The Doll's House

Fright-film freaks meet the man who built the franchise.

Charles Band's Full Moon Horror Road Show Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Avenue 8 p.m. Sunday, October 16; $27; call 216-241-5555
Charles Band's big creepy hand is almost as scary as the demonic dolls and puppets that populate his movies.
Charles Band's big creepy hand is almost as scary as the demonic dolls and puppets that populate his movies.
Charles Band knows all about touring and groupies. Not that the veteran horror filmmaker behind the Puppet Master series has experienced any of this firsthand. But his son Alex leads the Calling, a pop group that had a pretty big hit a few years ago with "Wherever You Will Go." "His fans are all hot young chicks," laughs Charles. "My fans are big, fat, sweaty, shaky people."

The moviemaker is coming face-to-face with many of his perspiring admirers during the month-long Charles Band's Full Moon Horror Road Show. For two hours or so, Band will discuss his 30 years making fright films, haul out some unseen footage, and direct select audience members in a scene from one of his flicks. "I'm looking at this in a way that's analogous to how a rock-and-roll band goes out there and promotes its stuff," says Band, who will also screen clips from his latest films. "It's virtually impossible for a small independent with small movies to get the word out. So I'm taking it on the road."

Band was born and grew up in Hollywood. His father, Albert, had a long list of movie credits, including everything from co-writing John Huston's adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage to directing I Bury the Living. Charles got his start as a producer and director in the mid-1970s, with a handful of quickie horror films that hardly anyone saw. The '80s were a productive period for Band. In one capacity or another (writer, director, producer, actor), he worked on Ghoulies, Trancers, Troll, TerrorVision, and Puppet Master. He's been involved in more than 200 films, most of them falling into the horror genre. "I grew up watching these kinds of movies," he says. "I love them."

In 1982, he made Parasite, a shocker about an oversized bloodsucker that gave Demi Moore her first starring role. Since then, he's helped launch the careers of Viggo Mortensen (Prison), Helen Hunt (Trancers), and Kelly Preston (Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn) by casting the young newcomers in his movies. "There's a big talent pool arriving in L.A. every day," he says. "You just have to have an eye for who's right."

A glance at Band's filmography reveals that a huge chunk of his oeuvre deals with puppets, dolls, or toys. All evil, of course. "I never made a slasher movie, because I'm really not into that," he says. "The world is so full of ugly people; it's just not my thing. Even though a puppet or a doll might be creepy, it's pretend. A guy with a ski mask and a big knife is not pretend."

And working as an independent filmmaker has allowed Band to craft his movies with blood, gore, and T&A without studio interference (he's also had a hand in such classics as Bimbo Movie Bash and Castle Eros). And while the big bucks might be nice, freedom is better, he says. "There's nobody breathing down your back," he says. "You can do your thing with complete autonomy. The negative side of all this is, you're working with no money.

"Maybe when I'm ancient, I'll make some slice-of-life movie [for a major studio]. But it's probably not a good idea to have a little puppet creature pop up."

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