Before the FBI "don't steal" warning was finished rolling on my video of Pinocchio's Revenge (1996)- yes, I said video- I found myself deep in thought about how the word "revenge" automatically makes a movie something I want to see. Though I don't consider myself to be a particularly vengeful person, there's just something about that word, a je ne sais quoi, if you will, that piques my interest. Take, for example, The Facts of Life Goes to Paris. Now, you might not want to touch that film with ten foot...umm...eyeballs. But what if that title were instead The Facts of Life Goes to Paris: Natalie's Revenge? What if the sequel was dubbed The Facts of Life Goes to Paris 2: The Revenge of Edna Garrett? Tell me you wouldn't be all over that shit. You know you would! I'm telling you, it's irrefutable: revenge makes any movie more interesting. I don't even care if there's actually any...revengening taking place in the film- if the word is in the title, then the movie is awesome and that's that. Not interested in Jane Eyre? Who can blame you, what with all the "governess this" and "I heart Mr Rochester" that...but call it "The Revenge of Mad Bertha Mason" and it sounds exciting! You feel me?
By the time I snapped out of my reverie, I realized that I'd missed the first ten minutes or so of Pinocchio's Revenge and I had to rewind. What can I say? I am but a humble philosopher.
A long time ago (5 years) in a galaxy far, far away (Florida), a man is stopped by police as he buries a child and a mysterious package in the woods during a rainstorm. The movie promptly cuts to the present day and we learn that the man, "local wood sculptor and accused serial killer" Vincent Gotto (Lewis Van Bergen), is on death row: the body he was burying was that of his son, and the mysterious package contained a large Pinocchio puppet. His attorney, Jennifer Garrick (Rosalind Allen), is convinced he's not a serial killer and she fights to keep him alive...but it turns out that she's a single mother, so what does she know? Gotto, however, just wants to be put to death for killing his son. Eventually he gets his way and takes a trip to visit Ol' Sparky, and the Pinocchio doll ends up going home with Jennifer.
Jennifer's young daughter Zoe (Brittany Alyse Smith) gets into a fight at school and pulls a Mike Tyson on the other girl: she chomps on her frickin' ear! Clearly, Jennifer is a failure as both an attorney and a mother- see, this is what happens when women divorce. Zoe is only grounded until her birthday, however, and then it's party time! When Zoe's real present fails to show up on time (Jesus, can't single mothers do anything right?), Jennifer gives her daughter the Pinocchio doll- but only temporarily, since, you know, it belonged to a serial killer and all that. Once the girl gets attached to her new toy, mom will take it away. Seems like a great plan!
And boy oh boy, do Zoe and Pinocchio get attached! Maybe I'm reading too much into things, or maybe writer/director Kevin Tenney meant for things to take a disturbing turn, who can say? But when Zoe lies in bed listening to her mother and her mother's boyfriend David (Todd Allen) have sex, then turns to Pinocchio and says "I wish you were a real boy so I wouldn't have to be alone", I think it's a little weird. There's also plenty of sequences wherein Zoe and Pinocchio lie together exactly as Jennifer and David do- and shall we talk about the scene where Pinocchio watches babysitter Sophia (Candace McKenzie) in the shower? According to Zoe, he just "wants to learn about women's bodies" after hearing Jennifer and David boinking. Clearly, Pinocchio's Revenge is going to be a different sort of killer doll movie.
Zoe brings the doll to school and he falls into the hands of the same girl Zoe fought with days earlier. The girl tosses Pinocchio over a fence and makes her getaway on her bike. The next thing you know, someone shoves a rake handle into her bike spokes, sending the girl flying over her handlebars; she lands and promptly gets run over by a school bus. But who was wielding that rake? Who, I ask you? oooEEEEEEooooooo!
According to Zoe, it was Pinocchio. According to Zoe's psychiatrist, Zoe is cuckoo nutso. I don't know what to believe any more! Sweet Mother of God, I'm coming apart!
Oops, wrong movie. Anyway, Zoe scolds Pinocchio for being kind of a jerk and Pinocchio exploits Zoe's fear of abandonment, telling her that he just wants to be her real brother and they'd be together forever if only they could just get rid of her mom's boyfriend! Zoe's a little unsure, but the next thing you know, someone is pushing David down the stairs. David ends up in the hospital and Zoe scolds Pinocchio again. The doll counters with "Pfft- hey, maybe it was you. No one saw me do it!" and you know, he kind of has a point. In fact, Zoe's doctor feels the same way and wants the girl committed; he shows Jennifer a video of Zoe having a decidedly one-sided conversation with her puppet companion. The girl's mother balks, however, for she knows that Zoe is simply a misunderstood moppet with a heart of gold and ringlets of off-gold.
Pinocchio promises Zoe that things would be so much better if she'd only cut his strings...and if they got rid of that pesky babysitter! Zoe complies and the puppet promptly takes off for the hospital where he finishes what he started with David by unplugging the dude's...medical thingamajig. Shortly after returning home, Sophia gets a fireplace poker upside the head repeatedly (Poker? I hardly knew her!) and it's bye bye babysitter. Still, however, we're not entirely sure if it's Zoe or her doll doing the dirty work...the dirty work of killing, that is.
It's another dark and stormy night, so eerily reminiscent of the dark and stormy night at the beginning of the film, when Jennifer comes home to find the babysitter's body and have a showdown with Pinocchio once and for all. Finally, we get some doll running around action! The puppet chases Jennifer, brandishing a butcher knife and I ask you: what's better than watching the drama of actor vs puppet unfold on screen? Nothing, that's what!
She gets stabbed a few times here and there, but eventually Jennifer prevails...however, Pinocchio's Revenge has an ending that will shock you! Shock you to your very core!
All right, maybe it's not that explosive...but it's a decent twist. This film is an interesting entry in the killer doll genre thanks to the relationship between Zoe and Pinocchio. It's established before the doll comes home that the girl is tapped, and the kill sequences leave the audience guessing as to who's...dare I say it...pulling the strings (feel free to groan). The idea of an "evil force" is explored briefly; Jennifer posits that maybe demons and evil can take any form- maybe Son of Sam wasn't "crazy", but rather maybe the neighbor's dog really was telling him to kill kill kill. Unfortunately, no one countered with "I see your point, Jennifer. However, that doesn't mean that Mr Berkowitz had to kill all those people. If the neighbor's dog told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it? Does doing what a dog tells you to do make you crazy?"
Undoubtedly Pinocchio's Revenge is more of a thriller than a horror film (it's really really not scary whatsoever), but hey- who says killer doll movies can't have a bit of substance and character development sometimes? I'm holding out for a sequel, hopefully titled Pinocchio's Revenge 2: The Revenge of Zoe. According to my science calculator, the double use of the word "revenge" means that such a film would have the potential to be the best movie evar!