Movies & TV

The Toybox Review

September 21, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Toybox
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The Toybox Review  

The Toybox Review

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

Directed by Tom Nagel
Screenplay by Jeff Denton, based on a story by Jeff Miller, Brian Nagel, Tom Nagel, and Jeff Denton

Distributed by Skyline Entertainment

Not Rated
Runtime– 95 minutes

Buy it here or here


The Toybox, directed by Tom Nagel, is a well-made low budget horror flick that, in the end, will make you hate life. Uncompromising in its terror and violence, The Toybox will both depress you and creep you the hell out. These are good things for the horror movie loving world. They’re probably not good things for the non-horror movie loving world. Just a guess on my part.

The Toybox features an ensemble cast depicting a family going on a big road trip via RV. There’s the patriarch of the clan, Charles (Greg Violand), there’s his douchebag doper son Jay (Brian Nagel), and there’s Jennifer and Steve (Denise Richards and Jeff Denton) and their young daughter Olivia (Malika Michelle). This is a trip that the family has been planning since the family matriarch died, although there’s serious tension among the family, making you wonder why the hell they’re putting themselves through this in the first place. Jay has issues with his father Charles, Steve doesn’t get along with his brother Jay, and Denise tries to protect Olivia from all of the bullshit. Charles, meanwhile, tries to put on a brave face and make this whole thing fun for everyone. The RV they’re travelling in is old and kind of dumpy, but Charles got it for a song and it still runs, for the most part, and it’s all about being together anyway so the accommodations shouldn’t matter that much. They plan on camping in various places on the road anyway, so it’s not like they’re all going to be locked in the truck all day, every day, for the whole trip.

So the trip begins, and the family isn’t having much fun. The tension between them all is palpable, and while a few of them try to make the best of it (Charles and Steve and, to a lesser extent, Jennifer), it’s not easy or pleasant. While on the way to their first scheduled stop, an old cave that has cave paintings in it, Charles decides to stop and help two people stranded on the side of the road. The stranded motorists, Samantha and Mark (Mischa Barton and Matt Mercer), are a brother and sister on their way somewhere. Charles offers to take them to the next town to see if they can get a tow truck out to the desert, an offer that Samantha and Mark are amenable to.

So the trip continues, with two more people In the RV. Samantha and Mark are, shockingly, not creepy drifters with a penchant for robbing and killing dumbass people that pick them up on the side of the road. They’re just people who were unlucky in the desert. And, for the most part, they get along with everyone else on the RV. Mark is even excited about going to see the cave paintings, a condition Charles put out there when he offered the brother and sister a ride. How often does that kind of thing happen?

Now, while all of this togetherness happens, the RV starts acting strangely. Dark red “water” comes out of the faucet every so often. Chunks of long hair gunk up the sink. The windows slide back on their own. And, in a big “what the hell?” moment, the RV starts speeding up all by itself. And then the brakes fail. Charles ends up crashing the RV in the middle of the desert. Chaos ensues inside. Not everyone makes it out alive.

So what the hell happened? Why did the RV speed up all by itself? Why did the brakes fail? And what the hell was going on with the radio? What station would ever play whatever the hell that “music” was? No one knows. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the RV’s engine (Samantha is a mechanic and can’t figure out what happened to the motor). So, again, why did all of that stuff happen? Why can’t they get the RV started again? Just what the hell is going on here?

The survivors try to use their cellphones to get help. There’s no cell signal out in the middle of the desert. They think about sending someone to the nearest road to flag down a passing car. They’re in the middle of the desert, though, there’s no telling where the nearest road actually is, and there’s no telling if and when a car will show up anyway. They’re stuck out in the desert with minimal food and water and no air conditioning. And whatever camaraderie that the group developed is quickly disappearing. How are they going to get out of this?

And what the fuck is going on inside the RV? On top of the sink and the drain and now the refrigerator (it’s suddenly full of rotting and spoiled food), the broken TV will turn on and show messed up versions of events the group already experienced. And on top of all of that, there’s this sleazy, greasy, weird as fuck guy that keeps popping in every so often and then disappears. Who is he? And where the hell is he disappearing to?

