Thursday, May 24, 2018

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising


Director - Charles Band (Evil Bong 666, Trophy Heads)
Starring - Kip Canyon (1313: Bermuda Triangle, Puppet Master: Axis Termination), Jean Louise O'Sullivan (Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job), and Oto Brezina (Nude Nuns with Big Guns, Goregoyles: The Holy Terror)
Release Date - 2012
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The battle is over.  The war has just begun"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     My adventures through Puppet Masterland is coming to an end.  I have now watched ten different Puppet Master films spanning two decades.  How impressive is that?  When Charles Band dismantled Empire Pictures he founded Full Moon with the hopes of creating more original content for himself and the first Puppet Master was born.  Now I'm sitting here watching the 10th film in the series.  This installment, Axis Rising, is part of a new trilogy of Puppet Master films that is still cannon to the original series. 
      The film picks up moments after the first film.  A young man has lost his family except his girlfriend and just stopped an Axis attack on a weapons plant.  The U.S. army catches wind of their brave actions and grab them.  They offer them an award for their service and have a military officer follow them around to keep them safe.  What they don't know is that the Nazis kidnapped on of their puppets and discovered what makes it tick.  Now they are creating their own puppets to combat the Toulon puppets.  Now its the Axis vs. the Allies in puppet form.
     Axis of Evil had some fun moments but was still riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies.  Sadly, Axis Rising was a struggle to finish.  The acting was bad, the story was lacking, and the effects were some of the weakest in the series.  The acting in this one is the low point of the series.  I didn't think the cast could sink lower than the last film but this one did.  The recurring characters has been recast and for good reason but it looks like Band and company went with a lower qualified cast.  The story for this one is more or less more of Axis of Evil and takes that story where the first film should have went with a puppet vs puppet battle.  Sadly, the way the film was shot the impact of these scenes is lost and what could be an epic battle turns out to be a dud.  Finally, the practical effects are one again minimal with the exception of the puppets.  The puppets look fantastic.  Overall, Axis Rising is one of the biggest let downs in cinematic history.  What was they thinking?

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil


Director - David DeCoteau (Swamp Freak, 90210 Shark Attack)
Starring - Levi Fiehler (Moonshine Inc., Ray Donovan), Jenna Gallaher (Nightfall, Gateway), and Taylor M. Graham (Breaking Wind, Blood Effects)
Release Date - 2010
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The legends of horror have returned"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     I recently watched Troma's Surf Nazis Must Die as a break from the Puppet Master series.  I really enjoyed my time with this box set but some of the movies were leagues better than others.  Sadly, some did not stand the test of time that well.  After watching Surf Nazis Must Die I decided to venture back to the Puppet Master Toulon's Trunk set to watch some more puppet on Nazi action.  The next film in the set begins a new era in the Puppet Master saga that ties the story closely with the opening act of the first film.  This installment, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is the tenth film in the series and focuses more on the Nazis and World War II.  It wasn't a bad film but wasn't as great as some of the others.
     The film follows a young man with a bad leg who works as a hired hand at his uncle's hotel.  He befriends Andre Toulon and is told about his special puppets and the  Nazis' interest in them.  The Nazis are about to catch him so he kills himself after hiding his puppets in the wall.  The young man takes the puppets back to his mother's home and inadvertently discover the Nazis and Japanese working together to destroy a weapons manufacturing plant.  Now he must team up with his girlfriend and the puppets to stop the Axis power from sabotaging the war effort.
     I wasn't expecting much from this installment.  The last two didn't stand the test of time and were honestly a rather boring experience.  Axis of Evil was not a bad film.  In fact, it was actually pretty entertaining but it didn't look like the classic Puppet Master films.  Instead, it looked and felt like another Evil Bong or Gingerdead Man film.  The acting in this one is easily one of the weaker film in the series.  The cast is very one dimensional and does very little to make their characters feel believable.  The direction missed it's mark and the cast did not seem dedicated to their roles.  The story for this one is actually pretty clever.  The film picks up just mere moments after the first film and stars a whole new story arc.  Sadly, the story does start to fall apart towards the end.  Its obvious that the film was meant to have a sequel but cutting the story in half made this installment fall short.  Finally, the film does have a few on screen kills but they are pretty weak when you compare them to the other films in the series.  The practical effects are minimal and the visual effects are an eye sore.  With that being said, I love the look of the old and new puppets.  They look great and get the viewer excited for the film.  Overall, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is a decent entry in the series but just doesn't cut it among the better films.  It is worth a shot but not much replay value.




Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Winchester


Director(s) - Michael Spierig (Undead, Daybreakers) and Peter Spierig (Jigsaw, The Big Picture)
Starring - Helen Mirren (Monster University, The Twilight Zone), Sarah Snook (Black Mirror, The Glass Castle), and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Farscape)
Release Date - 2018
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Inspired by true event at the most haunted house in history"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     A lot of the "real" horror fans I know shit on big budget or theatrical horror.  When I say "real" horror fans I don't mean the pop horror fans that like The Walking Dead, The Exorcist, and every other big budget flick that's released.  I mean horror fans that like real horror.  They dig movies like Hellraiser, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the works of Toe Tag, and underground horror.  When a big budget flick is announced they immediately start bashing it for no fucking reason other than to bash it.  Sometime ago news of Winchester broke out.  I was a little bummed when I learned it wasn't about Sam and Dean but I quickly got over it.  The synopsis really intrigued me.  By that point I had never heard of the Winchester Mansion so the story intrigued me.  Several of my friends bashed the film and said it was unoriginal among many things.  I didn't care.  I wanted to see it and lucky for me I got a review copy in the mail.  The film may not be an effective horror film but it was still a fun watch.
     The film follows a doctor employed by the Winchester arms dealer to evaluate the Winchester heiress Sarah who has taken her fortune to build an abundance of rooms onto her mansion for the spirits of those killed by the weapons her late husband created. At first the doctor suspects that Sarah is starting to come undone but after witnessing unspeakable things he starts to think she may be on to something.  Things change for the worse when he encounters a spirit and learns that his past may have come back to haunt him and Sarah putting everyone in the house in danger.
     I wasn't expecting to love this film like I did IT and a few of the other big budget flicks but I was expecting a decent film.  The film was decent but I can see why so many horror fans shunned the film.  The acting in this one was great.  I absolutely loved the cast and where they took the characters.  My favorite performances belonged to Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke.  The two do a phenomenal job in their roles.  Their characters stand out and they deliver a wide range of emotion.  The supporting cast is great as well but they don't shine like these two.  The story for this one is an interesting look at the history of the mansion and the woman behind it who believed she was cursed.  I really liked that and it brought an important piece of history to the big screen but it just didn't work as a horror film.  A documentary or docudrama would have been more effective than a horror film.  The horror elements are rather underwhelming and very predictable.  Even the jump scares are predictable.  Finally, this isn't a gory flick.  In fact, the deaths we do get are rather dry.  We do get a large amount of visual effects with very little practical.  Overall, Winchester may miss the mark but it is far from a bad.  The film has some redeeming qualities and one I may actually revisit in the near future.  Check it out.





Thursday, May 17, 2018

Fugitive Girls


Director - Stephen C. Apostolof (Orgy of the Dead, Hot Ice)
Starring - Jabie Abercrombe (Firewalker), Rene Bond (Flesh Gordon, Invasion of the Be Girls), and Tallie Cochrane (Frightmare, The Candy Tangerine Man)
Release Date - 1974
Genre - Crime/Drama
Tagline - "No prison bars could home them!"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     I had to take a break from the Puppet Master series.  There is only so many puppet and Nazi movies I can take before I kick a puppy and I seemed to be approaching my limit.  After checking out the unique slasher Blood Beat I wanted to see something trashy.  There is only one company I look at when I want filth and that is Vinegar Syndrome.  When I looked over my most recent films for review from Vin Syn I was drawn to the artwork on Fugitive Girls aka 5 Loose Women.  This looked like the perfect flick to toss in for my sexploitation fix.  Thanks Vin Syn for allowing me the opportunity to check out this underrated classic.
     The film follows 5 women who are incarcerated for various women.  One of the women has a large sum of cash stashed and promises the others a cut of it if they help her escape.  The five are able to escape and make their way through the swamp where they come across a group of free loving drifters.  They eventually rub them wrong and forced to leave before they find a lone motorist, rape him, and steal his car.  With the police hot on their tails they find a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere where they hope to find guns and food but one of their own is tired of running and the way she is being treated and turns on the others forcing the group to split up.  It is only a matter of time before the law dogs get them.
     Fugitive Girls is one of those rare movies that mixes several exploitation sub-genres together to create something that gives the viewer what they are after without beating a dead horse.  I was expecting the film to go one way and it doesn't.  I love films like that.  The acting in this one is typical of most 70s exploitation and "grindhouse" style flicks.  The cast has little to no experience in front of the camera but they work hard for their character.  They did a solid job and worked well together.  I actually really liked the characters and how they were not your typical "women in prison" type characters for the most part.  The story for this one mashes together women in prison, the southern police chase films like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, and just a little hixploitation tossed in for good measure.  The film does drag on for a bit through each act but makes up for it by offering the viewer a different change in scenery.  Most women in prison films feel claustrophobic and the story has very little room to grow.  This film offered up more than just tits and torture.  We get an actual story that we want to watch to see where it takes us.  Finally, no blood and guts in this one.  Instead, you get plenty of woman on woman with plenty of racial tension and 70s slurs.  Overall, Fugitive Girls is a must for sleaze and exploitation fans.  The Vin Syn release is fantastic.  Add this to your collection.




Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Surf Nazis Must Die


Director - Peter George (Young Goodman Brown, Acapulco H.E.A.T.)
Starring - Gail Neely (The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, Earth Girls are Easy), Robert Harden (Overkill, Perfect Profile)Barry Brenner (Maniac Cop, Hit List)
Release Date - 1987
Genre - Crime/Action
Tagline - "The beaches have become battlefields...the waves are the war zone"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating (out of 5):

      A few weekends back I was talking with West Virginia filmmaker Danny Boyd who some of you may know as the director of the Troma released films Chillers and Invasion of the Space Preachers.  I first met Boyd several years ago during West Virginia's first horror and sci-fi con Shockacon.  Due to its increase in Walking Dead extras and lack of horror icons I have since stopped attending this annual events but the first few years I was really impressed by what this local con brought to the community.  Boyd was extremely nice both times I spoke with him but this last encounter with him he spoke about producer Robert Tinnell and how he was from within the state.  That name sounded familiar so I asked Danny who that was and he stated that he was the producer of the Troma released Surf Nazis Must Die.  I floored to learn this.  I also hated to admit that I had owned the film for years on VHS and DVD but never actually seen it.  With Tromatic Thursday approaching I decided it was time to check it out.
     The film follows a small beach town that has a gang problem.  Surf gangs are taking over the town fighting control of the best waves.  Leading the war is the Surf Nazis lead by Adolf.  Adolf tries to force the other gangs to join his to completely take over the town but they are reluctant to do so due to Adolf's erratic behavior.  When they fail to join his cause Adolf starts taking over their turf resulting in an all out gang war.  Adolf then kills a black man on the beach and inadvertently signs his own death certificate.  The young man's mother has revenge on her mind and goes for the throat of Adolf and all the Surf Nazis. 
     I had watched trailers for Surf Nazis for years so I knew I would like it but I never expected to love it as much as I did.  The film combines so many of my favorite things into one Tromapiece.  The acting in this one isn't the best I've seen but does fit in the Tromaverse very well.  The characters are very flamboyant and over stylized but the cast seems to hold back with their performances instead of going all in.  I love Troma and how almost every movie has unforgettable characters and Surf Nazis is no different but the cast just doesn't have fun with the roles like so many classics.  The story for this one is everything I love about Troma and exploitation movies.  The movie takes a little dip into gang films like The Warriors, 1990: Bronx Warriors, and a few others that I love but with unconventional characters like the ones people tend to associate with Troma.  The film does have a few scenes that have very little to the story but most of the film is written with solid pacing and a lot of action or humor.  Fans of exploitation will love this story.  Finally, I was expecting some blood but we didn't get that much.  There is some decent practical effects but the deaths and gags was a bit of a let down.  Overall, Surf Nazis Must Die has several areas for improvement but still delivered on the entertainment.  This is one of the better known Troma flicks and for damn good reason.  Check it out.




Blood Beat


Director - Fabrice A. Zaphiratos
Starring - Helen Benton, Terry Brown (The Princes Diaries, Nash Bridges), and Dana Day
Release Date - 1983
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "A force of evil"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     I love weird movies.  I guess that is why I have an obsession with Troma and exploitation flicks.  Weird movies are more entertaining to me than trendy movies that copy the last film that did well at the box office.  Several weeks back I attended Cinema Wasteland like I try to do every 6 months.  While I was there I met up with some friends and one of them had a projector set up in his room screening movies.  Some were on DVD and others on blu but there was one we checked out on VHS.  The film was Demon Warp and was one of the weirdest fucking movies I have ever seen.  The movie threw so much shit at the viewer that it was hard to keep the story straight.  I fucking loved it while most of the others disliked it.  When we were finished one of them suggest to me that I check out the 1983 slasher Blood Beat.  I knew I had this for review so I was excited to check it out especially after they told me it was just as weird.  I want to thank Vin Syn for sending this one my way!
     The film follows a family in Wisconsin who is gathering together for the holidays.  Their son brings his girlfriend along but something is not right.  Their mother has special abilities and so foes the son's girlfriend which causes a rift between the two but things turn deadly when she touches an old samurai sword the family has releasing a spirit that possesses her.  Now the family is under attack by the ancient samurai and the surrounding houses could get bloody if the mother can't stop her.
   


     I didn't think I would ever watch a movie as bat shit crazy as Demon Warp again but Blood Beat was pretty god damn close.  That is why I love Vinegar Syndrome so fucking much.  Not only did they have the balls to release Demon Wind which was one of my favorite movies growing up but they also take the path less traveled.  They release movies that you can't find everywhere.  Sure, Evil Dead is a fantastic movie but I don't need it on every format known to man.  Give me movies like Blood Beat!  The acting in this one is kind of dry.  The cast doesn't fully settle into their roles and their performances fall flat.  Granted, the characters are not that in depth but their performances were lacking as well.  The story for this one is not what I was expecting.  Most slashers involve masked madmen butchering teens in the woods or girls at a sleepover.  I can't think of one film where a spirit of a samurai possesses a teen in rural Wisconsin and I loved it.  Why give the people they expect when you can knock them for a loop with some crazy shit?  Finally, the film is a little bloody with minimal practical effects but what makes this one so cheesy and fun is the visuals.  These outdated visuals we see for the "magic" scenes was so bad it was awesome.  I absolutely loved how it looked and I don't give a fuck what people say about it.  Overall, Blood Beat may not be that well known among the horror fans but it is appreciated by those that like films that are unique.  The film is far from perfect but I wouldn't change a god damn thing about it.  Check this one out!