Puppet Master: Axis of Evil

Maybe it's because I had to sit through Retro Puppet Master and Puppet Master: The Legacy, but I actually enjoyed 2010's Puppet Master: Axis of Evil.  I don't know if I would recommend it to a habitual slasher fanatic, but if you tend to go for low-rent scares, this prequel will placate your senses.  Oh, you didn't know?  We've got another prequel in our laps, the third in the series.  Speaking of insoluble consecutions, this is the fourth PM vehicle directed by David DeCoteau.  I'm beginning to suspect that PM3 was a fluke on his behalf.  Axis of Evil, like most of his offerings to the b-movie gods, has no discernible style.  It could have been helmed by Jan Vincent-Rostowski and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Jan Vincent-Rostowski is the current Deputy Prime Minister of Poland.  As a child, I was anxious to see how the rise of pluralism would affect the country's Roman Catholic roots.  Right.  So the script picks up immediately after the opening scene in the original Puppetmaster.  A young carpenter named Danny checks in on his mentor to find that the old coot has shot himself into oblivion.  New footage is seamlessly intertwined with an aged print.  I must commend editor Danny Draven for composing the prologue with surgical precision.  Thankfully, Axis of Evil drops the "recycled footage" gimmick, and we follow our lead to his mother's house.

His brother is preparing to fight in the war (it's still 1939, mind you).  Danny wants nothing more than to join him, but polio has enfeebled his legs.  All of this is just character development.  The real plot pits Toulon's puppets against a pair of Nazi striplings and a Chinese dragon lady.  We are proffered a neoteric puppet in the guise of Ninja.  He's a nice addition, although his contributions are curbed by an early grave.  If I'm being honest, the cast is shaky at best.  In spite of mootable acting, I warmed up to the principal folks in peril.  I could sense that everyone was trying.  That's important.

It's pretty easy to determine whether or not a film's crew gave a shit, and the creative team behind Axis of Evil definitely gave a shit.  That's why I can make allowances for a flub here and there.  That said, I'm not in love with this flick.  I won't pretend to understand the continuity at play here.  And as I hinted at in the first paragraph, DeCoteau is asleep at the wheel.  The ending is also frustrating since it's...well, open-ended.  Puppet Master: Axis of Evil has its own sequel (!), and that's where the franchise stops.  We have one more mountain to climb.  I can't believe I've made it this far.  Was it worth it, you ask?  No.  No, it wasn't.

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