And that’s pretty much the plot of The Toybox. As the movie progresses, the cast starts getting knocked off one by one, essentially, by the RV. And the malevolent forces inside the RV give less than a shit about who or what it is they’re going after. Absolutely no one is safe. No one. And the RV will use the family’s growing tension and hatred for one another against them. After a while, it becomes obvious that if the family banded together and started paying attention to what was happening around them, perhaps they would figure out that the fucking RV is haunted, stay out of it, and just walk to the road for help (or come up with some other solution). The family can’t figure that out, though, and it’s only a matter of time before the RV gets everyone.

A movie about a haunted RV sounds ridiculous. What the hell is so scary about a goddamn RV? Your opinion will change immediately when you see what the RV can do. In fact, we see the RV claim its first victim in the movie’s first two minutes, and then it’s just a matter of time before the old truck gets more. I like that the movie doesn’t fuck around with who can die. It adds a real sense of dread to the plot and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its running time. Who will die next, and will anyone figure out how to stop the RV from killing someone?

To say that the RV has a checkered past would be a serious understatement. And I’m guessing that, if The Toybox is a success that a prequel and sequels are coming. The story of how the RV became a death machine will be even more messed up than this movie, and I’d imagine that sequels will no doubt try to up the ante in terms of who decides to buy the truck and what happens to them. It’s all going to be seriously fucked up.

So why does The Toybox make you hate life? Because there’s absolutely no hope for anyone in it. There’s no hope, no escape, and just about everyone is some level of awful. Little Olivia is essentially innocent (she’s like five years old), but everyone else is some level of terrible. Even Charles, who is trying to make the best of things despite it all falling apart. Charles also sticks his hand inside the engine and is badly wounded when the RV decides to start up for a few seconds and it takes a few chunks out of his arm. You’d think he would have been a little more careful with getting anywhere near the engine since the truck just sped up with no warning. Charles isn’t a mechanic, he doesn’t know what’s wrong with the damn thing, so why is he fucking around with it? Come on, man.

That isn’t to say that you don’t try to root for these people to figure shit out and survive. You end up doing that, even when it’s obvious that it’s all so damn hopeless. You have to do it. It’s the only way you’ll get through it.

The movie does drag a bit every now and then. Some of the arguments the family engages in come off as repetitive and could have been tightened up a bit. I also question the need to have Samantha and Mark in the story at all. The story could have worked without them. Samantha and Mark don’t kill the movie or anything, but it just seems like they’re there to add to the movie’s potential body count. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself, but I’m just not sure that this movie needs it.

I’d also like to know why the hell anyone would agree to buy the RV in the first place. Even if it’s being sold at a “good” price, look at the goddamn thing. It’s a piece of shit. And if the TV inside is broken, why the fuck wouldn’t you just walk away from it? There had to be other cheap used RV’s for Charles to buy. What the fuck, man? And no air conditioning in the desert? Fuck that.

The cast is excellent. Denise Richards does a fabulous job as Jennifer, the concerned mother and wife who just wants her family to stick together. The stuff that she goes through in order to achieve that is insane, and her whole arc is heartbreaking. Jeff Denton does a fine job as Steve, the husband and brother who toggles back and forth between supporting his father and hating his brother. It’s hilarious watching him try to be a “real man” when he has no idea how an engine works. I’m not a fan of the way his character buys it in the end (I don’t think he would do what he does), but that’s just a minor quibble. Denton also wrote the screenplay and had a hand in coming up with the story. Good job, Denton.

Brian Nagel makes Jay a true blue douchebag that you can’t stand. Even if he has a point in terms of his estrangement from his father, he doesn’t have to be such a fucking asshole all of the time. And what’s the deal with all of the pot smoking? Greg Violand, who I swear to God looks like Brent Spiner, is excellent as Charles. He’s just trying to do a good thing for his family, he wants to be the fun father and grandfather, but the poor dude is just hopeless. Again, that engine thing he does is just goddamn stupid. You’ll sort of like him, though, in the end.

Mischa Barton does a good job with the superfluous Samantha. She’s sort of resourceful, and you understand why she’s so standoffish with everyone, but she doesn’t have much to do in the movie until the end, and the way it all plays out is pretty damn depressing. As for Matt Mercer’s Mark, it’s a damn shame he didn’t see that hard surface coming. A damn shame.

And then there’s Malika Michelle’s Olivia. If what happens to her doesn’t upset you even a little bit there’s something seriously wrong with you. Really.

