Directed by Tom Nagel, boasting talent from Denise Richards and Micha Barton, and having a plot that sounds as if ‘Christine’s’ equally pissed off cousin is on the rampage, I was hoping ‘The Toybox’ would stand out from the crowd; I’m pleased to say that it does.
The plot of ‘The Toybox’, when described simply, tells the ill-fated story of a fractured family and a couple of hitch-hikers are terrorised by their haunted RV in the desert. Hoping to heal the rift between two brothers their elderly father purchases a motorhome on the verge of being scrapped. Reluctantly the family agree to the trip, and with a puff of black smoke from the ailing exhaust they head off cross country. Whilst things seem to be going ok at first, family tension aside, it’s not long before the motorhome begins to show some flaws in its design, some of which are well beyond the quirks of an aged vehicle. Things (quite literally) take a turn for the worse once the family stop to aid some stranded motorists deep in the desert. Seemingly satisfied with the amount of souls now on board the motorhome makes an executive decision on the destination. Next stop, the middle of no-where.
Once stranded in the desert the RV shows its true colours – blood red being its most prominent.
One could be forgiven for assuming that ‘The Toybox’ is likely to draw heavy influence from the Stephen King novel and adaptation ‘Christine’, I did to at first, wondering how the huge hulking RV could innovate kills beyond that of the murderous ’58 Fury. However, as the film progresses the films kills develop beyond the killer car idea and the film adds in some distinct slasher elements, which in my opinion allowed the film to stay fresh and entertaining right until the end credits.
Without giving to much away, the car itself isn’t the actual threat, but a spirit which lingers within it.
The acting is good, the mature cast (bar one young kid) immediately separates the film’s characters from the usual slasher fodder. The theme of family situation is relatable, real, and most importantly allows a feasible feeling of unease and tension to be created naturally. These are real people, and despite their flaws, you kind of route for them. This is a film within which situations go from bad to worse, quickly, and there are several pivotal moments in the film which hit quite hard from a drama perspective. Whilst there is nothing pretentious or deep the solid writing, acting and the isolated desert environment organically creates a situation where the threat feels genuine – excluding of course the whole supernatural vehicle.
Indeed, what the film does quite cleverly is put these people in a situation where they aren’t safe anywhere – either inside a vehicle which is actively trying to kill them, or outside in a desert which will ultimately see them meet the same fate. It keeps the whole affair tense, and even when the dialogue/exposition is running its course you can’t shake the feeling that something even more distressing is just around the corner for our helpless holiday makers.
The slasher elements of the film, namely the kills, are extremely satisfying in terms of their diversity, and their level of violence. The antagonist is revealed quite cleverly at first, with the identify of the true threat being withheld until just the right moment. Prior to that we enjoy some death sequences which still lie in the realms of coincidental/accidental (as opposed to a definite killer - somewhat akin to the less elaborate deaths in the ‘Final Destination’ series), and some supernatural jump scares. Once the antagonist is revealed the film switched to full slasher mode – with a themed killer in keeping with the rest of the movies aesthetics. The kills might not be absolute carnage but when the first few deaths occurred I sat upright and began to pay attention. I didn’t expect the film to be quite as brutal as it was towards the end either! The effects look good, and whilst its not balls to the wall blood shed, the bloody violence rounds an already solid slice of horror off nicely.
Overall, this is a title which I can easily recommend you pick-up. Whilst not for any single specific element ‘The Toybox’ makes for a solid slasher movie. Its conventional enough without being generic. You can check this movie out upon its UK release 22nd October through High Fliers Films and if you live in the USA, its out on Blu-Ray, DVD and DigitalHD from September 18th.