Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Future of Puppet Master: Talking Termination and The Littlest Reich

Avid followers of Charles Band's Puppet Master series are most likely cheering at a new reimagining coming late Summer. After thirteen films and a comic book series by Action Lab Comics, most fans saw fatigue in this producer's vision and were disappointed when the comic continuation was canceled. The curtain call was inevitable since the fan base is not huge. Exit Band and enter Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich by Sonny Laguna (Wither, 2012) and Tommy Wiklund (We Are Monsters, 2015) who promise to return the series back to whence it came — a product of supernatural terror.

The original film dealt with a mysterious toymaker, committing suicide and providing no answers. The meat of the product was on how curiosity seekers are wanting answers to an age-old mystery. They are psychics and paranormal investigators. With the new film, the tale rests on an individual recovering from a divorce and finding a puppet he thinks can be sold for lots of money. He takes it to a festival, where he believes it will sell for more money than its worth, and all hell will break loose!

The reason is that the party is to celebrate Toulin, the creator of the puppet. This assumption must be true, otherwise why would he go there? Instead of a pawn shop next door, this event is important. His name is also synonymous to a murder spree from 30 years ago, so the question is how twisted did he become and did these murders occur to make his toys come alive?

RLJE Films has the North American distribution rights and plans on offering a limited theatrical run come late Summer 2018. This work stars Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!), Jenny Pellicer (Cocaine Godmother), Nelson Franklin (Veep), Charlyne Yi (This is 40), Michael Pare (Eddie and the Cruisers), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and Udo Kier (Brawl in Cell Block 99).

Puppet Master: Remembering Full Moon's Axis Trilogy

Toulin's puppets have a new master—Danny (Levi Fiehler), a ne'er-do-well, and they do whatever their master wants. This boy wants to make a difference as World War II is entering the American consciousness, but nobody wants his help. When he finds these tiny dolls (this story takes place immediately after his death), the bond they form very easily changes their disposition. In this subset of films, the horror comes from when the secrets to reanimation are discovered. Their mission is to discover the key to reanimation and create a new breed of soldiers.

While Termination (2017) was not going knee-deep into the past lore, the pulp action style certainly fits in when considering the costume design of the puppets (both old and new) used for this product. Some creative on-screen kills are offered, but this series impact is much like how Godzilla no longer became a symbol to be feared. The late Shōwa period (1954–1975) had a campy style which saw the figure represent resilience than as a force of nature.

As an action-adventure narrative, the idea works. I'm one open to seeing Blade and crew fight their way to win in new situations. This film treats the occult in stereotypical B-movie fashion, by displaying gratuitous sex, drugs, and voodoo. The performances were average at best and the kills, which is what viewers like to see most, ranged from sorely needing a bigger budget to pull off to at least that's original. Mixing digital effects with actual squibs was an inconsistent touch (especially with Termination). Many years existed between films, and the wait for the final part of the trilogy to be made was five years. A crowdfunding effort was required to finish off the saga.

This producer certainly wants to put the puppets into new situations so they can shine. While I do not mind the change in what they represent, the sudden switch makes little sense when considering the timeline. In one moment, they are soldiers and later on in life, they are survivalists. The sense of dreading these six-inch dolls is clear with the first three films and to see them as heroes do not always hold. They were great up to the fifth movie, but after that, keeping the franchise alive was as tough as getting another vial of Toulin's reanimation formula.

It's not likely Charles Band will be at the helm to make another film. He's happy to executive produce and let the vision be crafted by new up and coming talents.

Sum runs his own website here: Ed Sum at Otaku No Culture

Puppet Master: Axis Termination is available on DVD, now:

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