The Christmas of my dreams…as a 9 year old.
I would say if Geekdom was a University, my degree would be in Movies with a concentration in Horror. My absolute favorite horror movie company when I was a kid was Full Moon Productions/Entertainment/Studios/Pictures/Features which were essential to the rise and popularity of direct to video/DVDs in the horror/Sci-Fi/cult genre. I remember being a rambunctious kid would dart to the video store after school, pestering the owners if anything new from Full Moon had arrived.
What made the horror movies from Full Moon so special was the fact that they didn’t treat their movies like they were simply direct to video, almost as if it was news to them each time their movies hit the shelves instead of thousands of theaters. The wide variety of horror movies to come from their catalog ranged from the dark and brooding love stories that led to adventure to a doll who tries to make love to a shrunken human (oh it’s true)! They were not ironically horrible or snide, they really tried to make entertaining movies on a limited budget. The self-aware direct to shelf B-Horror movie is a shame to the horror genre but Full Moon in its glory years (in my opinion about 1989 to 1995) embraced entertainment over irony and the movies listed below are what best represents that sentiment, enjoy kiddos!
First off, this movie has Jeffery Combs! If you’re a horror movie buff and do not know who this man is *VOOSH* consider your horror movie cred revoked. Loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, this tale centers around an ex-con who gets caught up in a treasure hunt with his brother that leads them into a creepy church with an even creepier graveyard (but of course). They are joined by a woman with a vendetta and a kooky town doctor…named Dr. Haggis (Combs bitches!) and then, just to make it interesting, some criminals burst in and throw a monkey wrench into all of their plans. While all this is going on, did I mention there were also monsters lurking about underneath the creepy church/grave? I didn’t? Well, I apologize; I was caught up in my Combs man-crush. Apologies.
This dark-comedy with horror elements had a silly premise but the film itself HARDLY noticed. Starring Julius Harris (from Darkman and Superfly fame) as Mr. Sumatra, a voodoo priest that brings back three wrongfully slain teenagers and by bring back, I suppose I mean from the neck up, to have their revenge against evil-doers. Yes, they come back as the title suggest, whizzing around the city with their new found powers. Problems arise however when one of the heads gets his ex-girlfriend involved (oh women, they always bring the complicated don’t they?). This fun flick has some pretty gruesome kills, all sprinkled with a sort of heroism that appeals to comic-geeks and horror freaks alike.
This is the movie that started it all for Full Moon. Besides spawning 9 sequels and a massive cult following, this horror movie that showcased killer puppets brought to life by an Egyptian dark magic became the standard for the Full Moon tone of films where entertaining horror on a budget became a video store staple. The movie pits a band of psychics against the killer puppets in a seaside hotel (where most of the flicks take place) and throughout the movie a “murder mystery” feel takes over as the psychics not only fight for their lives but also solve a mystery surrounding one of their colleagues. Plot aside, the puppets themselves CLEARLY steal this movie, each with a killer characteristic such as Blade, a ghost-faced killer armed with a knife and hook, Pin head whose tiny head does not match his incredible strength (used for choking, but of course) and Leech Woman who vomits (wait for it) leeches! I fell in love with every puppet and always dreamt of a reality where I had the power to befriend such useful puppets.
Demonic Toys followed suit from Puppet Master; meaning a bunch of killer play things are the focal point of the movie but, what the hell? Let’s throw in a plot with some substance as well! Movie surrounds a demon that has awakened with spilt blood (always with the blood, always) and wouldn’t you know? Toys begin to come to life to terrorize a heroine. It turns out the demon has much bigger plans for her as the movie shows that she was connected to the demon much more than she ever imagined and yet again, another mystery is revealed. The Demonic toys each possess a special “skill” with Jack Attack having sharp teeth and a maniacal laugh to boot and the obvious star, Baby Oopsie Daisy taking the lead as the wise-cracking homicidal baby doll. It’s like Puppet Master but with better kills and a touch of humor that makes the gory medicine go down.
This movie is actually a cross-over film featuring three movies: Demonic Toys (which we JUST went over), Dollman and Bad Channels. Only Demonic Toys made this list, not saying the other two were bad, the plethora of great flicks from Full Moon in its heyday could not squeeze in the tiny cop from another world (Dollman) and the sexy nurse, shrunken by aliens (Bad Channels). Follow along kiddos; from the aftermath of Demonic Toys, our main heroine from the first flick, gets caught up in Demonic Toy action yet again but this time she has help from the cop who is the PERFECT size in taking on the demonic toys while he searches for the sexy nurse who was forcibly shrunk to size against her will. Oh and the Oopsie Daisy psycho doll from Demonic Toys develops a sort of lust for the nurse, fun times! Are heads spinning yet? This flick has the same kind of fun humor with some fun kill scenes and as an added bonus, awesome one liners we can expect from ANY cop (tiny alien or not) from the early 90’s.
