Charles Band is one of the most successful independent producers in the genre’s history. He helped spearhead the VHS boom with Wizard Video, he helped create two of the first licensed horror games ever with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween for Atari. And, of course, with Empire Pictures and later Full Moon, Charles Band produced some of the most successful, bizarre independent horror and sci-fi films ever, including Ghoulies, Re-Animator, Terrorvision, Puppet Master, Subspecies, Trancers and literally hundreds more.
Over time, Full Moon has proven to be experimental in both its storytelling and its merchandising, finding success in everything from action figures to comic books. Their latest project, Bunker of Blood, is a testament to that. The first installment in this new series of features is a clip show, like Puppet Master: The Legacy and When Puppets and Dolls Attack, but Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre introduces a story told through comic book art that will continue throughout each of the Bunker of Blood titles.
We caught up with Charles Band to talk about this latest venture, as well as the future of Puppet Master and finally finishing David Allen’s masterwork, The Primevals.
Wicked Horror: There have been Full Moon and even Puppet Master compilations in the past, but not with this kind of ongoing narrative to connect each one. What was the genesis behind the idea for Bunker of Blood?
Charles Band: It was in part because over the many, many years, especially doing all the Road Shows, people would always say “Dude, you should put together all the most rad kill scenes!” And of course they cite Puppet Master, and sometimes all the other puppet and doll movies and all the Death Head movies, but just to do a straight up compilation—even if we did it really clever—was not that appealing. And then we needed to frame it in a way that was different.
The idea of doing it the way we’re doing it, especially now that we’re working with some really talented comic book writers and artists, we’ve published a series and there’s another one right behind it. I thought it would be cool to come up with a story that could bookend these various features and chapters, that could tie into at minimum a graphic novel or feature that we could shoot. Next year will be the rebirth of a lot of films that we’ll hopefully be able to make. The idea is that Bunker of Blood as a standalone idea could translate to 60-70 pages of comic book story, if you take all of the bookends off of all of the features.
So, I thought it would be a fun way to frame what are essentially compilations. Bunker of Blood, at least the first one, Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre is just endless puppet death, but I think they’re strung together in a clever way. If a body flies out a window and it lands, it will land in the next cut. If it’s Blade landing on top of something or, you know, we’re trying to make it so people can sit back and do whatever they do to relax and entertain themselves and just watch this madness. Even though Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre just came out, we’ve completed the second one which is called Deadly Dolls, which is cut and is now in the process of mixing and tweaking. And the third one is called Death Head. At the very least, it’s fun, it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. People can say, “Oh, it’s a cheat, it’s another Puppet Master movie,” but it really isn’t. It’s kind of a “best of” of gore. I don’t really know what to call it, but that’s how it all happened.
Wicked Horror: Blitzkrieg Massacre also hit the same day that Littlest Reich hit Blu-ray, I believe.
Charles Band: Yeah, I think it was a week later, but it was very closely tied.
Wicked Horror: Was that kind of an effort to make it clear to fans that the original timeline is still alive and well?
Charles Band: Well, I did a bunch of interviews and I think I made that clear. Even though I keep running into people with extremely different reviews on Littlest Reich, “It’s awesome and I love it” or “Oh my God, it’s so insulting,” I fought hard to be able to remain in the Puppet Master business. So that’s why Blitzkrieg Massacre is not really a Puppet Master film, but we’ll stay true to our look, the vibe, the story as we develop various Puppet Master films. Littlest Reich, they went in a different direction, and it wasn’t by accident that the few puppets that are called Tunneler or Torch or Blade look different, so that they can exist in their own universe and if a sequel is ever made to Littlest Reich, that’s great. They can be in their bizarro puppet world. They’ll exist in their universe and we’ll exist in ours. We’re not going anywhere.
But, you know, it seems like just yesterday I made the last Puppet Master, Axis Termination, and for our budget—which is a fraction of The Littlest Reich’s budget—I’m really proud of the film. From the locations to I think the most puppet FX scenes we’ve ever done, going back to the third one. I don’t intend to make another Puppet Master film any time super soon, probably within another two years we’ll make another one of our Puppet Master features.
Related: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is Equal Parts Gruesome and Goofy
Wicked Horror: From that very first Video Zone on Puppet Master II, you likened the Full Moon characters to comic book characters. You’ve licensed them out to other publishers twice, so it just felt like such a natural fit to make your own. How did Full Moon Comix come about?
Charles Band: It only took 28 years to finally do our own. Well, both Action Lab and Malibu, back in the early ‘90s, I think they did a really good job. I did have my hand in it a little bit, but from a distance, saying “Yeah, that’s cool” or “that artist is really good” but I wasn’t that involved. I was super busy doing other stuff like making movies. And in the back of my mind, I was thinking “One day I’ve got to be more involved.” As it turns out, we waited and not by accident the first series, Dollman Kills the Full Moon Universe, was intended to be something that would pull the Full Moon fans and also educate people who didn’t really know too much about our various franchises.
The theme is obvious but kind of fun, and little by little Dollman does what he does and kills all these characters and then they’ll come back and there will be a reason to bring everyone back. That’s down the road. But I did want something that would touch on all these movies and franchises and characters that we’ve created over the years. What’s even more exciting to me is some of the things we’re going to come up with and start publishing later this year.
