The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Pinocchio’s Revenge’ (1996)

Posted by Damon Swindall - June 15th 2012 @ 7:02 pm

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS cover of Pinocchio's Revenge

I distinctly remember when Child’s Play came out in theaters. I was eight years old and wanted to see it so badly. A killer doll? That had to be amazing. But for certain reasons my parents didn’t take me to the theater. Not because it was horror, I watched plenty of that with my dad all the time. Some of my earliest memories are watching his bootleg VHS of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead when I was around four. My mom was just against me seeing killer toys, thinking that might scare me. This same reasoning kept me from Silent Night, Deadly Night. Of course, thanks to home video I saw them all soon enough and they should’ve known better.

Horror movies never scared me. Over the years the killer toy thing has been rather popular, and there were even plenty before Chucky, in 1996 director Kevin Tenney (Night of the Demons) decided to merge that subgenre of horror with a fairytale in Pinocchio’s Revenge. The result is good for a few laughs but lacks any real punch and is very light on the deaths.

The film opens with a man digging a grave for a young boy in the middle of the night when a patrol officer just happens by the scene. The man, Vincent Gotto, is taken in for the murder of his son and quickly linked to a number of other unsolved child murders in the area. When excavating the dig site looking for other bodies they uncover a hand-carved Pinocchio doll that Gotto made for his boy’s birthday. Now as we jump ahead five years he is getting closer to his end in the electric chair while his attorney does everything to get the sentence lifted. Jennifer Garrick (Rosalind Allen) believes that while he may have killed his son, the other deaths should not be levied against him. She is unsuccessful and with her car full of Gotto’s stuff, the Pinocchio puppet is mistaken for a birthday gift for her young daughter Zoe. Soon after getting the doll, her mood begins to change, bad things start happening, and all blame comes from Zoe to her new wooden pal.

Just an innocent puppet

If you wonder why I brought up Child’s Play at the beginning it’s because this film has so much in common with it that movie, at times, it’s comical. There are killers and dolls together and they get mixed in with a seemingly normal family. Then everyone is in complete disbelief of the kid when they tell them the doll is doing all the bad, even going so far as to take them to therapy. Everything down to the mysterious way you don’t see the puppet doing anything for so long leads you to question what’s really going on, only that something/someone short is committing the crimes. The big difference is that here, none of the shenanigans have any real tension to them.

There is one pretty awesome attempt at death, though it ultimately goes nowhere. The snobby blonde bitch at school who bullies young Zoe goes a bit too far when Pinocchio is launched over a fence into some bushes. As the young girl finds her friend there is also a rake with a very long wooden handle. As the bully rides by on her bike someone pushes the handle out from the fence, into the spokes of her bike, and sends the girl flying right in front of a driving bus that runs right over her. Unfortunately, the girl turns out bruised and scared but OK. I thought the movie was about to get ballsy and dark with some children dying by bus assault, but alas…

This movie also has the very first billed acting appearance of Verne Troyer. Yes, a few years before he was Mini Me the little actor played the part of Pinocchio when they needed someone to run around in a puppet suit. This masked screen time is limited to one or two very brief scenes, but he’s still in there!

Say baby, wanna wrestle?

Since Jennifer is recently divorced and has a very demanding job she also has a live-in nanny/housekeeper named Sophie who is from out of the country. This character’s only real purpose for being in the film is for one full frontal nudity scene. I’m not complaining, because it’s a real highlight, but I guess Tenney needed someone ready and willing to shed some clothes to keep people interested in the flick. He also gets Allen to go topless for a sex scene with her boyfriend, though you don’t see much. Still, I’m sure there are some SeaQuest fans out there happy to see a brief glimpse of her boobage.

This is not the best example of a killer doll/toy movie by a long shot, and I’m not even sure I’d recommend it to too many. There’s very little death, a crazy ending, some waaaaaay out of place bits of overly dramatic score, and not enough creepy puppet! If you do feel so inclined to give this a spin there is a readily available DVD out there somewhere. In my opinion it’s better to stick with some of Tenney’s other work like Night of the Demons.

Until next week – I’m in the market for mass murderers dolls.

Body Count: 3
First Death: 25:17
Best Death: Meh
Best Attempt at a Death: Little Girl Bully Hit by a Bus
Toy Deaths: 2

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-6/13/12: The Carpenter (1989)
-6/20/12: Bad Dreams (1988)
-6/27/12: Dead Dudes in the House (1991)
-7/4/12: Don’t Go in the House (1980)

Oh my!

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