A mysterious woman drops off a trunk of toys at a children's hospital and then all hell breaks loose. That's the setup for Toys of Terror. After that prologue, the movie jumps ahead in time by a few decades. Hannah (Kyana Teresa) and David (Dayo Ade) have just purchased the old hospital, which they plan to renovate and sell after spending Christmas there with their children and a nanny, Rose (Georgia Walters). It doesn't take long for the two younger kids to discover – you guessed it – a trunk of old toys. Then teenage Alicia (Verity Marks) and Rose begin hearing voices. Those creepy toys pop up in unexpected places, too.
The mansion, of course, harbors a horrible secret, one that Hannah knows but never bothered to tell anyone else about. It quickly becomes clear that the possessed playthings have it in for Alicia's little siblings. They'll also harm anyone who stands in the way of the nefarious plan they have. Christmas abruptly turns into a battle between humans and toys.
There is a long history of toy-centered horror movies, including Child's Play, Puppet Master, and Stuart Gordon's Dolls. Toys of Terror doesn't come up with any new ways of approaching the idea. The only mildly interesting evil toy is a See N' Say that utters sentiments like “K is for kill!” and “D is for die!” Otherwise, the villains are pretty generic – a creepy monkey, a mischievous elf figure, etc.
Lack of originality is not the major problem here, nor is the utter predictability of the plot, although those are both frustrating. It's the killer toys themselves. They may be standard, but the way they're brought to life is most definitely substandard. Toys of Terror utilizes some of the clunkiest effects I've seen in years, even by low-budget movie standards. Old-school stop-motion animation was used, meaning that all of them move in a jerky, unrealistic style. Because they don't move with fluidity, they never appear to be occupying the same space as the actors. That, in turn, guarantees that they don't present any credible threat.
If Toys of Terror was going for a humorous approach, the lame visuals might have been okay. The film genuinely tries to be scary, though. Literally nothing is scary about bad special effects, except perhaps that someone signs off on them. All the performances here are adequate, and the set design very effectively conveys the idea that the building is a place where bad stuff happened to children a long time ago.
Still, when the very items we're supposed to be afraid of look way more ridiculous than they do frightening, the horror value goes right through the floor.
Toys of Terror comes to DVD on January 19. A complimentary copy was provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review.
There are two bonus materials on the disc, both running five minutes in length. “Toys of Terror Come to Life” looks at the ill-fated decision to use stop-motion animation for the toys. The filmmakers seemed to think it would look cool, as opposed to outdated. “A Terrifying Weekend,” meanwhile, is a standard making-of segment focusing on stunts and effects work.
Toys of Terror will be available on Amazon.com and at other retailers.
out of four
Toys of Terror is rated R for some horror violence. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.