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The Toybox Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Skyline Entertainment

The Toybox Poster

Directed by Tom Nagel
Written by Jeff Denton
2018, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 14th, 2018

Starring:
Denise Richards as Jennifer
Mischa Barton as Samantha
Jeff Denton as Steve
Brian Nagel as Jay
Matt Mercer as Mark
Malika Michelle as Olivia
David Violand as Charles
David Greathouse as Robert Gunthry

The Toybox 01 The Toybox 02

Review:

Have you ever gone to a restaurant that you frequently haunt and discovered there’s a new item on the menu that sounds enticing? Let’s say you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, and this new dish has everything you like (with a twist you haven’t seen before). The server is pushing it to the moon, and the crazy sauce and colorful bed of noodles mixed with your go-to favorites has the potential to be epic. You take the plunge, applauding yourself on your sense of adventure.

A funny thing happens, though- the tastes don’t quite mix. It’s a good bite, bad bite scenario with an underlying flavor that just mars the whole dish. Overall it still works, but you just can’t shake what’s screwing with you. The Toybox is just like that.

Charles (David Violand, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) is a recently widowed father who just wants to take his fractured family on one last vacation in the “new” RV that he got for a steal. Along for the ride are his two antithetical sons, Steve (writer Jeff Denton, Frankenstein Reborn) and Jay (Brian Nagel, Clowntown), as well as Steve’s wife, Jennifer (Denise Richards, Wild Things), and his young daughter, Olivia (Malika Michelle). Along the way, they stop to help Samantha (Mischa Barton, The Basement) and Mark (Matt Mercer, Beyond the Gates), siblings whose truck died on the side of the deserted highway. Once they turn off the main highway and hit the open desert, tragedy after inexplicable tragedy strikes and madness descends.

The Toybox 03 The Toybox 04

The trailer screams out for a The Hills Have Eyes kind of aesthetic, and The Toybox hits the mark in terms of visuals with aplomb. It’s wonderfully shot in a stark desert location that adds layers to the ambience and pairs well with the creepy old RV. The RV itself is a character, dated and sleazy. From the moment you see it, you know bad things are afoot inside. That vibe is continued with imagery and gore that, while not over the top, is more than adequate to make you squeamish. In short, it’s clearly an unapologetic horror film that knows where it’s borrowing from and does so with considerable respect. It’s the meat and potatoes of horror, and you love the taste. The scenes presented on the TV are particularly trippy and nasty.

Also, there are multiple actors in here that know how to carry a scene (if not a whole movie), but that’s where part of the issue comes in. This is your colorful bed of noodles. Mischa Barton is giving it much more than some of her recent “phone it in” performances, and Denise Richards always ups the star power (even if she’s no longer an A-lister). Unfortunately, chemistry between the leading ladies and their male counterparts is spotty and the dialogue is rather wooden. Having a strong ability to suspend your disbelief doesn’t entirely cover the stilted feel of certain scenes.

The Toybox 05 The Toybox 06

Then there are muted responses to horrible tragedies that just don’t make any sense. I understand the intricacies of shock, but where’s the emotion? The only one who seems to be feeling it is Denton (as Steve, the father who loses everything), though Barton does pull some powerhouse shit in the final few minutes.

I’m not even going to get into the RV chase scene. It’s not worth bitching about; just silly.

Still, I have sat through much, much worse. The Toybox takes the premise of the haunted/possessed vehicle (we’re looking at you, Christine and The Car) and places it inside an RV. The premise works…after all, what is an RV but a house on wheels? The strong opening sets the tone and the vehicle itself carries that tone.

I just can’t help but wonder what a defter hand in the writing, paired with performances that meshed better, could have done for this otherwise well-constructed piece of nasty fun.

The Toybox 07 The Toybox 08

Grades:

Movie: Twoandahalfstars The Toybox Cover
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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