch Full Moon movies so it seems like an odd choice. Imagine if they spent that money on the puppets! Despite this renewed focus on the visuals, virtually every set looks like a poorly dressed sound stage with flimsy-walled rooms constructed for that day’s scenes. It’s never really a problem except when there’s a wide shot with yet another wall covered by a giant American flag or a pair of propaganda war posters. In a strange way, it reminded me a lot of Lars von Trier’s set-less films Dogville & Mandarlay, where backgrounds and props were only minor mental cues to your imagination and the feeling of the sound stage was ever-present. If only Puppet Master: Axis of Evil had the acting and directing of Von Trier’s films.

Continue reading Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010) →

Mini-Review: Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003)

Starring (New Footage): Jacob Witkin, Kate Orsini

Starring (Stock Footage): William Hickey, Charlie Spradling, Sage Allen, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Aron Eisenberg, Gordon Currie, Chandra West, George Peck, Emily Harrison, Josh Green, Greg Sestero, Brigitta Dau, Stephen Blackehart, Jack Donner

Puppet Cast (New Footage): Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Six Shooter, Tunneler

Puppet Cast (Stock Footage): Egyptian Goblin, Leech Woman, Doctor Death, Drill Sergeant, Cyclops, Retro Blade, Retro Pinhead, Retro Six Shooter, Torch, Decapitron, Tank

Directed by Charles Band (as Robert Talbot)

Expectations: Extremely low, this is Puppet Master 8 and it’s mostly stock footage.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
onehalfstar


Okay, so this film is about 90-95% stock footage from the previous films in the series. This should discredit Puppet Master: The Legacy almost immediately, but wait! Don’t write it off just yet! There are two reasons why you might want to give this one a chance. First, if you’re a big fan you’ll want to see it for Full Moon’s somewhat noble attempt to place all the Puppet Master films in some sort of proper, epic order. Why make the films in your most popular series make sense chronologically the first time around, when you can produce a completely separate compilation film later on to “set things right”? There’s also a small framing storyline that actually ties into the series mythology in a fun, minor way for the hardcore fans, while technically serving this film as a bridge between the sections of stock footage. The other reason to watch this would be if you’ve never seen any of the Puppet Master films, and you have no intention of rooting through seven whole films before getting to this one. The film actually sums up the entirety of the series in a slim runtime just over 70 minutes! That’s either a very impressive editing job or a sad commentary on the amount of interesting story within the Puppet Master series, but I’ll go with the former.

Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot more to say about this one. It’s a bunch of stock footage. What else is there to say? The framing story is shaky, but it’s cool to see Evil Bong‘s Jacob Witkin get roped into the Puppet Master franchise in such a fun story twist. Nevermind that they never really explain anything that happens in between the previous films, so even with an entire film devoted to setting things right, there’s still a degree of mystery. I would expect no less from my friends at Full Moon. They also completely avoid any recap or footage from the awful Puppet Master 5, much to my delight.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments. During the flashback to Curse of the Puppet Master, they show one of the kills that features some stock footage from Puppet Master II. And then later in this film, they showed the scene from Puppet Master II that contained the shot that was aped for the later sequence in Curse of the Puppet Master. Puppet Master nerd laughs ahoy!

Dumb jokes aside, unless you’re really hardcore for Puppet Master or you want a quick rundown of the series’ greatest hits, watch something other than Puppet Master: The Legacy.

Next week, the Puppet Master-a-thon continues with the made for TV film starring Corey Feldman, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys!

Retro Puppet Master (1999)

Starring Greg Sestero, Brigitta Dau, Stephen Blackehart, Jack Donner, Guy Rolfe, Robert Radoveanu, Vitalie Bantas, Sando Teodor, George Calin, Juliano Doman, Vlad Dulea, Dan Fintescu

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Doctor Death, Drill Sergeant, Cyclops, Retro Blade, Retro Pinhead, Retro Six Shooter

Directed by David DeCoteau (as Joseph Tennent)

Expectations: Low, this is Puppet Master 7…if I have high expectations I’m just setting myself up for disaster.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


“Let’s begin!”

After an extended prologue, it is with this line that Retro Puppet Master truly begins and boy I never could have predicted just what an incredible journey it turned out to be. Followers of truly awful cinema know that Troll 2 holds the distinction of having some of the worst line delivery in film history. Retro Puppet Master comes close to that level of quality here, specifically the actors dubbing some of the character’s lines.

Lots of movie utilize ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) to fix a flubbed line or make a key change to a sentence. Perhaps the actor’s voice wasn’t quite captured on the recording. ADR is used in virtually every movie but in the case of Retro Puppet Master, it’s more of a first line of defense instead of a fine tuning post-production tool. The finished film ends up being something of a midway point between a traditional film and a spaghetti western, which were shot without sound and later had everything dubbed in after photography. The work here is so bad and careless that I’m positive I could do a better job despite never working a single day doing ADR. Not only do the actor’s deliver the lines stilted and without emotion, all the ambient noise drops out of the soundtrack when a dubbed voice speaks. It’s really quite comical and actually adds lots of enjoyment to what is otherwise a very slow-moving and boring film.

