I remember asking Peter David once what was the budget for Trancers 4: Jack of Swords. He answered: “Not a lot”. If I remember correctly, I think the budget was around a million dollars, and by today’s standards that is a lot!
The world of low budget filmmaking has been turned up side down and flooded with unwatchable micro-budget films. Unfortunately, without the backing of Paramount Pictures, Charles Band’s recent Full Moon-branded movies are not fairing much better than the other crap being released directly to DVD.
I hate to admit it, but I hated Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, and I had low expectations for Puppet Master X : Axis Rising. However, even though Axis of Evil wasn’t very good, it was much better than Curse of the Puppet Master and at least brought the puppets back to their roots. It also kicked off what could be the first complete and only coherent Puppet Master trilogy… And after 10 very different and confusing films, it is all Full Moon fans can ask for.
Like part 9, Puppet Master X suffers from stiff rod puppets, bad CGI blood, and too much filler, but what makes it better than Axis of Evil is the last 27-minutes of insane fuckery! The final showdown between Andre Toulon’s puppets and newcomer Dr. Emil Freuhoffer’s puppets is a micro-budget film masterpiece. Watching Leech Women cat fight the big boobed Bombshell puppet (modeled after Stephanie Sanditz) while the very racist Kamikaze puppet stands around making stereotypical Japanese noises, is fucking hilarious! The rod puppet work also ads an extra element of camp to the big finale. The fight scenes look like they were filmed by an 8-year old playing with his G.I. Joe dolls. I’m not insulting the team behind the puppets, they’re just working with what they have, and I’m assuming some moments of hilarity were intentional.
While it’s a shame to see the company who made so many horror classics be forced into making Troma-quality films, it looks like this is the best we’re going to get. Full Moon has been forced to trade in its beautiful sets in Romania for a cheap warehouse in China, and there is no time for stop-motion puppets on a two-week (or however long) shoot. I just hope future revivals of the Subspecies franchise and the sequel to Head of the Family fare a little better than the recent Puppet Master movies. I have my fingers crossed but my expectations are low.
So in conclusion, I really liked the new porcelain doll Leech Woman design more than the zombie-look she had going, and I’m happy for the return of the Video Zone and look forward to more.