Puppet Master 4 (1993)

Puppet Master 4 constitutes virgin territory for me. I’m not sure why, but I never rented it growing up. I’m pretty sure it had to do with my not understanding how brilliant portions of Puppet Master 3 was. Or, also very likely, after repeatedly sleeping my way through the original, and 3’s entire middle section, I just gave up.

It is worth repeating that fans of the series consider the third film, Toulon’s Revenge, to be the best. Which means I’m going to be spiraling down a shit-sinkhole from here on out, until I bottom out in Satan’s bowels.

I’ll assume it was the Puppets’ turning “good” that offended the fanboys. Finally the Nazis are gone, and Charles Band has decided to bank on one of the series’ most interesting/useful aspects: Egyptian magic. It seems the ancient Egyptian gods, or at least the one that spilled the secrets to implanting life into inanimate objects, isn’t pleased that the secret is out. Toulon’s dead, of course, so the god goes after the next best thing: the A.I. research group renting out the old Bodega Bay hotel.

It’s the classic tale of old vs new technology. Instead of debating the demons over which sounds better: vinyl or MP3s, wonder scientist Rick (Gordon Currie) instead plays laser tag with chubby Daleks, while the demons watch him through a scrying portal straight out of Beast Master. The Egyptian demons also use miniature demon dolls, naturally the same size as Toulon’s puppets, to kill all the A.I. scientists preceding Rick. Hilariously sending said demon dolls to various labs through the mail!

It turns out UPS is faster than both magic and teleportation!

I have a feeling that part of the reason this movie isn’t remembered so fondly by Full Moon fanatics is because the wheels had obviously fallen off the Puppet Master gravy train by the time it was filmed. The best description for the demons would be the Dark Crystal as seen through the eyes of GWAR. Which would explain why I’m enjoying this film so much.

It would also explain why the demon lord, Sutekh, looks like a geriatric’s scrotum. While puppet effect supervisor David Allen’s work gets better with each passing installment, whoever designed the live-action costumes needs a stern talking to.

“Greg [LaVoi]? Are you aware that the costumes I paid you handsomely to design look less like demons, and mostly like stretched out donkey balls?”

While Rick is working at Bodega Bay on the A.I. project, he’s visited by his girlfriend, Susie (Chandra West), who brings two tag alongs with her: Lauren (Teresa Hill), her psychic best friend, and Lauren’s antagonistic boyfriend Cameron (Ash Adams), Rick’s arch-rival. Somehow I doubt Rick and Susie’s romance is going to last.

Cameron, jealous over being a 2nd-class scientist, uses a Ouija board to contact Toulon, and accidentally opens a portal so that the demons can launch their assault without calling FedEx.

Enter the puppets, who now recognize Rick as their new master to come to the rescue. While Rick builds a new puppet, Decapitron, that can project electrical fields and “transcend linearity.” “Transcend[ing] linearity” must be Full Moon’s clever way of explaining how Six Shooter, introduced in Toulon’s Revenge, while absent from I and II, manages to show up here.

The puppets seemingly effortlessly defeat the demons, completing the puppets’ transformation into “good guys.” This change is dubious not because it doesn’t happen, but because it’s already happened numerous times. The puppets fought Nazis in the prior installment, as well as having turned against Neil Gallagher, the series’ first villain.

Meaning Torch now joins Leech Woman as puppets who have been put to pasture. Even if Torch, as he was introduced in II, the film closest to 4 chronologically, was the newest puppet, and thus should be, by all rights, still hanging around the hotel. But, as a pint-sized flamethrower who once burned an equally tiny child to cinders, his character is now too harsh for the audience Full Moon was hoping to build. Also, he came dressed as a SS agent.

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2 Responses to “Puppet Master 4 (1993)”

    • Good call out. Rereading it, I guess saying Torch was “put out to pasture” really doesn’t announce his disappearance well enough; as I missed the implication on my second run-through.

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