Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Toybox (2005) Dir Paolo Sedazzari

The Toybox was one of those movies I remember seeing on the shelf of the local Blockbuster back in the mid-aughts.  The cover is a shot of a girl in pigtails and a school girl outfit holding a bloody hammer looming over a bloody toybox with the tagline that reads, "Some fairy tales can be deadly."  I never rented it or even picked up the case for further investigation because I figured it was another cheapo OVA with minimal T&A and a shoddy story, etc etc.  Basically like any other crappy horror movie that ends up dusty on a Blockbuster new releases shelf.

Last evening, bored out of my gourd and browsing for a horror/thriller/suspense/anything bloody to watch I saw The Toybox was available for free so I figured, "Why the hell not?"  The real selling point was that it is a British movie set in Norfolk so what with my predilection for British horror movies I started watching.

The basic premise is: a brother (Brian) and sister (Bernice) explore fairytales of the region (Norfolk and Suffolk) and build  imaginary adventures and characters around those fairytales.  Fast forward roughly a decade, sister is away at university and brother hangs out in the garage at home making music and being weird.  Bernice is on her way home for the Christmas holidays with her boyfriend Conrad.  Conrad is very nervous about meeting Bernice's family, primarily because he's extremely uncomfortable in family/group surroundings.  Bernice tries to assuage Conrad's worries by telling him her family is normal, Mum and Dad are aging flower children, Nan's a sweetie, and Brian is Brian but he's a good guy.  They arrive at her childhood home and then everything goes fucking mental.

I don't want to give away any spoilers but The Toybox has now entered my horror movies for Christmas playlist.  It's not a good movie per se but it has many elements that make for a disconcerting cult movie experience.  The best parts of the movie revolve around the holiday psychosis a la, "And you thought your family was crazy."  It's not Motel Hell  crazy but just, well you ever been invited along to Christmas or some other holiday by a friend or significant other and you get there and all you want to do is run screaming or are shell-shocked by the level of bile only family members can dish out to one another?  Yeah, that's The Toybox.  There's one scene that will stick with me for a long time like the New Year's party in Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1971).  Truth be told thinking of Johnny Got His Gun makes me think of surreal/bizarro cult horror movies of the late 1960s early 1970s before the Craven/Carpenter explosion.  Again, these are not excellent movies but they have a seriously high creep factor simply because of the sense of unease they cause.

The only actress I recognized from the movie was Suzanne Bertish who starred in The Hunger, Red Dwarf, and The 13th Warrior.  She played the mother and was my favorite character.  The rest of the cast was solid but made of either British TV actors or otherwise.

The Toybox is worth checking out.  It's not brilliant but it's certainly better than a lot of teen scream, bullshit giant animal gone amok flicks and cheapie tits'n'gore stuff out there. 

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