Well, I had a lackluster response to the last Puppet Master film. And since this is practically just the second half of the same movie, I can just go on without really breaking my promise to cover the whole series, right?
Okay, fine, I suppose some elaboration is in order. The things I do for all eight of my readers…
I should admit, this sequel did a bit more to win me over when it started out with what I suspect happens to many horror movie survivors after the credits roll: the hero ends up being arrested for all those mysterious deaths caused by supernatural forces. To be fair to the police, it doesn’t help that Rick keeps blaming Cameron’s death from the last movie on a killer puppet – when he himself has a bunch of killer puppets, no less.
Things aren’t much better for his friends. Rick’s girlfriend Susie can’t convince anyone of their story either. Lauren is in a quasi-comatose state due to her telepathic brush with Sutek and her warnings just come across as raving, even to Susie. Luckily, one person does believe Rick’s tale: Dr. Jennings, a high-up scientist on the Omega Project, who pays Rick’s bail. Unfortunately, Dr. Jennings is under pressure from a couple of suits from Ye Olde Military-Industrial Complex to look into all these bizarre tales of animated puppets. So he doesn’t quite have Rick’s best interest at heart.
Using information gleamed from Rick’s account of events from the last movie (which the audience gets too, in a four-minute exposition dump), Dr. Jennings deduces that the puppets are still at the Badoga Bay Inn – except Blade who was taken in as evidence, but handily escapes his plastic bag prison. Then Dr. Jennings makes the sensible decision to hire…a few goons (bunging goons, at that!) to break into the Badoga Bay Inn in order to get horribly killed by both the villian Sutek and the “good” puppets…I men, steal the puppets.
I’m not quite sure why that’s necessary, since Rick doesn’t necessarily even refuse Dr. Jennings the opportunity to examine the puppets, but, hey, whatever, I’m still wondering where the hell Camille from Puppet Master II got to. Meanwhile Sutek decides to channel his own “essence” into one puppet that he will send to finish off Rick and Toulon’s puppets, declaring that he will learn Toulon’s secret…
Wait, in the last movie, wasn’t Sutek trying to destroy those with Toulon’s knowledge? Because, it was implied, Toulon had stolen some of his knowledge? I mean, it still didn’t make sense why the hell Sutek was targeting anyone involved with the Omega Project in the first place, because even Rick didn’t seem to know anything about Toulon’s research, but it doesn’t make sense in a completely new way that Sutek would be trying to gain Toulon’s knowledge by…killing people who had nothing to do with Toulon. Especially when Rick doesn’t have Toulon’s entire formula. Which he does get about halfway through the movie. When Lauren projects a psychic message through his computer (complete with a Star Wars-esque exhortation: “Use the formula, Rick!”). Which she has because…uh, Toulon told her? But Rick has been in contact with Toulon’s spirit anyway. And how the hell does Rick know the puppets by name when…
[AT THIS POINT THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG POST HAD TO SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR A BRAIN ANEURYSM.]
The bottom line: even when you have a movie that’s really just two halves of one big movie, the Puppet Master series still has a horrifically jumbled continuity.
But, hey, there is one highlight: Rick has a gloriously trippy dream of Tunneler killing a willing Lauren in a bathtub.
At least we find out that Rick was also working as the caretaker of the Bodega Bay Inn at the same time he was doing research for the Omega Project, which makes a little more sense than him just happening to have the residence of a bunch of animated puppets as a lab. Well, I mean, it makes more sense the same way building a ladder to the moon makes more sense than building a ladder to the sun.
Anyway, just summarizing the rest of the movie seems unnecessary, so let me hit the highlights. Rick has to activate Decapitron via lightning again, because it was too good a Universal monsters reference to use in just one movie, I guess. Dr. Jennings shockingly turns on Rick, who really only had himself to blame since he was a bit too nonchalant about the whole “hiring goons to abduct animated puppets I’ve come to consider friends and allies for nefarious purposes and personal profit” thing. They have a struggle in an elevator, which, in such a rare nod to continuity, is clearly meant to be the same elevator where Neil Gallagher met his messy doom in the first film. The puppets, led by a Toulon-possessed Decapitron, dispatch Dr. Jennings for his “greed” and then turn on Sutek, who really should have given a moment’s more consideration over placing his entire essence in a squishable, stabable vessel. Later we find Rick and Susie living happily together with the puppets. As Susie returns from jogging, she jokingly admonishes Pinhead: “No peaking, Pinhead!” (In case you were wondering if the puppets had a sexuality). Then Rick’s internal monologue solemnly vows that he and the puppets will fight whatever evils come next, an odd oath considering that a subtitle often used with this movie was “the final chapter.”
I do genuinely think this is a more fun movie than 4, as much as we end up cutting into a poorly baked plot loaf. For silent animatrons, the puppets work quite well as violent anti-heroes, even if they are pitted against fairly bland antagonists like Sutek and Dr. Jennings. Plus, as much as I made fun of the story, I can’t help but admire in my own way a movie where the most important plot point is the deployment of a puppet everyone solemnly christens “Decapitron.” It’s just the story really and truly might give you a medical condition if you mull it over too much (like would it have been so difficult to have Rick in the Badoga Bay Inn because the Omega Project knew about Neil Gallagher’s own research into Toulon and wanted Rick there to explore the building while also conducting his own experiences based on what notes they managed to get from Gallagher…but I better stop there; my head is throbbing again). Also, honestly, Puppet Master 4 and 5 could and should have just been one movie, despite all the puppet action it genuinely does offer.
Anyway, this was intended to be the grand finale of the series, although not really of the puppets themselves. Instead there was supposed to be a trilogy of spin-off films called Puppet Wars. This trilogy was going to involve delving into Charles Band’s twin obsessions, Universal horror monsters and small doll-like things, by pitting the puppets up against Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. Sadly, this did not happen because that would have been so much awesomeness it may have cracked the foundations of space-time itself. Instead the franchise went into a full four-year hiatus, returning in 1998 with Curse of the Puppet Master, which we’ll cover next time. Same killer puppet time, same killer puppet channel…