Puppet Master 4 (1993)

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

When Bad Puppets, turn Good

Rick is a young scientist working on an artificial intelligence project who moves into Andre Toulon’s old Bodega Bay Inn to continue his research. There he discovers a locked trunk with all of the puppets inside as well as Toulon’s life-giving formula. But underworld demon Sutek is angry that Toulon originally stole the formula from him and sends his demonic minions to retrieve it and kill those in possession. In order to defend himself, Rick animates the puppets and they become his protectors.

 

It’s a bit of an overly fantastic plot but how many times can you see a film about killer puppets before it becomes boring? Well in the answer of the Puppet Master series, the answer is three because this fourth instalment is pretty devoid of any new ideas apart from having the puppets fight other miniature monsters. Film back-to-back with the next sequel, Puppet Master 4 takes a nose dive off from the as-normal-as-films-about-killer-puppets-go style to the as-silly-as-films-about-killer-puppets-go style. Virtually rebooting the series with a new lead character taking control of the puppets and the fact that they are now the good guys, Puppet Master 4 is definitely going through the motions with the material.

The idea of turning the puppets into the good guys does give the series a tiny extra bit of life but that’s about all the energy you’re going to get for a sequel that is running on empty. Though all of this allegiance swapping throughout the series is a bit confusing, especially when you take into consideration the time periods in which they were all meant to be set. Besides which it’s much more entertaining seeing them slice up humans than tiny demons. They don’t do that here but neither do they do a whole lot of demon killing either. In fact not a lot happens for a good chunk of the running time. Just as things start to get more exciting at the finale, the film ends and it is then obvious that the rest of the decent stuff would take place in Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter. If you’ve seen that then you’ll know that’s not entirely the case but the whole double film idea just screams padding out. There was hardly enough material to fit into one film let alone make two out of it.

Once again the puppets steal the show and are more life-like and believable than the human cast. Their limited movement doesn’t really allow you to buy into them as killing machines any more but their mannerisms still make them seem more like little people than little puppets. When they finally start taking down the Totems in the finale, the novelty value of seeing them work together is quite good including a brutal three-on-one assault. Tunneller, Six Shooter, Blade, Pinhead and Jester are all back although most only get limited screen time. Annoyingly, Torch (the flame-thrower puppet and my personal favourite just because he looks so cute with his little helmet and boots) is nowhere to be found despite being on the film poster. Ms Leech is also absent but I was never a big fan so it’s not a problem. Despite this, the puppets are still animated in stop-motion in a couple of scenes which at least makes the special effects far better than any of the sequels that followed.

The new puppet, Decapitron, is little too far fetched to be in this film and is one of the things that make the entire film seem rather silly and cheesy. He has inter-changeable heads, laser beams and machine guns? Where did this puppet come from? Surely Toulon wasn’t a scientific genius capable of producing laser beams in WW2 Nazi Germany? Whatever the reason for its creation, the puppet has blatantly only been put in this as a way for the writers to abruptly solve a problem with a totally unexpected twist. Plus who in the world gave it the name Decapitron? That just sums up the film for me – a little too goofy and over-the-top considering how fairly well grounded the previous films were.

 

Puppet Master 4 is strictly for die-hard fans of the series and even some of those, like me, will struggle to sit through this yawn-fest with the promise of a small amount of cheesy puppet action at the end. If you aren’t a fan, then you’re best off checking the first three films for the best of the series.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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