Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil


It’s 1939 and Danny Coogan is a depressed young man living in California. He wants nothing more than to head off to Europe so he can fight some Nazi scum, but a nasty polio outbreak when he was younger left him with a permanent limp and a rejection letter from the US armed forces. But Danny might still yet get his wish. After stumbling upon Andre Toulon’s suicide, he also discovers the puppeteer’s trunk full of living puppets and takes them home with him. Just about the time he figures out the secret to their animation, he also stumbles upon a nasty plot by German and Japanese co-conspirators to blow up the munitions plant where his girlfriend works. Danny initially just wants to take some pictures and have the authorities handle the saboteurs, but when the Nazi’s track him down and make things personal, he and his new miniature friends head off to the enemy’s hideout to deal with them themselves.


This is a weird church…

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil marks yet another prequel in the Puppet Master film series, because it seems these friggin’ movies can’t go more than 2-3 installments without jumping back in time again. This time though, they stay there for a while, because Axis of Evil is the first in a connected trilogy of films that takes place directly after Andre Toulon’s suicide, but before all the other events that are depicted in the first Puppet Master film. Because I guess they figured that killing off some demonic, farting toys on Christmas Eve was a misstep, so they needed to go back to the tried-and-true method of killing off Nazi’s instead that had worked so well in Toulon’s Revenge. Which, I gotta say, was a good call, honestly. So after allowing some new people to play in their playpen, Full Moon and Charles Band return to their puppet series to fill in some very large time gaps, and some of it works, and yeah, some of it doesn’t, but I was still surprised that it managed to be fairly solid.


Not to mention look so nice.

Shockingly the story manages to actually be coherent in this film. Yeah, it still has some horrible leaps in logic and continuity issues, like blood disappearing and reappearing on characters, mentioning war-related actions and events that wouldn’t happen for a couple more years yet (like the Kamikaze pilots), or trying to make the audience believe that a Japanese man eating sushi wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between his food and a leech that happened to get dropped on his plate. Nor does it explain why Danny is so hell-bent on fighting in a war, or why two Axis powers were even trying to sabotage anything, when the US hadn’t even entered the war as of 1939. And yeah, some of the characters make some monumentally stupid decisions, but for the most part the story works pretty well. And part of the fault for some of those discrepancies likely lie in the fact that, even to this day, Full Moon still hasn’t cleared up the confusion surrounding Toulon’s time of death, because for some reason they keep flip-flopping the date from between 1939 and 1941, because they keep insisting on reusing the old, dated footage from the first film (though the other film’s fiddle with the timeline so badly that it could also be anywhere between 1939-1945). If they’d just cut those few seconds out of the flashback that show the damn date, they wouldn’t have so many problems. So for this movie to make more sense, you have to assume that the film is going by Toulon’s “official” time of death, which would be some time in 1941, despite what this film is actually telling you. But even then, that still doesn’t account for all the inconsistencies (damn, those Japanese conspirators got there fast…). Meaning, that while the base story of the film is perfectly fine, the timeline it delivers is completely shot to high hell, so you really have to try to turn your brain off while watching it. And please, for the love of God, don’t show this movie to any history majors unless you want to purposefully try to give them an aneurysm.


Wow, your posture is awful.

On the bright side, though, the acting here is quite a bit better than it has been for the last few installments (bite me, Corey Feldman). I wouldn’t say anyone is particularly “good”, but they’re all decent enough for a low-budget, B-movie like this. Everyone is just earnest and subtle enough for it to not feel like a cheesy mess. Although I implore Danny’s actor Levi Fiehler to either put some serious practice time into the whole “fake crying” thing, or otherwise to never, ever attempt to do anything like that again. Just a piece of friendly advice, my dude. Because…. Wow, that was super awkward.


But if you’re not a history buff, the downside to the film is, unfortunately, the puppets. The last film was a cheesy catastrophe, but at least they spent the time and money to add some animations to the puppets. Now that Full Moon’s got their hands back on them, yeah their designs may have reverted back to their less goofy, original look, but they’ve also reverted back to a lot of scenes where they’re all just standing still, or slightly moving up and down to simulate walking. Meaning that some unfortunate crew-person is just out of frame, probably hurting their back because they’re crouched down and wriggling the poor puppet back and forth at an odd angle. After getting to see them actually MOVE again during the last film, limited though it was, this backtrack is sort of a buzzkill. Especially since the film reuses footage from the first film that shows the earlier stop-action movement, so seeing the difference between the two methods is even easier and more jarring. Not even the inclusion of a new puppet could temper that disappointment.


It also doesn’t help that the new guy looks kinda fugly…


Overall though, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil isn’t a bad entry, just a very mid-range one. The story is alright, the pacing flows smoothly, the characters are likable, and the puppets get in a couple decent kills. But like many other films in the series, it’s filled with wild inconsistencies, odd inclusions and yet even more disappointing puppet movement. So it’s…alright. Not as good as the first five, but not as bad as the last four, either. Which I can accept, as long as the series doesn’t take another steep nosedive in quality. But I’ve become very skeptical about these movies, so I’m not sure if what little quality it has can hold up for very long….

If you’re a fan of the series, this one is safe to watch. But if you’re new to it you’re not gonna want to start here.

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is available on a variety of streaming services.

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil is also available on DVD and Bluray.



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