Lionsgate // 1996 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 15th, 2005
Evil comes with strings attached.
It's like Child's Play crossed with...well, it's like Child's Play.
Convicted killer Vincent Gotto is about to be executed for the murder of his own son. His attorney, Jennifer Garrick (Rosalind Allen) believes that he isn't the killer, as in fact trying to protect someone. But he goes to the chair willingly, leaving behind a creepy, hand-carved wooden Pinocchio puppet.
Mysteriously, the puppet ends up in Jennifer's car one day, and Pinocchio is mistakenly wrapped up and given as a birthday gift to Jennifer's daughter Zoe (Brittany Smith). Zoe, a troubled little brat of a girl, immediately latches on to her new plaything, much to her mom's consternation.
But something is up. Zoe is spotted arguing with the puppet, then later she's involved in a near-fatality with a classmate, prompting her therapist to press Jennifer into committing the little girl. (What, no drug first?)
Something is going on with Pinocchio, and it is soon made clear that he wishes to be a real boy -- though, not to frolic and be happy with his friends, but to go on a killing spree.
I'm all for juxtaposing a beloved childhood icon with a dark, murderous horror film, but Pinocchio's Revenge has very little going for it. Right off the bat, one can't help but compare it to that other film about a child's murderous plaything, so the flick suffers out of the gate, hobbled by unoriginality.
Still, there was potential for Pinocchio's Revenge to be fun little romp, but the filmmakers made the disastrous choice of choosing to pursue a serious tone. This movie tries to play it straight! (To refresh your memory, it's about a killer Pinochhio puppet.)
Weirdly, the mechanics of the film aren't half-bad. The acting is capable, especially Roslaind Allen as the concerned -- and hot -- mother, and young Brittany Smith pulls off the kid f-ed up in the head routine well. And writer/director Kevin Tenney does his darndest to manufacture tension and suspense in his film, but none of that can overcome the inherent goofiness that is the premise. It's hard to be scared of a maniacal puppet.
I really think the only way this film could have succeeded if it were made in a more tongue-in-cheek style. Alas, there is hardly any humor in it (besides that of the inadvertent type), giving the whole film a...wooden feel.
About our lead villain: I can't escape the notion that a giant puppet named Pinocchio was used as the big baddie simply so the film could be titled Pinocchio's Revenge. The puppet prop is large and awkward, and Zoe doesn't seem to mind hefting this huge thing around everywhere she goes. I mean that thing has to weigh at least thirty pounds! Maybe Zoe's so poorly behaved because of the anabolic steroids.
So even if you accept this puppet as murderous little bastard, the actual on-screen violence will do anything to reinforce this assumption. For a vengeful, evil anthropomorphic puppet, Pinocchio is surprisingly restrained; he doesn't even commit his first homicide until late in the film.
Finally, be warned: this isn't a gory flick. Tenney is after suspense and mystery to generate his scares, not graphic slayings. Too bad the mystery isn't really involving and ends confusingly.
He does, however, manage to cover that other most-hallowed of horror conventions, full-frontal shower nudity, where the hot nanny finds herself being leered at by Pinocchio. I'll leave you to construe your own "woody" jokes.
Hmmm. It's got a great title. That's all I got.
I can not tell a lie: this movie stinks.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R