Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5 deserve to be looked at together because that’s how they were made. The original idea, in fact, was for the story these two films tell to be one movie – The Puppet Master – anticipated for theatrical release. That didn’t go as planned because, at this point, Full Moon started to hit a rough patch. Both films were shot back-to-back with the same director, the same sets, and, mostly, the same cast. The same thing was done with Full Moon’s other big franchise at the time for parts 4 and 5 of Trancers. By maximizing efficiency through getting two films for the cost of one, Full Moon was just barely able to stay afloat.
The film tells the story of a boy genius, Rick Myers, who lives at the vacant Bodega Bay Inn. He spends his time researching artificial intelligence for a top secret scientific agency. He happens to discover Toulon’s animated puppets and is curious about the application of their life-giving formula to his research. Meanwhile, a demon whom Toulon stole this formula from is seeking vengeance. The demon attempts to reclaim that formula through sending out little puppet-siezd demons to murder all those associated with this research. Technically, this IS “Bad Puppets Turn Goo,” as the puppets are the heroes, protecting the characters from this demon; though “Bad Puppets Turn Good” is not an official title. The titles for these installments are, respectively, “The Demon” and “The Final Chapter.”
A brief word about that “Final Chapter” business… We know its not final, there’s still a good deal of films left after this. The spirit of Andre Toulon hands control and responsibility of the puppets to Rick Myers; though with the evil vanquished that responsibility consists of hanging out at the beach with his new friends. At this time, Full Moon included a kind of video magazine called “Video Zone” at the end of its VHS releases. This featurette was about 30 minutes long and consisted of trailers for upcoming releases, interviews with Full Moon filmmakers, and exclusive sneak peeks at projects in the works. At the end of Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter, the edition of Video Zone included discusses an upcoming “Puppet Wars” which was being worked on as Full Moon’s first foray in to television. “Puppet Wars,’ as advertised, never happened. There was some second unit work done, but that was it. Technically, the concept of “Puppet Wars” is alive in the most recent installments of the franchise but we’ll discuss that in time. The point I am trying to make is tht I don’t think “The Final Chapter” was ever intended to be “The Final Chapter.” What kind of “Final Chpater” is released with a sneak peek at its planned sequel? Of course, one can always sell interest in a franchise installment with the allure of conclusion… This is just speculation, however; I can’t back it up beyond my own suspicions.
In my opinion, Puppet Master 4 & 5 are not the strongest in the franchise. There are some moments that are neat (like a new puppet called The Dcapitron) and the special effects are still nice considering the low budget. It always bothered me, continuity-wise, that Toulon’s a good guy in these movies. Presumably he’s been absolved of all the bad things he did in Puppet Master 2 and has permanently become the tragic her of Puppet Master 3. As great as Guy Rolfe was in Puppet Master 3, he feels wasted here; we only get his head, appearing from time to time on The Decapitron, to talk about what needs to be done. Several times we get exposition delivered, at length, from the Guy Rolfe head or, even worse, just through voiceover. Th story itself has a lot of ambition, but being confined mostly to the dark Bodega Bay Inn, that story ends up not as epic as it wants to be. At times, in both movies, it feels uncertain if this is a sci-fi epic about a battle between puppets and demons or just a standard slasher with little creatures. Suspense is unnecessarily built for the gory deaths of ancillary characters, which would be fine in a standard horror film, but Puppet Master 4 & 5 don’t quite feel like the want to be horror films.