I love “Puppet Master” I think it’s one of the best horror series to come along in years and provided many hours of wholesome puppet murdering fun that I never got with Chucky. With the series, it was obviously quite ridiculous, but it reveled in such and covered up that fact by giving us an array of puppets to root for who became menaces, villains, and then anti-heroes. “Axis of Evil” is an attempted reboot that will definitely not re-invent the entire series as I’d hoped, since it’s mainly just a lazy hack job with barely ninety minutes of its run time, and I retreat back in the old films.
Splicing in badly acted new footage, “Axis of Evil” begins with the “Bodega Bay Inn” where we meet young cliche American carpenter Danny. He’s a tough go getter who wants to fight in the war but can’t because of his limp and his hands. Cue fifteen minutes of director DeCouteau splicing in the first ten minutes of the original “Puppet Master” cut with Danny’s reactions from afar like a bad montage show, and we begin our foray in to a new chapter filled with so much potential but so little delivery. As is the device with most horror franchises, an innocent bystander inherits the evil devices. Danny grabs the puppets after Toulon is killed.
Which is confusing considering the first “Puppet Master” involved the puppets being stored in a wall and resurrected in the first movie that set down in the Bodega Bay Inn… but I guess we’re just re-writing history here. The same motions occur throughout the entire movie. We visit Danny as he goes back home and stirs up hokey fifties hokey conversations with his mom and brother about fighting them japs and killing them slanty eyes, and how they want to go to war together. And then DeCouteau splices in more footage from old films killing time and compensating for a clear lack of any form of budget. For a film that purports to be about killer puppets, there’s nothing going on here that’s fresh or original. It’s obvious random shots of the puppets from old films with new footage that’s about as awkward and noticeable as the stock footage of Milhouse in “The Radioactive Man” movie. “Axis of Evil” is essentially a one hour drama of a young crippled man forced to deal with the fact that he can’t fight for his country.
And there’s puppets lying around. He talks to his girlfriend a lot. And there are puppets strewn in the background. She defends him against her boss who mocks him for not fighting. And the puppets can be seen in the distance. And little else ever really happens. The movie has such an obviously low budget that DeCouteau takes great pains in avoiding showing the puppets in motion as much as humanly possible, and even then it’s pretty much a bust. The Jester plays a crucial role in manipulating the character Danny in to confronting the men who killed Toulon, but even then he does nothing. He pops out of a bag to confront Danny, and the rest of the film is just Danny and his girlfriend arguing and bickering. Meanwhile the agents infiltrating Danny’s personal relationships mock his way of life with an Asian stereotype (who has the sinister presence of Rita Repulsa) all for the purposes of getting the puppets. I’m assuming.
Their intentions are never made clear at all. “Axis of Evil” is an insanely tedious affair. It’s not a bad movie but it’s definitely something that just isn’t worth sitting through in the slightest; it’s mainly just a waste of time and a massive disappointment. The entire time I sat thinking “Who cares?” All I wanted was a well paced story with killer puppets and we’re given almost nothing at all until the final fifteen minutes and even then it’s just so crushing. With a beefy budget and a good writer who understands the series, this could be given some new life and fresh blood that could enhance the mythos. As it stands, it’s barely a horror movie at all, it’s just a melodrama with lip service to the series to compensate for not being able to give us what we really want: killer puppets mutilating hapless bad guys. We need a change now. What a shame. I think the “Puppet Master” movies are one of the few franchises that could stand a big budget reboot with a gory set piece and a competent director, but sadly, this is all fans of the series will really be getting as long as the costs are limp and not chunky enough to grant us a decent sequel. For now I suggest going back to the old films instead of watching this glorified clip show.