Hannah (Kyana Teresa) and her husband David (Dayo Ade) have just purchased a 100-year-old rundown three-story Victorian in the mountains to renovate and flip. The house was once the home to Saint Germain Children’s Clinic, which shut down after something mysterious and horrific happened to the children who were being treated there. Hanna and David are taking their blended family—David’s 15-year-old daughter Alicia (Verity Marks), Hannah’s two young children, Zoe (Zoe Fish) and Franklin (Saul Elias), and their nanny, Rose (Georgia Waters)—to spend Christmas at their snowy, secluded new residence. However, only Hannah is aware of the house’s dark past.
Contractor Emmett (Ernie Pitts) greets the Cashman family as they arrive. It is evident that the house still needs a lot of work, and he warns them not to go on the third floor as things are not safe up there (you know that’s going to come into play later on!). With no wifi or cell service, the kids quickly become bored. Alicia didn’t even want to come on the trip in the first place—she wanted to spend Christmas with her mother in the tropics—but she finds an old video game system to keep her busy. Meanwhile, Zoe and Franklin discover a trunk containing some old toys. The toys magically come to life and talk to them when the adults aren’t around, encouraging the children to do sinister things. The toys seem to be controlling Zoe and Franklin, making them do and say some creepy and dangerous things. While Hannah is distracted by her work and trying to renovate the house, Rose and Alicia start to get these strange feelings, like they are being watched by ghostly children, and hearing children’s voices telling them to “Run”. Something wants the people in this house dead, and these toys are going to make that happen, using Zoe and Franklin to do their dirty work.
When I saw that Toys of Terror was written by Dana Gould (Stan Against Evil) and that the premise included talking toys that come to life and kill people, I expected the film to have a more comedic slant. However, it plays out as more of a solid, straightforward horror film, slowly giving the viewer glimpses of ghostly children and the toys, building the tension with the little kids and their ominous and creepy warnings and actions, and finally going all out with the murderous toys by the end of the film. That said, there are still some moments of humor, mostly from the ridiculous sight of these toys attacking the humans, as well as in some of the expletive-filled dialogue that spews out of the toys’ high-pitched voices.
While we are never really given the complete details of what exactly when on in the house decades earlier, or how exactly these toys became the murderous things they are now, the film does give a bit of a backstory to the main characters. We quickly learn about the dynamics of this blended family, and the nature of the children’s relationships with their other parents. Hannah is stressed about money, and spends all her time on the phone, worried about work. Every time she sees her children having fun with the nanny, she kind of resents Rose. However, it’s really her own fault that she doesn’t have time for her own children. We also get a glimpse into a dark part of Rose’s past, and why she is so motivated to be such an attentive and devoted nanny to Zoe and Franklin, and why the ghostly children she sees in the house are especially traumatizing to her. Alicia is your typical angsty teenager who’s upset she has to spend Christmas in this rundown house, and resents her “evil stepmother”. Though, over the course of the film, we see a bit of a transformation in Alicia’s attitude. The two younger children, on the other hand, are pretty much just there to be creepy, and they do this well—especially Franklin in his raptor helmet.
While maybe not as creepy as Chucky, the villains of the film are these seemingly-normal looking toys that become quite menacing under the circumstances. The residents of the toybox include a stuffed monkey with a fez and vest, a big smiling plastic bee, a muscled action figure, a flying dragon, an ominous See’ n Say, and more. These toys band together to coerce young Zoe and Franklin to do their bidding. For the film, they have been brought to life using painstaking stop-motion animation. For the most part when the humans are interacting with the toys, it looks natural, though there were a couple scenes where the toys are interacting with one another that looked more like standard 2D animation to me. Perhaps it was a limitation of the DVD picture quality.
Warner Bros. had originally announced a Blu-ray release for Toys of Terror, but unfortunately that appears to have been canceled, and there are currently no plans to release this film on Blu-ray. Those who wish to own the film in HD will have to go with the Digital release instead. I was sent the DVD release for review. The DVD release sounds great, but the video quality is a bit lacking, particularly in the darker scenes, where the picture isn’t as clearly defined and detailed. In another scene where there is a winter storm outside, the “snow” looks like an obvious digital effect rather than any kind of practical precipitation. As stated earlier, the animation of the toys is also a bit hit or miss, with it sometimes coming off more cartoony than stop motion. The audio track provides clear dialogue, and also makes nice use of the stereo and surround channels to provide a generally-immersive experience, bringing the tension and creepiness of this house and the evil toys inside to life. The DVD is packed in an eco-friendly DVD case along with a slipcover. The case also incudes an insert with instructions on how to access a survey about the film, which closes on 4/19/2021. The DVD disc includes 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a couple trailers for other Warner Bros direct-to-home video releases.
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Toys of Terror Come to Life (5:07)
The cast and filmmakers talk about how stop motion was used to bring the evil toys to life, and give the film a more nostalgic feeling. They also discuss the process and challenges of filming scenes with their toy scene partners, who were going to be composited in afterwards. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, test animations, and interviews with director Nicholas Verso, animation director Seamus Walsh, puppet wrangler Barney Marquez, and stars Kyana Teresa (“Hannah”), Dayo Ade (“David”) & Zoe Fish (“Zoe”).
- A Terrifying Weekend: Making of Toys of Terror (5:04)
The cast and director discuss the humor and playful edge to the film, the look and design of the house, filming the stunts and action sequences, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Nicholas Verso, and stars Saul Elias (“Franklin”), Georgia Waters (“Rose”), Kyana Teresa, Zoe Fish, Dayo Ade & Verity Marks (“Alicia”) .
- Trailers (3:06)
Trailers for Deep Blue Sea 3 and Snatchers play back-to-back.
Toys of Terror was first released on digital this past October for Halloween, and aired on the Syfy channel over Christmas. Now it finally makes its way onto disc. While a film about killer toys may seem like it would be geared more towards comedy, it actually plays out more like a solid thriller/horror movie. While it’s certainly no Chucky, I still found the movie to be quite enjoyable (I even watched it twice). While a Blu-ray release was originally announced, it is now a DVD-only release. The presentation is decent, but a little lacking when it comes to the darker scenes (I wish this had received the original Blu-ray release as planned). The disc also includes a couple short, interesting bonus features, but no digital copy. Those who wish to purchase the film in HD will need to go with the Digital release instead, and those who want to check it out first before a blind may still be able to find it On Demand from Syfy.