Puppet Master 4 (1993)

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This poster lies! Torch is nowhere in this movie!

Incredibly young (is he even out of High School?), Rick, is researching artificial intelligence at his lab in the Bodega Bay Inn as part of a study called the Omega Project. Though Rick has already discovered Blade, he is oblivious to Blade being alive or the puppets significance to his research. It isn’t until Rick friends Suzie, Laura and Cameron show up, and they all discover the old trunk belonging to Andre Toulon, that Rick figures out how Blade seems to magically appear in various places around the hotel.

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If it were me, I’d have been afraid I was having a stroke or something….

With a stunning lack of hesitation, Rick uses the serum found in the trunk to revive the rest of Toulon’s puppets. Rick is absolutely ecstatic, but others are not so pleased. Somewhere in Egypt (I think), the demon Sutek is angry at the upper worlds desire for artificial intelligence. Irate that their ‘secret’ has already been stolen by Andre Toulon, and determined not to let anyone else discover it, Sutek sends his minions out to kill all those working on the Omega Project. Rick’s colleagues are the first to go, but it isn’t long until the Inn is also invaded by the evil little gremlins.

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RIP, oblivious science man.

Well, it took four movies, but I think I’ve pinpointed the exact spot where the series starts to go south. I had a feeling this would be the one as soon as I saw that there were no fewer than six screenwriters attached to the film.

Puppet Master 4 is a direct sequel to the second film….Or, at least I think it is. The ending of Puppet Master II gave the impression that the film series was moving away from the whole ‘stalk the hotel’ cliché, but nope. We’re back at the Inn. We’re also back to using one-dimensional characters again. This time around we’ve got the science one, the sensible one, the psychic (yup, back to psychics again, too) and the required a$$hole.

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Even his hair screams ‘a$$hole.’

The only difference is instead of the puppets going on a killing spree when a new batch of fresh and juicy 20-somethings show up at the hotel, this time they’re protecting the 20-somethings from some evil, supernatural entity that has suddenly popped out of nowhere.

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Out of all the people he’s gored, this is the only time I’ve ever seen someone clean blood off of  Tunnler’s drill.

Speaking of evil, it’s not even that well designed an evil character, either. Considering the creativity that went into most of the small puppet designs, these guys come off as pretty lame. They look like something resembling a Power Ranger villain. Maybe that was the inspiration.

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Are you supposed to be Egyptian? Cause you don’t look vaguely Egyptian.

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And you guys look like you just walked off one of the Phantasm sets.

The little gremlin/minion creatures fare much, much better. They’re actually pretty creepy little buggers that kind of remind me more of the Zulu doll from Trilogy of Terror than any of the other puppets introduced so far could ever hope to achieve. But they don’t look even vaguely Egyptian either.

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So much cool Egyptian imagery they could have pulled from and they give us a spiky Chupacabra instead.

This entry seems to throw a lot of the series previous established lore and continuity out the window (I’m so surprised…./sarcasm). The puppets are the good guys this time around. Why are all the dolls, except for Blade, incapacitated when the ending of Puppet Master II suggested that they’d last another good 50 years or so? No mention is made that the serum that animates the puppets comes from human brains. No mention is made of the ending of the second film, or why the puppets are suddenly so buddy-buddy with Toulon again. Instead of just injecting the puppets with the serum, this time to create a new one you’ve gotta use some extravagant lightning ritual a-la Frankenstein’s monster. And who’s soul inhabits the new puppet Decapitron? Why, Toulon’s, of course!…. Wait, isn’t he supposed to be long dea-… You know what, never mind. It’ll all probably change later and won’t matter anyway.

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I’ll just pretend I didn’t see this.

Add all that and a scene where Rick plays laser tag with two of the puppets for, like, ten minutes and you really have to wonder where the original story was headed before the other five screenwriters got their grubby little mitts on it.

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What pisses me off the most is they didn’t even use Six Shooter in this scene. Golden opportunity wasted.

Considering everything they throw at you, the film still comes across as hollow. It lacks the atmosphere of the first movie, the story of the third, and at this point I think they’ve retconned most of the second film into oblivion. There’s a lot of stuff going on, but most of the scenes feel stretched out for far too long to the point were it feels like if they had edited better they could have fit most of the content into the first half of the film. The acting pedigree has dropped back down several notches and all the characters have gone back to having static personalities. The puppet effects continue to be good and even some of the early CG effects are minimal and thus not that distracting. The worst part, though, is the movie ends, not even on a cliffhanger, but in the middle of the story. Parts 4 and 5 were filmed at the same time, with 5 finishing up the story. I almost don’t want to watch it, but now I have to know what happened to that Egyptian, though non-Egyptian-looking-demon-god after he was seen shouting angrily towards the heavens.

Me thinks I should have stopped with the Nazi killing puppets.

Puppet Master 4 is available to rent on Amazon.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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