Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wizards of the Demon Sword


Director - Fred Olen Ray (Evil Spawn, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers)
Starring - Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman, Love Me Deadly), Russ Tamblyn (Twin Peaks, Django Unchained), and Blake Bahner (Thrilled to Death, Deadly Breed)
Release Date - 1991
Genre - Fantasy/Adventure
Tagline - "The ultimate weapon.  The ultimate evil.  The ultimate battle"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     I don't know how many of you look forward to my Tromatic Thursday reviews but I want to apologize for skipping this Thursday's.  Some of you are friends with me on Facebook and saw the news.  Either way I recently became a father...again.  My wife and I celebrated the birth of our second daughter on Wednesday which took precedent over my reviews.  Last week I wanted a break from the absurd and took to the Troma collection for something a little different when I came across Wizards of the Demon Sword which is one of the newer acquisitions to my collection.  I picked this one up a few months ago at Cinema Wasteland at the Troma table.  The price was right so I jumped on it.  A sword and sandal Troma flick?  I'm down.
     The film follows the warrior Thane as he escorts the young Melina across a dangerous land to find her father that was imprisoned by the evil Lord Khoura.  Along the way they encounter thieves, swordsmen, prehistoric creatures, and other fabled creatures on a quest to save her father and stop a madman from destroying the world.
   





     I didn't know what to expect from Wizards of the Demon Sword.  I was hoping for a traditional sword and sandal fantasy adventure but the film was a little more cheesier than I expected.  Fred Olen Ray said he used sets used over from other film productions before Troma took it over.  The acting in this one is watchable but the cast just doesn't fit the film.  The characters are very clich├ęd but written with a lot of personality that was not brought to life.  The cast falls flat.  The story is very campy and unoriginal which isn't uncommon for this style of fantasy film that follows in the footsteps of Conan but fails to bring action to the screen.  Viewers watch these types of films to watch sword fights, beautiful women in peril, and beasts.  Instead, we get out of shape men panting as they hold swords that are just a little too heavy for them and a story that struggles to find it's footing.  Finally, the film surprised me with the fun stop motion and the beasts.  I also enjoyed the sets as well.  The film really did have the look but lacked many of the other aspects.  Overall, Wizards of the Demon Sword is a lackluster sword and sandal film that just doesn't fit in well with the Troma catalogue.

    



Sunday, May 27, 2018

Puppet Master: Axis Termination


Director - Charles Band (Prehysteria!, Deformed Monsters)
Starring - George Appleby (Game of Thrones, Sherlock), Tonya Kay (Evil Bong 777, Web Cam Girls), and Kevin Scott Allen (Mad Men, Sledge Hammer)
Release Date - 2017
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The bloody conclusion to the "Axis" trilogy"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

   Here it is!  I've been reviewing the Puppet Master series for what feels like forever and now I have reached the end of my voyage.  Here is the 11th and final film in the series and the third film is the new Nazi trilogy.  The series has some ups and downs but the last film was abysmal.  Considering this film took almost 5 years to be made I was hoping it would have went back to the basic but it did not.  It did return to an idea established in the first film but that did not work the same way.  Sadly, the series ended on a negative note.
     This film follows the disabled man and his girlfriend who are killed by the Nazis' new puppet, Bombshell.  The puppets become the property of the U.S. army and a dwarf with special powers is assigned with retrieving the stolen ones from the Nazis.  He is given a military escort and partners with others with the same abilities as him to track them down.  The Nazis have the same idea and bring in two powerful people with mental powers and a showdown of the minds begins.
     With this film a legacy is laid to rest.  Well, laid to rest until Band returns to it later when other ventures don't pan out like they should.  Sadly, Axis Termination is one of the worst films in the series and should be the proper stopping point to further tarnish a saga that is loved the world over.  The acting in this one is a little better than the previous installment which isn't saying much.  I did like the characters a little more than the last few films so that helped tremendously.  Sadly, They still lacked depth and the cast did not go above and beyond to make them unforgettable.  The story for this one continues with the story established two films back and rounds out the Nazi trilogy.  It combines aspects found in the first film with the psychics and so forth which was a fun touch.  With that being said, it fails to fully get the wheels turning and produce a fun film.  Instead, the story takes the backseat to concepts and ideas that are never fully developed.  Finally, The film has several on screen deaths with some decent practical effects and some shoddy computer generated effects.  The two clash giving the film a very cheap look.  Overall, Axis Termination would have been a solid installment but was too ambitious.  The story had a lot going on and failed to mold it altogether for a fun experience.

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.