And then there’s David Greathouse as Robert Gunthry, the sleazy, creepy presence on the RV. The man will give you nightmares before he even does anything. Greathouse also handles the movie’s special effects, a majority of which appear to be practical as opposed to CGI. They’re all pretty damn gross, and ultimately that’s what you want from a movie like this. Good stuff.

The Toybox is a well-made horror flick that, if you’re a horror movie nerd, you should search out. It’s currently available on DVD and Blu-ray and on various Video on Demand platforms including cable and iTunes. It’s out there for you to see. So see it. It’s worth it. It will depress you, but it’s still worth seeing.

See The Toybox. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 9

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Bloody polaroids, dripping blood, a nasty clump of hair, hazmat suit hooey, a dipshit kid riding his bike, a mannequin with nails in it, off screen teen slaughter, a dog smelling something, an old RV, multiple overhead drone shots, a total lack of air conditioning, windows that refuse to open, fucking around with the radio, a window that closes all by itself, a broken TV, stranded motorists hooey, blood in the sink, attempted map reading, an RV that suddenly speeds up all on its own, TV smashing, a nasty forehead cut, a dog that has disappeared, female smelling, a broken TV that somehow turns on all by itself, a bloody ghost woman, off screen scary kid pictures, joint smoking, scary engine hooey with nasty arm wound, a refrigerator filled with moldy and rotten food, weird sounds off in the distance, weird flashbacks to activities that took place inside the RV before Charles bought it, a really old metal tool box, jump rope hooey, hair dangling, attempted relaxation, some really bad rope jumping, doobie city, backing over a kid, a weird as hell announcement, bloody clothes, strangulation, ghost rape, a total desert meltdown, backstory hooey, more bloody polaroids, a flashlight that suddenly stops working, multiple blood stained knives, a gun, TV torture, exposition, multiple knives through the neck, an RV that’s impossible to escape, attempted RV attack, bullet to the head, another bullet to the head, metal pan throwing, serious nail breaking, a sort of breakdown montage, empty water bottle throwing, corn eating, phantom drawers, scalping, a final confrontation that involves serious face punching and knife play, growling, and two of the dumbest dirt bikers in movie history.

Kim Richards?: Big time.

Gratuitous: “and Denise Richards,” a douchebag watering his lawn, a “Gopher guts” family sing-a-long, running over a dead possum, a lame fucking grandpa story, Mischa Barton, male expectations to keep the family safe, peroxide on a gross fucking arm wound, a total violation of the “don’t take painkillers with booze” rule, multiple bloody polaroids, exposition, a gun that won’t work, knife hooey, and two of the dumbest dirt bikers in movie history.

Best lines: “This is a real piece of shit, Dad,” “Hey, Pop. Thanks for doing this. Mom would have loved this,” “Hey, Jay, can you give me a hand with something?,” “Daddy changed a tire once,” “I like your doll,” “Everybody hang on! This is our turn!,” “Am I the only one thinking about the dead guy?,” “You killed him! You did this! You and your goddamn camper!,” “Get us out of there because I want to go home,” “Goddamit! Goddamn this fucking RV!,” “Samantha! Calm down! It’s me! Relax!,” “Figure anything out?, “Anything I can do? You know anything about engines? Not really. Then no,” “Have you ever been married?,” “Mommy, can I please use the jump rope?,” “You fucking killed her!,” “You’re a fucking idiot! You’re worthless!,” “Don’t you see what is happening?,” “We’re not gonna make it,” “I said that is enough!,” “You look good in plaid,” “This photo was taken right there,” “What the fuck was that?,” “You bought this thing off Bob Gunthry?,” “We’re in his goddamn toybox,” “Are you telling me this RV is haunted?,” “Steve! Steve! What can I do?,” “We have to find a way out of here. We don’t know what it’s capable of,” and “He’s not moving.”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Toybox is a well-made low budget horror movie that will make you hate life. It’s depressing and thrilling all at the same time, and pretty much anything can happen in it. No one is safe. It has a dynamite cast and is something that horror movie nerds should no doubt track down and check out. It’s currently available on DVD and Blu-ray and on cable and Video on Demand including iTunes. Well worth the effort.

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The Toybox, Bryan Kristopowitz