The David S. Goyer-produced supernatural horror film THE FOREST will begin haunting theatre screens this Friday, and the impending release of that film inspired me to take a look back at a pair of supernatural horror films that Goyer wrote: the 1992 Full Moon movie DEMONIC TOYS
, which was directed by Peter Manoogian, and the 2009 Platinum Dunes production THE UNBORN
, which Goyer directed himself.
Not only were both films written by Goyer, they also both center on female characters who are tormented by the spirits of evil children who want to be birthed into the world through them, similarities that made them prime candidates for the Face-Off treatment.
The events of DEMONIC TOYS only take one night to play out, but police officer Judith Gray has a lot to endure in those hours. Her partner / live-in boyfriend is killed just minutes after she tells him she's pregnant, then she gets trapped with the killer in a toy warehouse, which happens to be inhabited by evil supernatural forces. Through everything - which includes interacting with her future son and the demon that wants to take over his body - she is emotional but strong, a badass woman of the law and a great lead.
She's not a particularly interesting character, but you can't say that college student Casey isn't proactive. As soon as she has a bad dream, she's looking into what its imagery might mean, and her investigations into the strange events that are occurring around her allow her to jump to conclusions and accept situations much more quickly than most people likely would. 27 minutes into the movie, she knows she's being "haunted by someone who was never even born." How long would it take you to figure that out?
The demon who wants to be born in this film can take any form he wants, but he prefers to appear as a little boy. Although his voice has been dubbed and altered, Daniel Cerny's expressions and mannerisms as "The Kid" are great - he is one creepy little bastard. You can feel the danger, evil, and sleaze emanating from this character, even as he spends most of his screen time monologuing.
This time around, Goyer wanted to give us nightmares with a little boy nicknamed Jumby who "wants to be born now." Unfortunately, Jumby is not very scary. He's just a pale faced little kid who stands around a lot, occasionally lunging and roaring into the camera. To be honest, Jumby is incredibly lame. The creepiest he gets is in a dream where Casey watches him tear open her belly so he can, presumably, crawl inside.
This demon has been wanting to be born into our world for quite a long time. His previous attempt was on Halloween of 1925. He was stillborn then, and had to be planted like a seed to wait for blood to be spilled on the spot of his burial, at which time he'd get another chance to find a baby "to grow inside of". Sixty-six years later, the events of DEMONIC TOYS ensue, with Judith's child his intended vessel.
At first believed to be the spirit of Casey's twin brother, who died in the womb when her umbilical cord strangled him, Jumby turns out to be much more - a dybbuk that has been haunting Casey's family ever since taking over the body of her great uncle when he died as a result of genetic experiments at Auschwitz. Goyer certainly wasn't slacking when he came up with this stuff.
Those trapped inside the Toyland Warehouse are witness to some strange things - seductive apparitions, children riding tricycles while wearing gas masks - but the standouts are, rightfully, the demonic toys: mouthy Baby Oopsy Daisy, cackling clown Jack Attack, lazer-blasting robot Mr. Static, and monstrous bear Grizzly Teddy. This is another great batch of tiny terrors from Full Moon.
Jumby throws a good number of apparitions at his intended victims, including mask-wearing dogs; an awesomely designed, toothy demon that isn't given enough to do; and a twisty-headed old man who is the star of a chase sequence. The most impressive of his minions, however, is a possessed Idris Elba. You don't want to mess with a possessed Idris Elba.
The script for DEMONIC TOYS isn't exactly on the level of BLADE 2, but nor is it, thank Oopsy, on the level of BLADE TRINITY. Goyer's take on the traditional Full Moon set-up of characters being trapped in a location by killer toys is highly entertaining, with some fun (frequently vulgar) dialogue and characters who are great to spend some time with, like lazy security guard Charnetski, pushed-beyond-his-limits fast food delivery guy Mark, and of course the demonic toys, who deserve an even bigger franchise than they've received so far.
The end credits of THE UNBORN are rolling by the 82 minute mark and much of the movie is made up of scenes where characters are silently walking through dark locations and reacting to strange sounds, so you may theorize that the script for this movie must have been really short. Still, Goyer packed it with ideas - superstitions regarding infants, changing eye color, Jewish mythology, twin trivia, Nazi experimentation. He gains points for that, while losing points for some clunky dialogue and how dull the finished film is overall.
In the battle of similar Goyer-scripted supernatural horror movies, DEMONIC TOYS comes out on top with a stronger heroine, a better evil kid, and much greater entertainment value. It's a shame that THE UNBORN ended up being as underwhelming as it is, because there are so many bugnuts elements in the story that it should be a lot more fun. DEMONIC TOYS is a very enjoyable watch, but THE UNBORN will often be tempting you to watch it at 2x speed.
Do you agree with the results of the Face-Off, or do you think DEMONIC TOYS is overshadowed by its younger brother THE UNBORN? Let us know in the comments section below. Have an idea for a future Face-Off? You can send suggestions to me at CodyHamman@joblo.com.