Thursday, January 18, 2018

PUPPET MASTER: AXIS TERMINATION (2017) 


PUPPET MASTER: AXIS TERMINATION (2017) 

Label: Full Moon Features
Region: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 75 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widecsreen
Director: Charles Band
Cast: George Appleby, Tonya Kay, Paul Logan, Kevin Scott Allen , Tania Fox, Alynxia America, Lilou Vos, Daniele Romer, Kyle Devero, Allen Perada

Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017) is what I believe to be the final entry in the Axis trilogy of Puppet Master films, I kind of enjoyed the first entry Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010) but apparently didn't love it enough to seek out the sequel Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), so I came into this one with a narrative deficit. This entry was bolstered by an indiegogo campaign that raised additional money to finish up the special effects, it then aired in three half hour segments on Full Moon's streaming service, and debuted back in October on the El Rey network, so it's had an interesting life leading up to this Blu-ray release. 

The movie itself opens with the death of Danny (Kip Canyon, a gay porno name if I've ever heard one!) and Beth (Jean Louise O'Sullivan, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver) from the previous Axis films, they're both shot dead by a treacherous American officer in the opening scene, but they're avenged within seconds by another soldier, the all-American Brooks (Paul Logan, The Horde), who shoots and kills their assassin, recovering Toulon's trunk, inside it are the surviving puppets. Brooks reports back to his commanding officer Gen. Kip Hansford (Allen Perada, Body Snatchers) who aligns Brooks with a Russian dwarf mystic named Dr. Ivan (George Appleby, Ravenwolf Towers), and together they assemble a special Nazi-crushing unit, sort of like the X-Men of the Puppet Master universe. We have Dr. Ivan the occult-mystic, his clairvoyant daughter Elisa (Tania Fox) and the sex-magic priestess Georgina (Alynxia America, TV's Sex Sent Me to the ER). The American allies are pitted against a group of Nazis, who also have their own dark powers, we have Doktor Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay, Creepy Van) and Sturmbahnfurher Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen) the latter of whom wields an ancient form of old God Cthulhu magic, which manifests itself in a wispy red clouds, allowing him to have control others and torture them. The Nazi super-team is rounded up by the syringe-fingered Oberheller Friede Steitze played by Lilou Vos, who up till this point I only new as the "Netflix for lunatics" girl from the Full Moon streaming service promos. While watching the film my son was quick to quip that they stole the syringe-finger from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1993), at which point I knew I was a good horror-dad, my kid knows his shit! The Nazis also have their own trio of evil-puppets, which I guess debuted in the last film, we have the werewolf Weremacht, a big busted babe Bombshell who's iron bra hides a pair of guns, and the unstoppable tank-like Blitzkrieg.

The film is just eighty-five minutes long but I found that it still felt a bit long in the tooth at that, Charles Band's direction is not so much stylish as bathed in colored gel lighting to give it some cheap production value bathed in purple, red, green and blue lighting, perhaps hiding the low-budget limitations of a period setting. It's not awful, I'll even say it has some promising
moments, including some delightfully over-the-top Nazi-vamping from Allen and Kay, the latter of whom I would love see in a women-in-prison film as a wicked warden, she's be great!

It's a cheapie for sure, but Band manages to make it look decent with the colored gel lighting and decent puppet work from the 1313FX team, including John Devlin and John Lechago (director of Bio Slime). While decent the marionette affects are still pale compared to the great stop-motion work that David Allen (Robot Jox) was doing for the first handful of Puppet Master movies, he set the bar high, but since Puppet Master 5 the puppets just haven't had the life they once had. Sure, some of the new puppet creation designs are cool, but they don't have the stop-motion spark of life that Allen brought to them, they're puppeteered, which dials it down several notches as far as articulation and expressions go. That the puppets are even as cool as they are here I guess can be credited to the contributors to the indiegogo campaign that bolstered the effects budget, so thanks for that donors! There's some minor gore and bloodshed here, not a bunch and not too gory, but a handful of decent stabs and digital squibs are thrown in there.

Audio/Video: Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017) arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features looking solid in it's 1080P HD widescreen (1.78:1) presentation, the image darkly lit film has good black levels the swaths of colored lighting are reproduced well, shot on digital there's no grain management issues, a very looking digital source. As usual per Full Moon HD releases we do not get a lossless audio option, choosing to go with both surround and stereo Dolby Digital presentations, for a lossy track it does just fine, dialogue and the Richard Band (Re-Animator)score are well-balanced and clean.

Onto the extras we get a 4-min spotlight on director Charles Band directing scenes, another 2-min spotlight with actress Jean Louise O'Sullivan who says kind words of Band and her time on the Axis franchise, an 8-min FX featurette, the actors promoting the film for a few minutes, a 3-min piece with the indie-a-go-go contributors who were cast in small roles, and a selection of Full Moon Trailers. This single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the usual Photoshop collage of puppets from the film, the disc itself features a photo collage of the characters and puppets that can also be found on the backside of the Blu-ray artwork.         

Special Features:
 

- Director Spotlight: Charles Band (4 min) HD
- Monstercraft: Inside 1313FX (8 min) HD
- Actor's Spotlight: Jean Louise O'Sullivan (2 min) HD 
- Things Actors Say (2 min) HD 
- On Set with the Indiegogo Contributors (3 min) HD
- Full Moon Trailers: Ravenwolf Towers (2 min) HD, Killjoy Psycho Circus (2 min) HD, Puppet Master (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 2 (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 3 (2 min) HD, Puppet Master X (2 min) HD, Head of the Family (2 min) HD, Spectres (2 min) HD  

pretty much settled into the fact about a decade ago that there would never be another Puppet Master entry as good as Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991), or the two films that preceded it, but I keep coming into these new entries with a horror-heart chock full of hope and nostalgia. Sure, I'm disappointed pretty much every time to a large extent, this film drags despite the short running time and promising superhero/occult trappings, but there's still something inherently dumb and fun about this series. It's not a great film, not even a very good Puppet Master entry, but I do admire that Full Moon keep chipping away at the franchise for better or worse, though this is without a doubt a lesser entry, but not the worst, lets just say it's in the bottom third for me.  

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