Monday, March 23, 2009

Retrospective: 20 Years of Full Moon Pictures

After Charles Band's Empire Pictures went bankrupt in the late '80's, he put it to rest and moved on from his once great horror company (Empire was the company that gave us such memorable films as Re-Animator, Troll, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dungeonmaster, Dolls and um... Troll 2) and decided to start a new. The result would be the now classic (at least sub-classic) genre company Full Moon Pictures, which remains more or less active today.

Since it's debut with Puppet Master in 1989, Full Moon has offered the frightening, the quirky, the campy, the kinda slutty, the WTF, and the downright bizarre. So I would kindly wish to take this time to share this magic with you all. So, let's take a gander at some of this eclectic company's most... interesting and noteworthy features.

Puppet Master- This series has become Full Moon's bread and butter. The first three were fairly solid horror hits, the fourth and fifth were interesting and campy sci-fi romps, and the series kind of trumbled on from there. But the puppets themselves proved very memorable, even spawning a highly successful action figure series. And your dear Captain is anxiously waiting the series' latest installment, whenever it decides to arrive.

Dollman- So, there's this cop. Brick Bardo to be exact. But he's a space cop, you see? And he's the meanest space cop around. When his nemesis (a floating head, because that's all Brick left) escapes in a space pod, Brick takes after him in his space-cop ship. But things go awry, and they crashland on earth. But wait! There's a catch! On earth, he's only 12 inches tall. Hence the title, Dollman. So, he has an awkward romance with a latina girl and her son who thinks he's an action figure, and he saves them from drug lords. I think.

Castle Freak- The title does explain things a bit, but this film is very unlike much of Charlie's movies in that it's actually a fairly decent, fairly gruesome horror outing. A man and his wife (who hates him) and their blind daughter inherit a Spanish castle where a freakish subhuman creature lurks. For decades, it was beaten and kept in a dungeon by a bitchy old woman, but now she's dead. And now the freak is loose, and it seems to take a liking to their daughter... There are so many shocking scenes here, such as when the freak eats a cat, or when it bites off its own thumb to escape its shackles. Very different from the quirky, campy humor one is so used to with Charlie Band.

Blood Dolls- Words cannot describe this film. So yes, this is Band's upteenth "killer toy" film. And apparently he decided that, dammit, his movies just weren't weird enough. So, we have Blood Dolls. Here, a greedy business tycoon (who wears a mask all the time because his head is actually the size of my fist. He also has this machine that can turn his enemies into dolls (personified by three vicious little stereotypes: a pimp, an oriental doll, and a skinhead). Also, he has five hot girls living in a cage (his "house band") and makes a midget with an eyepatch cattle prod them to get them to play. Oh, and his right hand man and business partner (Mr. Mascaro) compliments his business suit with clown make-up throughout the entirety of the film. I know it sounds like I'm making it up. But just trust me on this one.

Subspecies- The first vampire film to be shot in modern day Transylvania, this is actually one of Full Moon's better films. It's slow paced, rythmic, very in tune with Hammer horror and the vampire Radu is easily one of the most underrated of horror movie villains. Even after four films, each one jumbling the plot just a little more, Anders Hove's astoundingly evil Radu never got old.

The Creeps- Okay, a list just isn't complete without this truly, truly original film. And I mean that whole heartedly. The Creeps is not a film just anyone could have come up with. So, in this film, we have an evil professor who wants to bring the classic monsters out of literature and into reality. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy, all made flesh. And so he does, but there's always that lovely Charlie Band catch. The monsters have returned to form, but they are not "complete". As in: they're midgets. All four villains are played by little actors, each one clearly very pissed about their current condition as they seek out a way to restore them to normal size.

The Pit and the Pendelum- in terms of actual quality of film making, this adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story is probably the best film that Full Moon Pictures ever made. Lance Henriksen (of Aliens, Terminator, Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, and too many others to name) gives an absolutely breathtaking and bone-chilling turn as Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor. The story is a love story that doesn't overdo itself, the elements of humor are very light and more in tune with classic films. In fact, everything feels very old fashioned until we reach the gore, which is frightening in the reality of the situation, and as the film builds to the title scene, we feel the tension mount with each second.

The Gingerdead Man- One of Full Moon's most recent films, and already a cult classic. Here, having tired from the killer toy formula, Band has respectfully settled on a killer cookie. The Gingerdead Man is a mean, mean, insane little bastard of a dessert, mostly due to the fact that he's voiced by Gary Busey. Oh, yes. Now, the poor workers at a little diner are in for a treat (eh, too much, Cap) as the night goes on and the cookie closes in. I really just said that. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we love Charlie Band.

Oh, and while Busey didn't return... Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, is also worth a look, as if I even needed to say it.

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