Continue reading Retro Puppet Master (1999) →

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

curse-of-the-puppet-master-movie-poster-1020540866Starring George Peck, Emily Harrison, Josh Green, Michael D. Guerin, Michael Sollenberger, Marc Newburger, Scott Boyer, Jason Dean Booher, Robert Donavan, Jason-Shane Scott

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Six Shooter, Matt, Tank

Directed by David DeCoteau (as Victoria Sloan)

Expectations: Pretty low after the last one.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
twohalfstar


After the abysmal Puppet Master 5, Charles Band wisely gave the series a few years off before coming out with film number six, Curse of the Puppet Master. It’s a definite improvement in the trajectory of the franchise, returning to the basic suspense / horror framework from the initial three films. Curse of the Puppet Master is not without its share of problems though, but thankfully they don’t detract from the fun too much as long as you’re willing to just roll with them.

It all starts on a dark and stormy night (really, it does) as a shadowy figure that looks like André Toulon shuffles past our puppet friends who are imprisoned in a large cage. He carries a medicine bag into the forest and then sets it on fire. It’s clear that something just isn’t right about all of this, but you’ll just have to stew in it a while longer before all the chips are in hand. If I give away too much of the story, the whole she-bang will unravel because this plot has been around the block more times than a French whore. As I’ve said before though, if they are able to fill in the gaps with good FX and quality filmmaking, I’m game every day of the week. Director David DeCoteau keeps the film fresh with some clever shots and atmospheric lighting, resulting in a film that provides enough fun to satisfy long-time fans, as well as introduce newcomers to the puppets and their unique brand of mayhem.

Continue reading Curse of the Puppet Master (1998) →

Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)

Starring Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Kristopher Logan, Aron Eisenberg, Walter Gotell, Sarah Douglas, Matthew Faison, Michelle Bauer

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Six Shooter, Egyptian Goblin (cameo)

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: High. Really enjoyed the last two, looking forward to this period entry.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


Puppet Master III is one of the more ambitious Full Moon pictures, seeking to shed light on puppet master Andre Toulon’s backstory by setting the entire film within 1941’s Nazi-controlled Germany. While it doesn’t always reach the heights it strives for (or even the heights of the previous two films), it still manages to be quite an enjoyable Puppet Master film thanks to a couple of good, inventive death scenes and a fairly interesting story. But know this, not a single puppet gets thrown into a wall during this one, so set your sights accordingly.

The Nazis are attempting to resurrect dead soldiers to use as meat shields, but only achieving very limited results. One of the Nazis attends one of Toulon’s shows, this one depicting a new cowboy puppet with six arms (Six Shooter) taunting and shooting at a puppet of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi confronts Toulon about it and questions him on his methods to make the puppets move without strings. After seeing and photographing some undeniable shit, the Nazi returns to headquarters and the hunt for Toulon and his secrets are on, with the Nazi doctor hoping to adapt the techniques to his work on animating cadavers. He’d probably be more successful hooking up with Dr. Herbert West though.

Continue reading Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) →

Puppet Master II (1991)

Starring Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, Gregory Webb, Charlie Spradling, Jeff Weston, Nita Talbot, Sage Allen, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Sean B. Ryan, Michael Todd, Julianne Mazziotti

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Torch, Egyptian Goblin (cameo)

Directed by Dave Allen

Expectations: High. I enjoyed the first one enough to be thoroughly stoked for this one.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threehalfstar


Puppet Master II definitely falls into the category of sequel that surpasses the original film. It is bigger and better in every way you’d want, featuring more puppets, more killings, and more puppets thrown against walls. What more can you ask of a low-budget horror movie? Full Moon does its flagship series proud and delivers a fun, over-the-top sequel sure to please fans of the original.

Puppet Master II opens with the puppets digging up the corpse of André Toulon and pouring a nasty green juice onto him. Rise from your grave! From here the film picks up loosely from the events of the first film. The surviving psychic from the first film, Alex, has been committed to a mental institution (and thus cannot appear in the sequel) and the Bodega Bay hotel has defaulted ownership to the federal government. The Bureau of Paranormal Investigations is dispatched to check the place out. It’s all harmless pranks and sexual encounters amongst the group until one night Tunneler creeps into one of their rooms and drills into a dude’s forehead. Let the carnage begin!

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Puppet Master (1989)

Starring Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe, Kathryn O’Reilly, Mews Small, Barbara Crampton

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: High. It’s THE Full Moon movie.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


The film that launched an empire! After the fall of Charles Band’s Empire International company he quickly regrouped and released Puppet Master, which was to be their next film, direct-to-video under the newly formed Full Moon Pictures banner. It’s a landmark film in the history of low-budget independent horror, but also one that divides me right down the middle. I love the premise. I love the puppets. I don’t love most of the human characters. This logic can be applied to many horror films with inhuman murderer protagonists, but there’s just something about Puppet Master that makes it hard to believe that this is the one the entire Full Moon company is built upon. Regardless, Puppet Master did gangbuster business at video shops across the country and just judging off of the box art and my love for the premise, it’s easy to see why. And to be fair, while this may be a lesser film in scope compared to most of the Empire films, it does deliver a lot a fun stuff in a much better way than a good portion of the direct-to-video fare I’ve seen over the years.

Continue reading Puppet Master (1989) →

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