Came across a British horror release called The Toybox – directed by Paolo Sedazzari (The Shant Club, Rockin’ Chair) hoping to see either something gruesome, or something soft I could pass on to the kid – ’cause of the title, you know. The story begins quite innocently for two children, growing up in the deepest countryside, their imaginations set ablaze by a book on local myths and legends. Before all is said and done, an overwhelming sense of impending horror surrounds the house… but is the enemy outside – or is the enemy within? Well, that’s kinda what I’d like to know.
Berenice (Claudine Spiteri) convinces her younger brother Brian (Elliott Jordan) that she is the reincarnation of a witch with the powers to put everything right. In the opening sequence, they play a game called “Where’s Freddie”, and Brian accidentally churns the hamster in the blender. Berenice puts him in the toy box and makes him stay in there for a while. As they grow up Brian becomes emotionally dependent on his sister, so that when she returns to the family home for Christmas with her new boyfriend he feels totally betrayed. At the same time a man strongly resembling the mythical Jake the Mid-Folker is closing in.
The first twenty minutes looked good. The Mid-Folker was coming, pacing up the road with a brisk stride, red-eyed hellhound panting at his side. Flashbacks of murders past are glimpsed at – giving the impression that this was the fate to come… It all begins to come together, but for the next hour, suddenly the film derails and you’re stuck in this bickering household with a sex starved old hag and a bunch of other dyfunctionals. A lot of time is spent on dry comic relief attempts, boring conversation, unrelated sequences, and relationship woes, as Conrad (Craig Henderson) attempts to cope with Berenice’s discomforting family.
Drawings of demon faces are being sent to the home as the day approaches when the Mid-Folker was to wreck havoc with his hook and corkscrew hand. There was supposed to be a big killing spree and a family under attack by an evil legend! But nothing happened! The family just argues. The end throws you for a loop. The Mid-Folker should be outside the house, but the story goes on and on forgetting about him – until finally Berenice is writhing around on the floor within some candles, doing (I may be wrong) a sex or love spell? The boyfriend leaves, Berenice goes after him, and then Brian turns into the Mid-Folker? Did the Mid-Folker who was walking back to the house possess him? Or was Brian mentally deranged and thought he was the Mid-Folker, because Berenice thought she was the witch reincarnation or the only girl who could defeat him… Were these two kids gone bent off some childhood myth and fairytales, or were they truly reincarnations of the two legends. You’re left wondering way too many things to enjoy the story. For all the explaining this film exhaustedly tries to do, I’m at a loss for what happened in the end. There were no other pillars to raise this viewing experience. The gore and scares are minimal – practically non-existent.
The family gets wasted but all you see is one of them with a fake rubber slit across the neck that you can purchase at the magic shop. The movie had potential but just fell apart completely. And what the hell was the big deal about the toy box anyway? It was never really addressed, yet the title and the ending scene. Was the toy box to blame for driving Brian mad? Was that teddy bear possessed? What the hell was going on? What a mess.
Did you ever see the old 1973 movie Don’t Look in the Basement (aka The Forgotten)? When you watch the movie, what the hell does it have to do with the basement? Someone looks in the basement for a minute and sees a dead doctor on the floor and its no big deal. The rest of the movie is about a bunch of psychos rambling and babbling about who the killer is… Paolo Sedazzari accidentally remade that movie – took the plot down to its basic skeleton of “what the hell is going on here?” and just changed some of the elements.
Final analysis: Someone locked a kid in a toy box – worse even, they let him out and made a confusing movie about it. My 7 year old, who was watching it with me, got up in the middle of The Toybox bored to death, sayin, “Whatever happened to that guy – I thought he was comin to get everyone?” You know what kiddo – I’m wonderin the same thing. Some people may find this movie bearable – I found it laborous and a letdown to watch. It just failed to deliver anything. I do think Paolo has the potential to put together a good movie judging from the way a few segments were filmed. The pieces just didn’t fit together in this one. The reviews I’ve read on Toybox are all over the board. More positive than negative actually, which is confusing. This film has directorial skill, but no cohesion or culminating effect. Unless you’re a young woman who grew up thinking you might be a witch, or a young kid who got locked in closets or toy boxes for that matter, avoid The Toybox like the plague. Its like a horror movie without a single scare. In fact, that’s exactly what it is.