As we saw from the chronological mythology that unfolded in the first half of the “Puppet Master” series, the puppets owned by Toulon were once kind and heroic. The puppets were the products of a man kind at heart, whose own lust for vengeance and hatred for the Nazis turned him evil. And in effect, he transformed his puppets in to evil beings that did his bidding. Toulon was once a nice man, and evil transformed him in to the villain we eventually met in “Puppet Master 2.” The third film, which is my favorite by far, features the origin of the puppets and how they were just beings living and doing their own thing until they found an inherent purpose in snuffing out the ugliness in humanity.
“Puppet Master 4” is really one of the last of the really good entries in the “Puppet Master” series, where the puppets are still somewhat heroic. Sure, they can do naughty things, but deep down they have some good in them, and they’re led by their master Toulon, who also becomes a puppet in his own right, known as Decapitron. This time around a young scientist named Rick, hoping to perfect artificial intelligence discovers the puppets and comes close to discovering the formula Toulon perfected. Just then, a demon lord named Sutekh, who is anxious to retrieve Toulon’s formula, sends his demonic army called the Totems to retrieve it for him. As the Totems begin murdering Rick’s friends and sucking their souls, Rick bonds with Toulon’s puppets, and engage in a battle with Sutekh’s minions that Rick is unfortunately a party to.
“Puppet Master” builds the mythology of the puppets that Full Moon created, and seems to be building up to something. It’s a shame it never blossomed in to one full fledged massive epic film that completely relays the mythology of the serum that took the puppets and turned them in to conscious beings. When you consider it, “Demonic Toys,” “Goobers,” “Blood Dolls,” and this series seemed to have some sort of underlying connection that should have been realized in to a crossover. That said, Jeff Burr’s “Puppet Master 4” is the most well realized installment of the bunch, revolving more around the puppet wars than turning the creatures in to murderous minions.
The production value is also much higher this time around, lending a whimsy and fantasy element missing from previous films. The Totems are nasty little buggers that make the fight for Rick’s life so much more difficult, especially when they tend to outmatch the puppets we’ve come to grow fond of. Sadly, the concept is bigger than the budget allows, which omits more interesting puppets like Flamethrower, yet again. There is Decapitron, though, and he ends up proving to be one of the banner creations of the series. “Puppet Master 5” is logically where the series ends, and Full Moon should have quit. “Puppet Master 4” is a fun and unique horror fantasy, and one where Toulon’s creations really shine. It’s a shame none of the sequels after “Part 5” ever really topped what Jeff Burr accomplished.
Featured on the Blu-Ray is a full length audio commentary with director Jeff Burr. There’s also a wonderful vintage Videozone segment, often found on every Full Moon VHS in the nineties. It’s here in its full nostalgic glory clocking in at twenty minutes, with Charles Band discussing the series’ history, and how it helped create the Full Moon Universe. Finally there are trailers for various Full Moon films including “Specters,” “Vampire Journals,” and “Trancers 2,” to name a few.