When you think of Christmas horror films, what comes to mind? Black Christmas? Silent Night, Deadly Night? Santa’s Slay? For me it’s To All A Good Night, the first killer Santa film and the only movie directed by legendary cinematic psycho David Hess (Last House on the Left, House at the Edge of the Park).
But the season also has its share of family-oriented horrors such as Gremlins and Krampus. Now director Nicholas Verso follows up Boys in the Trees with Toys of Terror written by Stan Versus Evil and Simpsons screenwriter Dana Gould. Is it worthy of a place on the shelf with those other films, or do we hope Warner Brothers kept the receipt?
David (Dayo Ade, Degrassi High) and Hannah (Kyana Teresa) are house flippers. They’ve parched a large house in the mountains, which thanks to the prologue, we know has a sinister history tied to a trunk of toys. They decide it’s the perfect palace to spend Christmas with his daughter Alicia (Verity Marks) and Hanna’s children Franklin (Saul Elias) and Zoe (Zoe Fish, The Grudge, The Return). Their nanny Rose (Georgia Waters, Siren) and the couple’s contractor Emmet (Ernie Pitts) are there as well.
Of course, the kids find the chest almost immediately and it isn’t long before Rose is attacked by a flying toy and the kids are acting strangely. Looks like Alicia was wrong about it being a boring Christmas.
I’m not sure what I found more surprising about Toys of Terror. The fact that despite being written by Dana Gould it’s not a comedy. Or the fact that despite being almost totally inoffensive it has an R rating. Especially as it’s obviously aimed at families. The film’s page on the WB site even says “This original “scary-tale” will have the kids screaming for the holidays!”
It takes an hour of the film’s ninety minutes before anything really horrible happens. We do get some awful stop-motion moving toys. And when I say awful, I mean CGI would have been preferable. I’d almost prefer Toys of Terror went the route of Dolls or Elves and skipped the effects entirely.
Not that better effects could have saved the film, but some of the scenes could have had some impact if they didn’t look so laughable. Later scenes involving a hostile Christmas tree are better, but that’s not saying much.
I’m sure you noticed Toys of Terror’s small cast and surmised there’s an equally low body count. You’re right, and it’s insultingly easy to guess who the sacrificial lambs are. It’s equally insulting how they’re treated as disposable as well. The attempt to turn one of the deaths into a heartwarming coda to the film just adds insult to injury.
We don’t get a break from absolutely stupid behaviour either. Hannah of course researched the property before buying it. She knows what happened, and the rumours about how and why. It’s perfectly understandable that she doesn’t believe the rumour. It’s not understandable that she wants to stay after she’s attacked by cribs that launch themselves across the attic at her and Rose.
Can I find anything good to say about Toys of Terror? There is a well-staged car crash but that’s about it. The film is truly a long dull slog with nothing of interest going on. Even the kids won’t be scared by it.
Warner Brothers have released Toys of Terror on Digital with DVDs and Blu-Rays available January 19th. That’s too bad because the disc would be a suitable substitute for coal in a bad little girl or boy’s stocking.