I’m a sucker for a great haunted house story. Anything dealing with something haunted along with an exposition of history in that house makes me so warm inside. One of the more recent examples is in Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, where we are treated to a lengthy sequence of Karen Gillan telling us about the mysterious deaths surrounding those who owned a mirror that’s terrorized her family. Smaller indie movies know this to be a real benefactor as scares don’t have to be seen to be scary and sometimes a mere allusion or bump in the night can be more effective. Unfortunately, THE TOYBOX does get an interesting backstory towards the second half, but it doesn’t make up the rest of the time we have to deal with uninteresting characters.
A family take up a not so new RV and take a vacation that leads them into the desert. There they pick up another couple whose car broke down. Unexplainable events begin to occur and VERY slowly do they discover that something supernatural is at play. The bad news for the audience is that it takes them way too long to figure this out and the characters are just too stale to keep the plot flowing. Not only that, but some of these occurrences are just too obvious to ignore. As the RV kills them off one by one, the RV’s secret comes to light and I couldn’t help but think of Last Shift, a far more entertaining scare ride that more people need to see.
THE TOYBOX is shot gorgeously and might have worked with a few rewrites, but ends up falling under the list of movies people regret spending a dollar on at Redbox. There really aren’t any scares and only one death got a reaction of me but I don’t think it was the reaction the creators wanted.
What really got my attention was that somehow Mischa Barton and Denise Richards star in this. Although Barton seems to randomly appear in small budget horror films, Richards has been pretty low key and rumored to be a part of the new season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ve always been a fan of Richards and find her talent to be undervalued as no one else could pull off a sexy yet tough as balls femme fatale as she does. (Sharon Stone and Richards should definitely do a thriller together.)
Barton actually shows off some skill as she handles some pivotal moments on her own and carries them well despite some silly plot devices. My main familiarity with Barton was her stint on The OC and You and I, a strange euphoric ride about two girls who get into some serious shit while obsessed with the pseudo lesbian pop duo, t.A.T.u. Richards shows that she is top notch at over acting. A certain death triggers her to fall apart, soap opera style and it’s fun to watch instead being a devastating moment. Still, no hate on her as she’s got what it takes to redeem herself.
THE TOYBOX will open in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 on September 14th. On September 18th the film will be available nationwide on Blu-ray, DVD and Cable and Digital HD, including Amazon Instant, iTunes, iN DEMAND, DirecTV, Comcast, Optimum, Dish, Google Play and more.