Pinocchio's Revenge (1996)
"Evil comes with strings attached."
Defence Attorney Jennifer Garrick acquires a Pinocchio puppet from a condemned serial killer. Her little daughter, Zoe, finds the puppet and, believing that it is a birthday present, begins to grow attached to her new puppet friend. Suddenly, accidents begin to happen around the house and at school and Zoe blames Pinocchio. However no one will believe her. As her behaviour deteriorates and people start to go missing, Jennifer begins to wonder just what is going on with Zoe and her puppet.
I don’t think that Pinocchio’s Revenge could try any harder to be Child’s Play if it wanted to. Clearly out to ape the successful horror film that introduced the world to Chucky, Pinocchio’s Revenge tries to turn everyone’s favourite ‘wooden puppet who wanted to become a boy’ (unless you can name another wooden puppet that wanted the same thing) into a similar sort of slasher-thriller. The comparisons between the two are inevitable and being the later, lower budgeted one, Pinocchio’s Revenge suffers right from the start as its not in the same league.
It’s impossible to shake the feeling of Child’s Play at any point. Pinocchio’s Revenge rips it off so bad it’s a wonder that the studio didn’t pursue legal proceedings. However unlike the latter, Pinocchio’s Revenge fails to deliver any consistent scares, tension or thrills though it does deliver some sporadic moments of decency. Director Kevin Tenney was the man behind classic 80s horror-comedy Night of the Demons so we know he’s got the ability to make something entertaining. Sadly, Pinocchio’s Revenge is not that something. No matter how hard Tenney tries, he just can’t make the notion of a killer wooden puppet seem scary because of the associations we have of the character from the animated Disney film. Pinocchio is just not a psycho killer, he’s a cute little wooden puppet who just wants to be a boy.
We’re given very little information as to the background to the puppet. In fact we don’t even know how the puppet came to life in the first place. Is it possessed by the spirit of the killer, Gotto? Did Zoe’s rage and anger cause the puppet to come to life? There’s no sense of ambiguity despite the film trying to mislead the audience a few times. Is the puppet alive or is it really Zoe who is doing the killing? Well the clue is in the title after all but on the few occasions when the boundaries between the two become blurred, the film tries to punch above its weight with the potential that it is really just Zoe. The final twists and ending to the film make me wish that the rest of the film had been more deserving. Pinocchio’s Revenge is such a misleading title too because there’s no real need for the puppet to start killing people. He’s not out to get revenge on anyone, just killing people who get in the way of the relationship between Zoe and her mother for some reason.
It doesn’t help that Pinocchio doesn’t start his ‘revenge’ until the final act and even then it’s not that bloody or violent. The first half of the film is drawn-out to try and create some mood going in to the kills later on but it doesn’t do a great job of creating it. Once people start winding up dead, the pace picks up a little more but even then there isn’t a massive body count. So many potential victims and so little carnage. But what would you expect from an alleged killer that looks as ridiculous as the chap on the poster. The Pinocchio puppet looks awful. It’s big, crudely carved, its eyes can only roll left and right and its mouth doesn’t even move when it talks, surely the easiest of effects to achieve. What’s worse is that the puppet is a foul-mouthed little bugger but the voice is not intimidating in the slightest. You just want him to shut up.
Brittany Alyse Smith, as Zoe, delivers a mixed performance. On some occasions her overly cute, sweet little girl delivery is so adorable that you can’t help but empathise with her. But in other scenes, her delivery is loud, forced and too energetic, showing her lack of maturity in delivering the lines. Rosalind Allen is better as her mother but this is hardly an actor’s film, especially when she’s forced to talk to and deal with a killer puppet. To write any jokes about ‘wooden’ acting at this point would be pretty pointless. Also, there is a shower scene featuring some full frontal nudity and I will avoid the whole ‘Pinocchio gets wood’ jokes too.
Pinocchio’s Revenge is derivative and, at times, just a drag to sit through but there are a couple of good moments and Tenney does at least try to play everything as seriously as possible. Whether that was the best option or not remains to be seen. Thankfully we were spared a sequel.
Director(s): Kevin Tenney
Writer(s): Kevin Tenney
Actor(s): Rosalind Allen, Todd Allen, Candace McKenzie, Brittany Alyse Smith, Aaron Lustig, Lewis van Bergen, Janet MacLachlan, Ron Canada, Larry Cedar
Duration: 96 mins