September 16, 2018

There's Fun Inside THE TOYBOX

Starring Mischa Barton, Denise Richards, Jeff Denton, Brian Nagel, Greg Violand, Malika Michelle, David Greathouse. Directed by Tom Nagel. (2018/95 min). 


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

More often than not, the synopsis of a horror film makes it sound a lot better than it really is. Here, the opposite is true. While The Toybox is indeed about a possessed RV with a taste for blood, the film isn't nearly as stupid as it sounds. In fact, it's actually pretty good.

A perpetually bickering family feels obligated to go on a road trip with the two brothers' recently-widowed Dad, who just purchased a beat-up old motor home for the occasion. After picking up two other stranded motorists, they detour from the highway onto a dirt road, at which time the RV takes over the driving duties. It speeds miles into the open desert, killing one poor rube along the way, then abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere. Unable to restart the vehicle and too far from the highway to get help, they're trapped. One by one, people start dying in a variety of awful ways.

Unlike the vehicular villains in Christine or The Car, there's a backstory behind this RV's rampage. We learn its previous owner was notorious serial killer Robert Gunthry, who used the motor-home as a traveling torture chamber. Though he was caught and executed, Gunthry's spirit now possesses the vehicle in order to keep on killing.

Another wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Despite its inherent comic possibilities,The Toybox takes the premise more-or-less seriously, maintaining a oppressively dark tone throughout, which is punctuated by several brutal deaths. It even manages to generate a fair amount of tension and suspense, with tight direction by Tom Nagel, a claustrophobic atmosphere and characters just interesting enough that when one dies, we sort-of feel it. You couldn't accomplish that with a cheeky, self-aware attitude.

That's not to say the film doesn't have its share of goofy moments. Why is it whenever someone flees from a pursuing vehicle, they run straight ahead instead of dodging left or right? The last time I checked, a lumbering RV doesn't exactly turn on a dime. It's also gotta be said that Gunthry's eventual appearance might elicit more unintended chuckles than fear. The guy looks like a demented copy machine repairman from the 1970s and grunts like a grizzly bear, defusing some of the dread. The film might have been better off never showing him at all. And whatever became of the family dog, who simply stops showing up after awhile?

Despite all that - as well as an underwhelming resolution - The Toybox is mostly a pleasant surprise. No classic, but certainly a lot of good, violent fun. It's fast-paced, atmospheric and not nearly as stupid as the concept suggests.


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