• Puppet Master: Axis Termination



    Released by: Full Moon Features
    Release date: November 15, 2017
    Directed by: Charles Band
    Cast: Paul Logan, Diana Prince, Tonya Kay, Kevin Scott Allen, Lilou Vos, Tania Fox, Alynxia America, David DeCoteau, Robin Sydney, Jean Louise O’Sullivan
    Year: 2017
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    The eleventh film in the Puppet Master franchise, Axis Termination is also the third and final film in the Axis trilogy. (The other two were Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, 2010, and Puppet Master: Axis Rising, 2012.) Set during World War II, each film focuses on the classic crew of puppets—so familiar to franchise fans—and their battle against the evil puppets of the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan, though the focus is squarely on Nazi Germany).

    U.S. Army Captain Brooks (Paul Logan) hooks up with a team of psychically empowered outcasts that include Russian dwarf and emotional projectionist Dr. Ivan Ivanov (George Appleby), his clairvoyant daughter Elisa Ivanov (Tania Fox), and sex magician Georgina Vale (Alynxia America). Joining them are Andre Toulon’s killer puppets Blade, Jester, Leech Woman, Six Shooter, Tunneler, and Pinhead. Their goal is to prevent the Axis powers from winning the war by using their own evil, sorcerous puppets, Bombshell, Weremacht, and Blitzkrieg. These are led by Dr. Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay) and Sturmbahnfurher Steiner Krabke (Kevin Sccott Allen). Unlike Toulon’s puppets, however, the Axis puppets are brought to pseudo-life by a green fluid.

    Directed by Charles Band, who also produced each installment in the series, Puppet Master: Axis Termination pays homage to the classic horror films of yesteryear, from Universal’s The Mummy’s Tomb (1942, wherein the leads from the previous film are dispatched before the film moves on to its new cast) to Re-Animator (1985), as well as referencing both A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). Given the state of the industry, much of the film’s small budget was raised via an online campaign. Regardless, the period aspect is only partially realized; the sets and automobiles fare well, though costumes and hairstyles are a mixed bag. The real problem is the shot-on-video look when a more grainy, filmic look would have better realized the milieu. At least Band avoids the modern trap of desaturating the color, going for pastel schemes akin to Mario Bava and Dario Argento’s work in Italy in the 1960s and ‘70s rather than anything seen on American screens in this day and age.

    While no one expects realism from Full Moon, the over-the-top acting does grate on one’s nerves after a while, though it’s offset by some excellent animatronic effects mixed with people in costumes. The movie also offers moments of grue that most fans will appreciate.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Full Moon Features brings the latest installment in the Puppet Master series to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition, placed on the disc in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot on high-grade digital video and went straight to the company’s streaming service on Amazon in three parts before being released as a whole on DVD and BD; without any kind of serious theatrical release, a decision was clearly made behind-the-scenes to not imbue the film with of artificial noise/grain to give it a more filmic look. As a result, the movie looks like a modern-day update of a shot-on-video movie from the 1980s: a little too hyper realistic and fluid, but with a whole hell of a lot of excess detail and strong colors that those releases didn’t share. In other words, there are few reasons to complain. Faces show fine delineation in pores, age spots, creases, wrinkles, and peach fuzz; fabrics and furniture are just as delineated. Black and gray levels are deep and gorgeous, with no loss of detail in any part of the frame regardless of lighting.

    For the film’s soundtrack, Full Moon has opted for two tracks, the first in English Dolby Digital 5.1, the second in English Dolby Digital 2.0. One must conclude that, given the super-low budget, Dolby Digital was chosen to save money, but neither track is particularly problematic. Naturally, the 5.1 track is the more robust of the two, though there aren’t a whole lot of sound effects to fill the various channels. Aurally, it’s fairly threadbare: dialogue, a few effects, and the score. Most of the time you only get two of those things at once, not that it proves all that detrimental to the final product. Dialogue is pretty easy to understand, despite the music being mixed a little higher.

    The disc opens with a promo of Full Moon’s channel on Amazon’s streaming service. There are more than an adequate number of extras including an original trailer for the movie, which runs a mere 1:17 and features scenes mostly from previous Puppet Master movies. (It’s amazing how quickly the shot of a young woman with hypodermic syringes for fingers has become iconic.) Other features include a spotlight on director Charles Band, which runs just shy of four minutes and reveals little about Band or the film (it’s a mix of behind-the-scenes footage featuring Band and interview snippets with actors Kevin Scott Allen, Allen Perada, and Lilou Vos); as well as a featurette titled "Monstercraft: Inside 1313FX." This lasts a little over eight minutes and is fairly informative despite its short duration; it also showcases the talents of Tom Devlin, Jeff Chang, Corey Klier, and Chris Arredondo, with Devlin describing his company’s work ethic.

    "Actor’s Spotlight: Jean Louise O’Sullivan" lasts for a over two minutes and covers her brief period on the set of the current film, which brings her time on the series to an end. She also quickly covers her other work for Full Moon. "On Set With the Indiegogo Contributors" is exactly what it sounds like: a three-minute featurette covering the Indiegogo contributors who were rewarded roles in the movie for their monetary contributions. They get to introduce themselves and state who they’re playing, with a few getting to say more, including describing the set and what it was like working as part of a team. Finally, "Things Actors Say" is a two-minute segment featuring some of the stars explaining why viewers should watch the film.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for Ravenwolf Towers (2016; 1:40), Killjoy Psycho Circus (2016; 1:50), Puppet Master (1989; 1:38), Puppet Master 2 (1990; 2:07), Puppet Master 3 (1991; 2:16), Puppet Master X (2012; 1:37), Head of the Family (1996; 1:48), and Specters (2012; 1:30).

    The Final Word:

    Despite being the eleventh film in the Puppet Master franchise, Axis Termination has more than its share of effective moments holding it back from disaster. Other than a lack of filmic grain, the image on Full Moon’s Blu-ray release looks terrific, with loads of detail and lurid color. Sound is solid, and there are ample extras for diehard fans to browse. All in all, one could certainly do worse than spend 75 minutes with this latest franchise installment.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!































    Comments 2 Comments
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      I went into this one with super low expectations as I didn't care for the first two Axis movies but I didn't mind this one. I thought it was a quick fun little flick. The puppet effects are still not good compared to the original 5 films but those people in puppet costume shots actually worked pretty well IMO.

      Can't wait for the reboot, the littlest reich. this august.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Someone described the Puppet Master movies to me as "the little franchise that could," which seemed apropos. I never expect much out of these, so it's kind of hard to be disappointed, but more often than not, I'm pleasantly surprised by how entertaining (and sometimes good) they are. That goes for the majority of Full Moon movies. They usually have decent to very good special effects, and they always have heart.
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