Watch out, people, there’s a lobotomized sex-cyborg on the loose! Yes, the insane premise of 964 Pinocchio (a.k.a Screams of Blasphemy) does certainly hold a lot of potential for a Tetsuo-style journey into another gloriously bizarre living nightmare. But the real question becomes “can it actually deliver on the same level as that mind-fuck masterpiece?” Well, let’s discuss.
Obviously, when a cyborg sex-slave that suffered a memory-wiping lobotomy (otherwise known as a Pinocchio) isn’t able to perform to the client’s satisfaction it runs the risk of incurring their wrath. Such is the fate of #964, (Haji Suzuki) a Pinocchio who is tossed out onto the street by a female client when he fails to maintain an erection during a threesome. However, it’s not long before he is taken under the wing of a homeless amnesiac named Himiko (Onn-chan) after literally falling into her lap. When 964’s owner/pimp learns he is missing he quickly sends his men looking for him, terrified that his underground cyborg sex ring will be discovered. Can 964 regain his memory and uncover the real truth about who (or what) he really is before he is found?
While this all may sound delightfully nuts, my chief complaint about 964 Pinocchio would actually have to be that it’s not weird enough. In fact the first thirty minutes play out a bit more like an offbeat love story than a Japanese splatter film. To be fair, after that the film does take a sharp descent into creative madness with bizarre imagery that ranges from the stomach-churning to the sublimely bizarre, all of which really has to be seen to be believed.
Even so, the strange and interesting scenes the film creates are frequently undermined by slow pacing and repetition causing them to become more of a source of fatigue than fascination. This is a shame because the final third incorporates much more of the fast-paced, gleeful insanity that was in short supply in the previous sections. While it does build to a satisfyingly deranged climax, there is still an overwhelming feeling of “too little too late”. Even at ninety-seven minutes it feels long and would have been more successful as a tightly-paced short rather than a feature.
Ultimately, this film tried to have it both ways, attempting to provide an experience that was both a Splatter Cinema mind-trip and a character-driven story. It would have been better to commit fully to one direction or the other because the unexplained random madness occurs too frequently for a drama and too infrequently for a wild ride in the vein of Tetsuo. Certainly an interesting (and Alternative-as-fuck) film and one that should be seen by anyone interested in Japan’s most bizarre cinematic experiences. However, if you are expecting a trip on the level of the aforementioned metal-morphing classic, or even the more recent examples of unbridled insanity like Helldriver and Tokyo Gore Police, this is sure to come up wanting.