Toys Of Terror (2020), Kyana Teresa, Georgia Waters, (Horror Movie Review)

Toys Of Terror (2020), Kyana Teresa, Georgia Waters, (Horror Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: A family moves into an old abandoned orphanage with the hopes of fixing and flipping it for a nice profit. The only setback is a trunk full of evil toys and their sinister plan for the children.

LOWDOWN: I'm a sucker for small beings going on killing sprees. I grew up on CHILD'S PLAY, CRITTERS, and the PUPPET MASTER series, which all played an instrumental part in my childhood love of horror. Killers toys (or creatures) are sorta my wheelhouse, and after reading about TOYS OF TERROR (WATCH IT HERE) and catching the trailer, I fell in love with the strong early '90s vibe. After it was all said and done, did TOYS OF TERROR live up to the shlock and charm it promised? Kind of, but mostly no. Like a premixed cocktail, It'll do the trick in a pinch, but it'll never make you happy, and there's no substitute for the real thing. So let's start with what worked.

The premise of an abandoned orphanage is promising and look-wise; this nailed the believable and eerie setting all the way. It isn't original, but even with a well-worn concept, you can still have a lot of fun with it if you're forward-thinking with the story you're trying to tell. A forced family Christmas also doubling as a work project gets a divided family and a carpenter here for a maximum body count. Sounds like fun to me. With the two youngest kids being almost too much for their Nanny, Rose (Georgia Waters), a trunk full of old toys create the perfect distraction. It becomes clear that these odd relics are up to no good and have a particular hold over the children. With a reveal in the vein of a Rankin/Bass musical number, the toys showing their true selves to a young Zoe (Zoe Fish) and Franklin (Saul Elias) may be among the best parts and tonally EXACTLY what TERROR OF TOYS should have led with.

Nicholas Verso nails the look here with the Christmas setting mixed with the creepy Victorian-esq orphanage. Looking like a second addition to the magnificent Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World (not 'Land' as I'm a man of culture), It borders on stereotypical but in the best possible way. The toys themselves move in a retro stop motion technique (done with computers, of course), giving TOYS OF TERROR a distinct tongue-in-cheek vibe. With a great set-up and style harkening back to the simpler times of the '80s and early '90s, all this needed to do was follow through and embrace its cheesy nature and let loose. Except that when things start to pick up, TOYS OF TERROR immediately and suspiciously flatlines.

Besides a few "accidents," there isn't anything to worry about here. The house and its structural integrity present more of an obstacle to our characters than the toys do. The body count is so low that it makes the sentient toys more of a side plot when it's clear their actions should be more integral to the conflict, yet they come off as more of a nuisance than anything truly dangerous. I'm not saying TOYS OF TERROR needs to be a bloodbath, but at least lead with the idea in your actual title. Things are so tame I can't tell if this was cut down and changed by producers or if they took a simple ghost story and added killer toys in at the last minute. It's jarring because this starts as a fun shlocky movie that should have embraced its B-movie roots but chickens out and tries to be serious AND fun with minimal violence and action.

GORE: One character gets a chunk of wood stuck in his side, but that's about it. TOYS OF TERROR is too tame for its own good.

BOTTOM LINE: I may have misinterpreted the trailer and synopsis for TOYS OF TERROR but what I wanted just wasn't here. Cool stop motion-esq killer toys rampaging an abandoned orphanage during the Christmas season is a film I WANT TO SEE, yet I surprisingly did not get it here. Instead, we get a tame story that flirts with its intentions but ends up playing it too damn safe. There are a few things that worked, though. The performances are good, with angsty teen Alicia (Verity Marks) having the best arc. Simultaneously, David (Dayo Ade) ended up being the most level-headed and relatable character of the bunch. The toys' design is unique, and the setting is perfect for the eventual mayhem, but this doesn't use any of it to its advantage and just comes off as network TV safe. I wanted to love TOYS OF TERROR as everything about it seems like it's exactly my cup of rum, but It didn't follow through, and that breaks my heart more than anything else.

TOYS OF TERROR comes to VOD on October 27th, 2020.

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