Puppet Master X: Axis Rising

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Puppet Master X: Axis Rising
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Puppet Master X: Axis Rising
Horror, Science Fiction
Full Moon Entertainment
October 9th, 2012
Release length: 1:28:00
While browsing the list of On Demand films in the Horror genre, I came across the latest entry into the Puppet Master franchise called Puppet Master X: Axis Rising. I had personally been unaware the series was still being made, knowing only of the first three, and the crossover in 2003 against the Demonic Toys. But, low and behold, here was the tenth in the continuing story line, and it involves nazis in America. How could one pass up instantly renting, even buying this film on any format to watch what Charles Band has in store for the obviously loyal fans of Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, and the many other living puppets? With a concept best summed up as the Toulon verses Nazis, it just sounds like great fun to be had! Indeed, it was an obvious decision, but does this film deliver on the concept, or does it fail to deliver in more ways than one?

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising picks up almost immediately after the previous film, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, so if you haven’t it, much like myself, you’ll be lost for a good while trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Fortunately some subtle clues are given, such as the random mention of the chest’s discovery when Toulon died, and the joke about putting men on the moon being an impossible task. Still set in the World War II era, Mr. Toulon is as already describe, and Danny Coogan (Kip Canyon) has just put a stop to the nazis thanks to the puppets found in the chest. But, Moebius (Scott King), is looking to build an unstoppable army of the dead, created through a reanimation machine designed by Freuhoffer (Oto Brezinza). However, Moebius obtains one of the puppets from Toulon’s chest, and wants him to see if it has any use to his quest to rule the world.

Meanwhile, Danny and his girlfriend Beth (Jean Louise O’Sullivan) are kidnapped by the US army, inquiring about details into what had happened in the previous film. The new weapons facility Moebius is operating is revealed, leading to the help of the army once it comes together. General Porter (Paul Thomas Arnold) is ordered to keep an eye on Danny and Beth, and eventually the puppets are revealed to him. The three decide to take out Moebius themselves. Eventually, Freuhoffer does learn the secret about the puppets, and how he can use his creative skill to make more to serve Moebius, a success he hopes will allow him to see his family once more. This causes the creation of three new puppets including a tank, the World War II racist concept of the Japenese named Kamikaze (voiced by Kenichi Iwabuchi), and a blonde doll made in honor of Moebius’ now slain lover Uschi (Stephanie Sanditz), named Bombshell. During an award ceremony for Beth and Danny, where he once again proclaims how he wants to be in the army but can’t, refusing to accept the medal being given to him because he believes he’s not a hero since he’s not enlisted, the three new puppets attack, a second confrontation after a side alley battle between Bombshell and our heroes. From here, the battle is taken to the weapons facility, and the battle between good and evil begins, though it’s far from anything too exhilerating.

Unfortunately, that can be said for much of the film. Puppet Master X: Axis Rising is a surprisingly dull movie. Some of the cast involved did try their best, such as Kip Canyon trying to capture the patriotic younger adult of the World War II era, and Jean Louise O’Sullivan as the typical woman of that time. But, then you have Paul Thomas Arnold who took the gruff army veteran as a serious challenge, putting on a likeable, yet hardened performance that really stood out given the b-movie grade environment, and even light hearted, care-free atmosphere from back in the day. Even Scott King was clearly just having a ball at trying to be a bit over-the-top. The only two that really got irritating after a while were Oto Brezina, who simply could not act intimidated in any way, as well as Stephanie Sanditz who clearly was only there for her looks and breasts, and no, they are never shown outside of the push up bra, or nightgown. Even the puppets themselves didn’t really stand out, in fact losing much of the Charles Band traits that made previous entries so astounding. Much of the time their movements were clunky, or not even existant during the fights at all, as if watching a homemade action figure fight scene that was used to sell Robot Chicken to Adult Swim.

There was also never any tension. While the story itself was minimal and had a decent enough pace that you wouldn’t lose much interest right away, there weren’t many moments you really wanted to see what would happen to someone. Throughout the film, Uschi flirts with Freuhoffer, and when Moebius finds out he confronts him with pistol are arms length, ready to kill. The attitude given to Moebius in the performance does make you wonder if he’ll go through with killing the man, though you won’t be too surprised by the outcome. That’s about the only time you’ll end up really invested in what’s going on. Even when they continue to test the reanimation machine, the effects and make up look god awful, and since this clearly has to do with puppets and not humans, you won’t care much since you already know the thing won’t work. There’s honestly more tension in the sexual come-ons between Uschi and Freuhoffer than anything else, which sadly is done away with half way through the film.

But, like most Full Moon Entertainment flicks, this does still look like a professional low-budget film. The video itself looks good, though perhaps a little too crisp and digital for its own good. It does help to show the many flaws in the make-up once the test subject leaves the machine, revealing it often nothing but a clear gooey substance placed on the persons face that is supposed to symbolize rot and decay. There’s also the alley way scene in China Town that looks far more modern than anything you would expect to see in World War II, though not having lived through that era myself I could very well be wrong in the assumptions made with that scene. There’s also the special effects of the gun fire, which is as unimpressive as the movement of the puppets, and even the sound effects are horrible, which even include a generic clicking of doors opening and closing one might find in the first Resident Evil game. But, the sound itself is still captured well, and all the actors are leveled properly that you’re not straining to hear anything while the next second an effect or other actor blows out your ear drums.

Many reviewers will have you believing that this is just a horrible film that should not be given about an hour and a half of your life. Sadly, that argument is pretty well backed up. Puppet Master X: Axis Rising is far from one of the stronger offerings of the franchise. In fact it’s downright bad. But, what keeps the film from being too boring is how much fun the cast is clearly having, making it a little easier to suffer through. The classic puppets are all there, and it’s interesting to see the three new bad puppets, as well as the cowboy that is built towards the end. But, as a whole, there’s nothing memorable about the film other than how racist Kamikaze is, though not necessarily for its time. If you’re a veteran Puppet Master fan who has seen all of them, whether you want to or not at this point, or just saw the previous entry and enjoyed it for the bad movie traits it surely had, then this new offering is one you probably won’t soon regret checking out. It’s not really a complete waste of your time, as there’s enough to keep you moderately invested in the film from start to finish, but chances are you’ll probably never break this film out again, even for nostalgic purposes.

Overall Score: 5/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.