Sutekh, the Demon ruler of the Fourth Dimension, sends evil creatures known as Totems to destroy the new puppet master Rick Myers (Gordon Currie), and reclaim the secret of life which Toulon stole from him many years ago.
Here's where the series definitely took a bizarre turn. Puppet Master 4 takes things into much more of a Science Fiction area which includes the aforementioned Sutekh (a giant, phony-looking construct like you would see in an old episode of Power Rangers or its many knockoffs), the puppets playing laser tag with their new master, and more focus on robotic technology. It no doubt made the film corny as hell. Whether that's a bad thing or not is up to the viewer, but my personal feeling is that it wasn't the best decision, since it shatters the tone of the prior films.
This continues the concept of the puppets being used as the heroes, a decision Charles Band has said he somewhat regrets but was done because he became aware of how many kids were watching the films. I think it worked quite well in Puppet Master III given those circumstances, but here I don't think it was as successful. I won't lie and say there wasn't a bit of fun here, but still, I honestly would have rather saw them wreak havoc on people than having them battle a greater evil each time become the new formula for the majority of future films.
The high point of this film was probably the first Act, which I felt had a nice structure about it. Several factors bring down the rest of the film for me. As far as the cast, I felt the girls Susie (Chandra West) and Lauren (Teresa Hill) were passable. The character of Cameron (Jason Adams) was the weakest link here. But, at least his bad haircut matched his performance. Gordon Currie also annoyed me to a certain extent. His expressions always implied that he'd really like to be rolling his eyes in some scenes and his character as written, seemed like he was too full of his own shit many times to listen to anyone. That didn't endear me to his character much. Guy Rolfe returns from Puppet Master III as Andre Toulon, and would become the face of the character for several years, until his passing in 2003. His role here is brief.
The carnage between the puppets and the Totems are about what you would expect on a budget like this, and there isn't a great deal of it. The Totems mostly battle with the humans in the film. The design of the Totems is alright; they look like spiked lizards with a silly face guard. They certaintly look more convincing than Sutekh and his cheesy underworld set, and are established as fast, mean little guys. I guess it was an okay idea to have the puppets face off with a tiny enemy and to tie it into Toulon's formula, but all the cheesiness surrounding these events makes it all seem a little too absurd for my liking. Maybe had they gone with something a little more realistic for Sutekh, it would have appealed to me more.
As in the last two films, we're introduced to a new puppet. Unlike those however, I didn't find this one to be a good addition. Called Decapitron, the idea for it was taken from a planned Empire Pictures release which was slated to have a large budget. It's introduced to be Toulon's greatest creation, but just didn't cut it for me. What it did wasn't all that impressive, and I thought the puppet itself simply added to the overall ludicrous quality of the film.
I've heard a few different things about this film's origins. One, was that it was supposed to be Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys; but Full Moon didn't have the funds to make it. The second was, that the story which both 4 and 5 follow was originally going to be one "epic" film that would be the first Puppet Master film released in theaters. Ultimately neither of those ideas came to pass of course, but I found the fact that this film had a bit of backstory to be kind of interesting.
In the end, I think Puppet Master 4 is the better of the two films that followed this storyline, but with this kind of concept it was never going to be a high water mark for the series in my view. A few moments of campy, low budget fun here and there, but not the installment I would recommend. A fairly harmless, but disappointing continuation of the series.
Puppet Master 4 has been made commercially available only as part of the Puppet Master box set. But by now, you can find it for sale individually on ebay or Amazon.
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Starring: Gordon Currie, Guy Rolfe, Chandra West, Teresa Hill, Jason Adams
Released by: Full Moon Features
- Video Zone - Behind the Scenes of Puppet Master 4
- Cast and Crew Filmographies