The Film (4/5)
The back cover to Puppet Master: Axis of Evil proclaims it to be the first Puppet Master film in 10 years, which is kind of funny to me, seeing as how I have not watched any Puppet Master film in about that length of time. As I've said elsewhere on this site, I grew up as a horror video brat, and this was in the early 90's. This could also be considered the Golden Age of Full Moon. It was during this period that they put out their best and most memorable films. When my friends and I would have our weekend night horror movie marathons, we knew if the Full Moon logo was attached we would be having a good time.
This time was incredibly short lived, and the last Full Moon title I can remember genuinely enjoying was Dave Parker's zombie romp The Dead Hate the Living. Somewhere around December 2000, I found myself under the employ of the nearby Blockbuster franchise. It had been a few years since I'd seen a Full Moon film, but Blockbuster seemed to have them all, old and new. With numerous free rentals a week, I started devouring Full Moon titles again, everything from Killjoy and Dead and Rotting, to the last Puppet Master I can remember seeing Retro Puppet Master. I remember at the time not being pleased with this entry in the series, so when I received the DVD of Puppet Master: Axis of Evil I did not expect too much from it. I am happy to report, that my fears were unwarranted, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is not only the best Puppet Master movie since the early 90's, it is quite possibly the BEST Full Moon film since that time as well.
Now I will preface this portion of my review with the fact that I do not remember much of the continuity of the earlier films. I do remember the origin story of the puppets changed quite a bit over the course of the series. The reason I say this is because the film opens with quite possibly another take on the Andre Toulon origin from the earlier films, but I am not sure it is consistent with what came before.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil opens at the Bodega Bay Inn in the year 1939. Danny Coogan is a boy in his late teens who has a minor handicap that is keeping him out of fighting in World War II. At the moment he is staying with his Uncle who runs the seaside inn. Danny has recently made acquaintances with Andre Toulon, the puppet master. He knows that Toulon is on the run from the Nazis, and the reason is because of his puppets. These puppets have the ability to move free of any strings, and the Nazis want to know how he accomplishes this. It turns out the Nazis have tracked Toulon down to Bodega Bay, however, before his secrets can be found he hides the puppets, and kills himself. The Nazis leave empty handed.
Danny the only person to know Toulon's secret, quickly grabs the trunk containing the puppets, and takes them with him when he goes back home to Los Angeles the following week. It turns out that the Nazis who murdered Toulon are also in Los Angeles, and with the cooperation of a Japanese spy named Ozu, concocts a plan to blow up a weapons manufacturing plant where Danny's girlfriends Beth works. It is up to Danny with the help of the puppets to stop them from enacting there plan.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is nicely directed by genre vet David DeCoteau (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-A Rama, Wolves of Wall Street), who does an excellent job recreating the old Full Moon atmosphere my friends and I dug so much. The film is grounded by 2 excellent performances by Levi Fiehler and Jenna Gallaher as Danny and Beth respectively.
I may sound like I am gushing over this film, and I sort of am, but it is not without it's problems. Firstly, the film does drag in places, after the opening origin story, there is little to no action, until the third act. This is not too much of a problem, as the film is short, and the characters are at the very least interesting. The only other issue I have with the film, is the lack of any German accents used by the Klaus and Max characters. Not only did the actors sound like they were reading their lines of a cue card, but never once did I think they were anything more than a couple of American's pretending to be Nazis. I find these issues to be completely minor, as Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, succeeds in being an excellent Saturday night with a group of friends, fun as Hell, horror film.
Full Moon has presented Puppet Master: Axis of Evil with a nice 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The transfer is by no means perfect, but it is quite suitable for the material, with only a few moments of noticeable grain throughout the film. The audio is presented in a very solid English track. The dialogue is solid, and Richard Band's score comes through nice and clear.
There are 3 substantial extras on this DVD release of Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. The first and most relevant to the film is The Making of Evil: 13 Vidcasts from China. This is a behind-the-scenes featurette that goes into detail about the making of the film, which apparently, was shot in China. The second is No Strings Attached, the making of doc from the first Puppet Master. This is not anything new, and you probably saw this on the original video tape in the early 90's. The disc is rounded out with the trailers for all 9 Puppet Master films.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is the best Puppet Master film since the early 90's. It is also a fun and easy watch, a great Saturday night popcorn movie, in an era where a simple scary film seems to be a lost art. The A/V is solid, and the extras are decent. I for one cannot wait for Puppet Master 10, come on Charlie, bring it on! Highly recommended for those looking to have a fun time.