Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010) **
D: David DeCoteau
C: Levi Fiehler, Jenna Gallaher, Taylor M. Graham, Tom Sandoval, Jerry Hoffman, Erica Shaffer
Plot Synopsis: In a Stateside hotel during the height of World War II, young Danny Coogan dreams of joining the war effort. Following the murder of hotel guest Mr. Toulon by Nazi assassins, Danny finds the old man's crate of mysterious puppets and is suddenly thrust into a battle all his own. He discovers that Nazis Max and Klaus, along with beautiful Japanese saboteur Ozu, plan to attack a secret American manufacturing plant. After his family is attacked and his girlfriend Beth is kidnapped, it is up to Danny and the living deadly Puppets to stop this Axis of Evil.
Review: Back when Full Moon Pictures first started out, they managed to tap into the nostalgic side of horror. For example Demonic Toys and Puppet Master showed us the evil side of a child's play toy. Shadowzone and Seed People were slick updates of 1950's styled sci-fi / horror films. However, starting in the late 90's, Full Moon lost touch with what made there films work to begin with. The man behind Full Moon, Charles Band, even noticed this and changed the name of the company, because he didn't want the films he was producing to carry the Full Moon name.
Well, with their latest feature, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, Full Moon is starting to get back in touch with what made them a success to begin with by revisiting an old franchise favorite. It isn't a perfect film by any means, but it's a step in the right direction. First off, let me say that it's simply great to have these puppets back on the screen again and seeing these puppets showcase their killer talents. Whether that's the leech woman throwing up leeches in someone's food or Blade using his trusty little weapon for a quick escape. These puppets are the heart and soul of this film and they help to make up for some of the shortcomings, but we still can't talk about this film without talking about its shortcomings.
For example, the film's premise is complex, but the plotting is too overly simplified. With this kind of story, we're having to deal with not only the puppets, but a young man who's out to stop a tragic event from unfolding, as well as having to explain who the bad guys are, what they're up to, all while cramming in elements involving War World II. At 83 minutes, there's no way that the film could do justice to this kind of material. Everything needed to be fleshed out more so.
On the performance & casting front, it feels as though some of the film's male actors were cast for their good looks over their actual acting abilities. This is something director David DeCoteau is notoriously known for. Every once in a while, DeCoteau finds a star in his midst. Some examples include Riley Smith (New York Minute), Sean Faris (Never Back Down) and Cory Monteith (Glee). Levi Fiehler, who plays the film's leading character, definitely has star quality as well. He has a nice, appealing on screen presence that doesn't feel forced, but his performance does come off a bit amateurish at times. This is painfully apparent in a scene where Fiehler has to cry.
Having said all of this, this is a film that I feel conflicted about. I liked the puppets. I liked that they tried to be ambitious with the story. I liked Levi Fiehler. I liked that they went for it and that's where my conflicted feelings come from, but, at the end of day, they bite off more then they could chew. [R] 83 minutes.