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John’s Horror Corner: Puppet Master 4 (1993)

March 30, 2013

Worth noting: Torch (bottom right) is not even in this movie.

MY CALL:  This is hardly simply “another” killer puppets movie.  This sequel brings a good combination of silly straight-faced nonsense and fun kills along with some new other-worldly elements.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCHPuppet Master (1989), Puppet Master II (1991; the most slapstick crazy of the first three) and Puppet Master III (1991).  Also try Ghoulies (1985) and Ghoulies II (1988)  SEQUEL SIDEBARPuppet Master III (1991; set in 1941 and having the highest production value of the first three franchise installments) is actually a prequel to Puppet Master (1989), which occurs decades later in present day and is seamlessly followed story-wise by Puppet Master II (1991; which was the least serious, most zany installment).  This fourth installment returns us to present day after Puppet Master II.

B-horror sequel director Jeff Burr (Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Stepfather 2) drops us right in the middle of the silliness in this Jim Henson’s Storyteller­-turned-evil sequel.  Andre Toulon (Guy Rolfe; Puppet Master III, V and Retro Puppet Master; Dolls, The Bride) had obtained the ancient Egyptian secret of reanimation from some Arab back in the 1920s-30s, but in part 4 some puppet-like ghoul-demon named Sutec on a throne claims that Toulon “stole” this secret and has put some evil netherworld at risk of discovery by mankind.  That story sounds about par for the direct-to-video course, right?

Meet Sutec.  He never smiles.

Sutec’s minions watching from the netherworld.

This fourth installment returns us to present day after Puppet Master II.  Rick (Gordon Currie; Friday the 13th Part VIII, The Terror Within II, Puppet Master 5) is a robot engineer living in the same oceanview hotel (from part 1 and 2) as the off-season caretaker.  He is working towards artificial intelligence in his spare time.  You know, for fun.  For whatever reason, he has Blade (from parts 1 and 2) in his office.

Meanwhile, in a high-tech laboratory working with Rick, some scientists have discovered some weird netherworld puppet-sized, fleshy doll-monster gremlins.  They kill Dr. Leslie Piper (Stacie Randall; Ghoulies IV, Trancers 4 and 5, From Dusk’ til Dawn 2) and steal her soul for the netherworld powers.

Rick has a dinner party and invites his girlfriend and iron man athlete Susie (Chandra West; White Noise, Puppet Master 5), metaphysicist and psychic-channeler Lauren (Teresa Hill; Puppet Master 5), and his friend and scientist Cameron (Ash Adams; A Nightmare on Elm Street).  It’s funny how so many horror movies rely on a dinner party to get a bunch of people into a house before the slaughter.

They find Toulon’s rather informative journal which reveals his history, the secret life-giving serum and puppets Pinhead and Jester (four movie veterans), Six-Shooter (from part 1) and Tunneler (four movie veteran), all of whom he reanimates with the glowing green syringed formula.  As usual, the puppets each get their moments to shine.  Except for the underplayed Jester, who has the least to offer in terms of interesting kills.

A few inconsistent notes… Tunneler “died” in Puppet Master II and Six-Shooter, while presented in the prequel Puppet Master III, was nowhere to be seen in parts 1 or 2.  Yet here he is as if he was always one of the gang.  On the other hand, who cares?  I’m happy to have them all and their endearing stop-motion glory.

Tunneler just owning this round of laser tag.

This movie is fun. The puppets play laser tag with Rick; Toulon is back, but not as the over-the-top farcical character from Puppet Master III; an idiot opens a gate to the gremlin-infested netherworld; Toulon anoints Rick the new puppet master; and, like in the prequel Puppet Master III, the puppets are the good guys.  I love it when they gang up on the netherworld gremlins in stop-motion melee. We also have a new over-the-top bad guy (Sutec) and a new puppet, the head-swapping Decapitron who microwaves  the nether-gremlins ’til they burst.

Nether-gremlins spawning from a gate through a board game.

Blade vs a nether-gremlin

Decapitron lives!!!

This whole movie boils down to turning the puppets into good guys as they fight a handful of Sutec’s evil nether-gremlins; hardly a plot.  The movie ends with what is clearly a nod to the audience that a sequel was planned before this movie even hit the shelves.  But it’s a fun ride and fans of the franchise will continue enjoying consistent quality.

Weirdo puppet Toulon: “Hey, everybody.  Tune in for the sequel!”

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  1. John’s Horror Corner [INDEX] | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner: Puppet Master 5 (1994) | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner: Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), and what should have been the death of a franchise | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner: Retro Puppet Master (1999), the seventh installment of a franchise that just doesn’t seem to know when to quit | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), this incredibly annoying eighth franchise installment serves as a nothing more than a review of the past movies with loads of stock footage | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. John’s Horror Corner: Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010) | Movies, Films & Flix
  7. John’s Horror Corner: The Lords of Salem (2013), the softer side of Rob Zombie | Movies, Films & Flix
  8. John’s Horror Corner: Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993), a decent B-movie creature feature sequel that pales to the original. | Movies, Films & Flix
  9. John’s Horror Corner: Pumpkinhead III: Ashes to Ashes (2006), a bad creature feature sequel doing no service to the legacy of Ed Harley. | Movies, Films & Flix
  10. Bad Movie Tuesday: Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), squandering the strong final girl and slapstick bonkers violent legacy of part 2 (1986). | Movies, Films & Flix
  11. John’s Horror Corner: From a Whisper to a Scream (1987; aka The Offspring), a lower budget horror anthology with some zany-gory special effects. | Movies, Films & Flix

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