“You look like half a Butt Puppet” -Brendan Fraser
“I used to do puppet theatre and also mime and musical theatre in Florida”-Wesley Snipes
“Seriously… these Puppet Quotes are getting worse.”-Johnny Zontal
If you watch enough movies, horror movies in particular, you start to notice parallels in different series. I don’t think this is anything intentional, but more due to the fact that there are only so many ways to tell a story, and horror movies tend to have very simple stories. So watching the Puppet Master series, at least through part 4, I noticed that they seem to follow the template of the first 4 movies of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The first one was a cool idea, and executed well as a stand alone movie, while still leaving the door open as a launch pad for a series. The second one got a little too weird for its own good, and is largely abandoned in the continuity of the later films. The third went back and expanded on the good ideas from the first one, and retconned a bit of the back story to add a little depth. Then you have part four. You might be familiar with A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. To say it was a bit of a mess is putting it mildly. So, what does this have to do with Puppet Master 4? Am I just writing a nonsensical preamble to pad the entry a little bit? Is all of this totally pointless? There are questions, and I’ll get to the answers in a bit, but let’s talk about the topic at hand… Puppet Master 4.
If you remember where we left off, Part 3 was a sequel that took place in 1941 during the Nazi regime. Part 4 picks up the story some time after the events of part 2, but it’s hard to tell exactly when, since the ending of part 2 is largely ignored. The story follows a technology firm working on the secret to full artificial intelligence, and Toulon’s magic puppet juice once again plays a prominent role. The film opens in Hell (I guess?) where a demon who looks like a reject from a GWAR stage show starts getting all antsy about humans using his demon magic to bring folks back from the dead. So this demon sends his three little demon puppets up to earth to wreck stuff up. Right off the bat, we are veering way off track. This whole demonic underworld comes out of nowhere, and isn’t remotely alluded to in ANY of the previous 3 films. In addition to it not making any sense, it looks really cheap.
The scientists working on the AI experiment have one of the most clumsily written plot dump conversations of all time. In about 30 seconds, they manage to tell us who they are, what they are doing, who the main protagonist is, and what his relationship is to the project as well as The Bodega Bay Inn, which was the setting of the first two films. This is a very efficient way of delivering story points, but man, it sounds unnatural to hear someone talk like that. The scientists get a weird package, and inside was one of the demon puppets, which kills the scientists. One scientist had her finger sliced clean off, but did that movie thing where she didn’t feel it until she looked down and saw she was missing a finger. More dumb. YAY!
So, now we’re introduced to our hero, Rick. He’s some sort of science wunderkind who is working on the AI program as sort of an outside consultant, as well as working as caretaker at Bodega Bay. He is pretty much a Gary Stu character, where not only is he centrally involved in every aspect of the story, but knows how to solve every problem that comes up, and wears some pretty heavy duty plot armor. Oh, despite being our hero genius science guy, he’s also TOTALLY RADICAL IN A SUPER 90’S WAY! His hobbies include dressing like Zack Morris and teaching robots how to play laser tag.
Rick invites his wacky group of friends over, who consist of a jealous slime ball, a psychic, and some girl. The psychic notices Blade, who is just sitting out in the open for some unexplained reason. This of course leads her to find the rest of the puppets in a trunk in the attic. They shoot the puppets up with some serum left in the trunk, and then watch as they once again come alive…
Then Rick plays laser tag with the puppets. Yep. That’s in the movie. I’m not making it up.
Ok, so Rick’s slime ball friend gets all jealous because Rick is super smart, and gets to play laser tag with all the puppets, so he decides to use the psychic girl to use her powers to help him get back at Rick. So he steals some of Toulon’s brain juice, and they bust out this thing they think is a Ouija Board they found in the puppet trunk. Except it wasn’t a Ouija Board, it was a gateway to the GWAR universe. Made out of cardboard. Needless to say, this is a horrible idea with horrible consequences. One of the demon puppets crawls through the cheap cardboard portal to hell, and attacks the Slime Ball. He gets in a car and tries to escape, but the demon puppet gets him and leaves him dead on the side of the road. The psychic goes to find Rick and the other girl and tell them that maybe their laser tag tournament can wait because there is a tiny creature running around trying to kill people.
The ghost of Toulon appears and tells them to activate the Decapitron. I don’t know what the Decapitron is, but it sounds pretty fucking cool, right? So, the three of the idiots along with the puppets go back up to the attic, and find ANOTHER trunk. Inside is a little guy with a bomber jacket, and one of those little squishy stress ball things for a head. I guess this is Decapitron? That’s kind of a let down.
Somewhere in there, the package with the demon from before showed up at the inn, and the other demon crawled through the cardboard portal, so all three are walking around being evil and shit. Rick goes all Dr. Frankenstein, and hits Decapitron with some lightning to awaken it just in time for its head to morph into Toulon, and zap the bad puppets with lasers. Toulon tells Rick that the puppets are now his, and he’d be checking in on him if he needed help in the future. The end.
This movie is a mess. I think the best place to start is with the various continuity issues. Firstly, Six Shooter is in this. He wasn’t introduced until part 3, which was a prequel. That means by the time 1 & 2 rolled around, something must have happened to him, or else he would have been in those movies. Where did he come from? Next, Tunneler is alive again. He was pretty clearly killed in pt 2. There’s no Torch in this either, which is disappointing. Probably the biggest issue I have is with Toulon being the puppet spirit of Decapitron. He very clearly came back as a zombie and put his life force in a creepy mannequin. He couldn’t have also been Decapitron. Where was mannequin Camille? How did the puppets get back to Bodega Bay? Why do I give more shits about this than the filmmakers did? It’s pretty clear that the events of part 2 are being ignored here.
Aside from the plot holes, what the crap is up with the demonic GWAR universe? This comes out of nowhere, introduces needless garbage into the narrative, and worst of all, looks like complete shit. I’m absolutely baffled as to why this was included at all. I guess they had $43 left over in the budget, and decided to see if they could build a set and do creature effects. I guess they could, technically.
So, back to the Elm St comparison. It’s pretty clear that part 4 is the one in both series’ that irreparably broke the franchise. The amount of stupid reached its tipping point. They both open up with a mind numbingly stupid set piece that not only comes off as the wrong kind of stupid, but shatters the pre-established canon. But this commits the bigger sin of throwing an already shaky continuity even further off course. I have serious concerns about the next 6 movies. Oh God, I’m not even half way through yet. I need a drink.