Like Lurking Fear (no. 10), this film is based off a short story from a Literary legend, this time from Edgar Allan Poe. Starring Lance Henriksen (from Alien and Pumpkinhead fame) as the master of religious torture, grand Inquisitor Torquemada, this tale focuses on his obsession with the beautiful Maria, who is against his torturous ways (I mean, a defiant lady is sexy right?). To fight his temptation he deems her to be a witch and throws her in prison. Maria’s husband tries to get her out but alas, he fails and feels the wrath of Torquemada. What is fantastic about this movie is that it shows the range of what Full Moon can offer. Yeah, they’re great with entertaining gore with killer toys and wacky premises, but then a film like this comes along and reminds you that it can crank out something depraved and disturbing.
I’m not going to lie folks, 3 out of the top 5 will consist of Puppet Master films, and this flick will begin to put all doubts to rest. While the first movie focused on the puppets with a nagging murder mystery clucking in the background, this flick truly starts to focus on the puppets as the main story. You see how their master, Andre Toulon came to find the dark magic that brought these puppets to life and how the puppets set in present day need him again because frankly, they’re running out of juice. It turns out that the one of the main ingredients for their dark magic elixir are brains! Oh yeah, in the mix some paranormal scientists are there to investigate the murders from the first movie…zzzz….ANYWHOO, we’re introduced to a new puppet who by far is only second to blade when it comes to pure esthetics, Torch, a puppet with bullets for teeth who has a flame thrower for a left hand!
Another strong player in the franchise game, Subspecies had everything a good vampire movie should; you have some deep dark history, a love story and oh yes, TONS of gore. It also sports some weird looking minions of the villain, thus the name, subspecies (minions from Despicable Me they are NOT). The story focuses on two vampire brothers, Stefan and Radu the latter being the creepy villain throwback to Nosferatu and the former being the wussy sensitive vampire hero who of course, falls in love with the main heroine (scrape my jaw off the floor). What’s great about this movie is Radu himself played by Anders Hove. His vampire is monstrous and creepy all down to his clothes and strained speech. He has minions that look like mini demons running about doing his bidding and he spends most of his time either torturing his brother by targeting those he loves or going after the bloodstone, a relic that he killed his own father for that contains the blood of saints. Love you Radu, you made vampires cool for me in a time where I thought Victorian prissy vampires of seduction were the only way to go.
Out of all the Puppet Master films, this was by far the most bold because by this time the Puppet Master franchise had gotten pretty popular with its formula of having some unsuspecting humans stuck in a hotel with some killer puppets. Not only did this break that pattern but took it out of its element completely by doing an origin story! Set in the backdrop of World War 2, you find out that the Puppet Master Andre Toulon was a peaceful man running a show with his magical puppets that seemed to move on their own. The Nazis became interested when they discovered these animated puppets and wanted to use the formula for their on dastardly intentions and in the midst of “convincing” Toulon, they murder his wife Elsa. Now the movie takes a different turn and becomes a flat out REVENGE FLICK. You find some interesting origin stories of each of the puppets and the secret to what makes them fully come to life. You finally get to root for the puppets (if you weren’t already, I know I was) because they are killing Nazis which is always a good thing to watch.
So there I was being as a child having watched the first three Puppet Master movies and always playing scenarios in my head on what I would do if I became the next Andre Toulon, the next master of these amazing puppets that would do my bidding out of loyalty and friendship. The problem was however that these friends of mine had a nasty habit of killing folks, whether they be pesky psychics or evil Nazis, fact of the matter was I was wishing to be friends with a bunch of killers. Then came these movies, yes I bundled 4 and 5 together because first off, they were shot at the same time and together, it comes together as one long movie! The tagline for the fourth movie literally reads, “When Bad Puppets Turn Good” and right away, I knew that my love for these flicks have taken a new turn.
The movie starts at the same hotel where most of the flicks take place, where a young genius scientist is working on a formula for creating life (a la Dr. Frankenstein) and discover the puppets. These are the same puppets of course that were brought to life by Andre Toulon using dark Egyptian magic. This magic as we discover was STOLEN from demon who was not too pleased with Toulon so he sends his demonic mini-minions to kill those who interact with the puppets. So now it’s on like Donkey Kong: Killer Puppets vs. Mini Demons! They’re joined by an all new puppet, Decapitron that has interchangeable heads with different powers like one with the power to act as a conduit to spirits such as Toulon’s and a head that blasts electricity to any foe. It all came down to a final battle with all the puppets banding together and taking on the main demon in an epic battle filled with some great banter between good and evil. I loved that these movies finally connected me to these puppets and finally answered the question on how my story line would go if I ever did get a hold of these fantastic friends of mine who have a pension for killing… evil demons… and those who stole my lunch.