They’re brand new, never seen before and in some cases projects that I’ve wanted to make for years as feature films but could not afford to. So the fact that they’ll first see the light of day in comic book form, to me, is exciting. If money was no object I’d be making a movie every week, there are some very ambitious ones that, because of the way the business is, we can’t afford to do right now. So yeah, it will be exciting to put some of these new creations out as comic books and down the line see which ones we can make into features.
Wicked Horror: I remember you mentioning that on the latest VidCast as well. Would these previously unmade projects include anything like Puppet Wars or Bride of the Head of the Family, or is it too early to tell?
Charles Band: On the top of my list of movies I want to make as soon as possible is Bride of the Head of the Family, because Head of the Family is one of my top five most favorite films that I’ve made. And that movie was ready to go. We had a great gal cast for the Bride, we did a little video on it that made people think “Gosh, it was made, where can I find it?” Of course, right in that period of time, things changed, finances changed, I forget exactly what happened, but we just were not able to make it, which really sucks. But I’m not sure if that would necessarily be a contender for this new series.
It is a movie that I want to make and hopefully will be able to make in the next year or so, we’ve got a script that I think we can afford to pull off. And it’s a sequel, and we kind of want to dedicate this new label to standalone new concepts that I think are really great that are ambitious and don’t tie to anything I’ve done in the past.
Wicked Horror: As a longtime fan, one of the most exciting things you’ve announced recently, you know, I remember being a kid and seeing the Video Zone on I think Puppet Master 5 and seeing you standing in front of that enormous skeleton for The Primevals.
Charles Band: Yeah! Back in the good old days. No CGI, we had to build all that.
Wicked Horror: Obviously you weren’t able to complete it at the time, but what is that like to now be able to finish, dust off and release Primevals?
Charles Band: I’m trying to think of ways to describe the feeling. It’s such a bittersweet adventure, being so close to Dave and promising Dave for twenty years before we finally started to make the movie that “One day, Dave, believe me, we’re going to make your film.” It really was his, too. Yes, we all had our influence, but it really was his baby. Every time I walked into that studio and said “Hey, I need some help for this movie or that movie” he looked at me and said, “And what about Primevals?”
And the fact that I was able to deliver it just as Full Moon was really in good shape, briefly in good shape, financially, and the fact that we’d done all this stop-motion, and then Dave passed away and it was really unbelievable. It also hit at a time when the business was getting really, really difficult. Even if we spent all of that budget shooting the movie and getting maybe the first half of the stop-motion shots, to complete that, financially, was not even feasible. And without Dave, you know, how do you pick up the pieces?
So it took all these years, and this is in large part with the help of Chris Endicott, who was Dave’s right arm guy to say “Okay, with a little help from our friends, because we are going to do an Indiegogo thing next month, let’s get tis finished.” And the fans will finally get to see how cool it is. And it really is. In this latest VidCast, I probably showed more clips than I should have, but you can tell from those clips just how magical those shots are.
And it’s very retro. When you look at it, if people are not familiar with the history of Primevals at all, they just look at it at face value, they’ll swear it was shot in the late ‘60s. I mean, it’s a retro movie the day it gets released, just because of the way it was shot and the pacing and, of course, these endlessly wonderful stop-motion shots. It will be great to finally get it done.
Wicked Horror: And I think it’s the perfect time to release it now, with there being such a hunger for retro content.
Charles Band: I hope so. Our plan is to try and get it out theatrically in a few markets, we’ll have to choose the right time of year, obviously, to not get buried by these tent pole movies. But to get a limited theatrical so at least some people can see it on a big screen, and then eventually it will be out on all the usual VOD channels and DVD and Blu-ray. It’s an exciting deal. We won’t really have the stop-motion studio on the money until mid-to-late November. Once that happens, it’s about a five month stretch to get the shots we need finished. That by itself will be cool, to have this studio slowly putting together and creating these really amazing shots. In there, we’re thinking of pulling one of the tiers from the Indiegogo campaign to let people come over and visit and see what it’s like. Which is kind of rare and probably won’t ever happen again.
It’s a lost art form. So yeah, August of next year should be a really terrific time and I’m looking forward to making a bunch of these movies that we put off this year. In closing, basically, we’re finding a way to reconnect with fans who for decades found our movies at the local video store. That’s been the challenge of the last six, seven years, just because those stores are all gone. So now with our own channel and Amazon and a few other things, there’s places where you can find all the movies at a really reasonable cost.
In the good old days of the local video store, it was $2.99 or $3.99 and it cost a few bucks back then to rent a movie and today you can subscribe through our channel on Amazon and it’s $6.99 a month. You can watch almost my entire life’s work for seven bucks if you really want to kill yourself and just keep going. In a weird way, it’s a good deal for fans and it’s a different medium, obviously. I do miss taking my kids to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, and that’s an experience that people don’t get today. It’s not in the cards. But it’s a different world and people go online and they browse and find a title and you’ve got to go with the flow.
Bunker of Blood Chapter I: Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre and Chapter II: Deadly Dolls are now streaming Full Moon’s Amazon Channel and Full Moon Streaming.