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The Toybox
IMDB Rating: 4.2/10 from 317 votes
Release: 16 April 2005 (USA) /

The Toybox

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Director: Paolo Sedazzari,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: It all began so innocently for two children growing up in the deepest countryside, their imaginations set ablaze by a book on local myths and legends. Berenice convinces her younger brother Brian that she is the reincarnation of a witch with the powers to put everything right. As they grow up Brian becomes emotionally dependent on his sister, so that when she returns to the family home for Christmas with her new boyfriend he feels totally betrayed. At the same time a man strongly resembling the mythical Jake the Mid-Folker is closing in. An overwhelming sense of impending horror surrounds the house, but is the enemy outside - or is the enemy within? Written by Paolo Sedazzari

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Critic Reviews


Often, the mark of a good film is that you're still thinking about it for days afterwards...

The Toybox has, more than anything else, a strong visual identity. Credit to both the director and DOP for creating such a sickly visceral quality, especially throughout the third act, that delivers on the unsettling quirks and occasional jump-starts in the first two. There's no doubt that this movie has style and energy to spare, and yet as the visuals come together stylistically, the narrative slowly becomes more and more disparate that it unravels into several unexplored and unresolved avenues. It's a rare situation, but the film suffers from a surplus of good ideas, with the script juggling too many plot strands and is ultimately unable to catch hold of them all come the climax.

However, for a while at least, the intrigue of the back-story, and the marriage of ancient folklore and modern-day sensibilities holds the attention. Unfortunately, the post-production ADR hasn't been kind to the performances, and some of the clunkier dialogue sometimes grates and strains to convince. In fact, it's most often the case that the more senior members of the cast manage to hold the script together and create some memorably uncomfortable scenes (Conrad at the family dinner is a stand-out for cliché-fish-out-of-water fun).

There are more themes here that would arguably be more interesting and effective to follow through on if explored fully - and some pretty dark elements at that. Obviously, there's the witchcraft element, but beneath that lies a suggestion of an incestuous desire, which goes on to manifest itself in jealousy and rage. Elsewhere, the relationship between the Grandfather and his Grandchildren, and the shameful secrets they share, offers another interesting angle. Whilst the implications of these sub-plots open up several avenues ripe for exploration, they get lost amongst muddied stories of folklore, murder and possession (story-strands that also get lost and confused).

In essence, there are several other (and better) films trying to get out, which unfortunately have to compete and jostle for attention amongst the numerous other story lines involved in the film overall. Some of the more hokey elements aren't successful either, although sometimes, the visual quirks land a sucker-punch that the audience won't be expecting. But whilst the script sometimes lack coherence, the visuals smack of certainty, assurance, and a general comprehension of how to provide the requisite shocks and scares.

Regardless of the script's shortcomings, the brutal and primal climax is cranked up for all the visceral and visual carnage it's worth. There are some beautifully scenic moments, which make the most of the snow-laden fields and stark environment. Yet somehow the director successfully creates the impression of a brooding claustrophobic malevolence in contrast with the landscape shots which result in some genuinely disturbing and affecting moments.

As a calling card to the British film industry, the film makers have a lot of talent to offer, even if the source material sometimes lets down the assured camera-work and flair. For every miss (teddy's glowing red eyes, clowns in the toilet) there's a hit (literally and brutally, but to describe it would give to much away!) Give these boys a budget and source material to match their obvious talent and there's a definite treat in store. And although the plot is largely forgettable, the film has such a strong identity that it will linger in the memory long after the final credits have scrolled...

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