12th Aug2013

Rewind: ‘Puppetmaster Axis of Evil’ review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Levi Fiehler, Jenna Gallaher, Taylor M. Graham, Tom Sandoval, Aaron Riber, Ada Chao | Written by August White | Directed by David DeCoteau

PuppetmasterX

Ah, the Puppetmaster series. Once long thought dead, Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil resurrects the franchise and tries to re-capture the spirit of what many consider the high point in the series – the World War 2 set third film, Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. I’ve long-been a fan of the Puppetmaster series, and Full Moon in general – even going as far as buying the ridiculously overpriced DVD boxset some years ago. In anticipation of the UK release of the eleventh film in the series, we’re taking a look back at the tenth movie (and ninth official sequel, Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys is not considered an official ‘canon’ movie fact fans) Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil

Following Toulon’s death (as seen inPuppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge), physically disabled furniture maker Danny Coogan (Fiehler) finds a crate belonging to the old man containing a variety of puppets believed to possess the ability to move without strings. When he also discovers that two undercover Nazi assassins, Max (Sandoval) and Klaus (Riber), along with beautiful Japanese saboteur Ozu (Chao), are after Toulon’s secrets and plan to attack a local weapons manufacturing plant he decides to intervene. Realising Danny is on to them, the Nazis attack his family and kidnap his girlfriend, Beth (Gallaher), in order to lure him into their trap. But, with the help of Blade, Pinhead, Jester, Tunneler, Leech Woman and all-new Ninja, Danny is more than willing to take the fight to the Nazis.

The film starts as it means to go on, with the classic shot of the Bodega Bay Inn that has been a stalwart of the series since the original film, followed by a superb prologue that features all-new footage edited superbly together with footage from the opening of the third film and the death of Andre Toulon. As a long-time fan of the series the prologue was like revisiting an old friend – the familiar musical strains, the legend that is William Hickey as Toulon, Blade, Jester et al. – at the same time watching it did fill me with a sense of dread, I feared that the rest of the film wouldn’t live up to the opening, or the films that had come before it.

I needn’t have worried.

Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil is another great entry into the Puppetmaster series – admittedly none of these films are going to win any awards, but for fans of the franchise this tenth film does not disappoint. Well, almost… Plot, acting, cinematography – they’re all fantastic. The cinematography is particularly superb, with shadowy visuals that really help convey a sense of foreboding throughout the movie. However the puppet design… Not so great. Yes, like the previous (unofficial) film the puppets have undergone a slight remodel and as a long-time fan I found the new look a little off-putting, as for the new “Ninja” puppet – urgh, don’t get me started. It looks awful and totally out of place, even compared to the remodelled original line-up.

But when all’s said and done, Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil is a must-see for fans of the Puppetmaster series. The conclusion of the film does leave the story wide open for the forthcoming eleventh film and the introduction of Six-Shooter. Roll on the sequel I say…

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