I’m on a hunt for the scariest movies of all time! I’ll be looking at films of any era, from any country, and then reviewing them based solely on how terrifying they are.
If you have a suggestion for a horror movie, please let me know on Twitter.
Please be advised, spoilers may lie ahead!!
Demonic Toys (1992)
Director: Peter Manoogian
Starring: Tracy Scoggins, Bentley Mitchum
I must confess; in the process of selecting films for this endeavour, I have not necessarily been remaining true to the brief at hand.
Where I should be narrowing down the scariest cinematic experiences possible, I often look at a DVD cover and say to myself, “this looks stupid, let’s watch this one”.
And this is how Demonic Toys ended up in the PS3 disc tray, tarnishing my television with its very presence. This direct-to-video title from the same studio that produced 1989’s Puppet Master rehashes the exact same premise, with far less effective results.
When a botched weapons raid sees a police officer gunned down, his partner pursues the assailants into a creepy warehouse where their bloodied wounds summon a demon and his eponymous army of unpleasant toys.
This whole scenario was quite avoidable, and shoddy police work is chiefly to blame. Other than convenience, there is no particular reason why this warehouse held a demon captive, but now officer Gray and a cast of forgettable companions must seek an escape route before she can be impregnated with its hellish spawn.
Why… does she need to be impregnated… other than it being icky? Not sure, just roll with it.
The film’s modest $2 million budget limits its ambition (though that number is literally five times the amount of the aforementioned Puppet Master’s $400,000) and everything feels cheap. All these years later, even the DVD menu screen looks like it was completed in seven minutes by a work experience kid.
Much of the funds were likely allocated towards the design of the toys, and fortunately they look quite fantastic. The heavy hitters — Baby Oopsy Daisy, Jack Attack and Grizzly Teddy — are all charming abominations, visually, but the issue is that there really isn’t much for them to do.
The “scary scenes” are just extended close-ups of screaming victims and cackling toys engaging in some kind of assault. It’s more gross than frightening, and despite the small cast, the number of human characters somehow still feels bloated.
The presumed secondary antagonist, Lincoln the gun runner, frees himself from his handcuffs, only to be dispatched of in his next on-screen appearance. In the second act, we’re introduced to Anne, a runaway who had been squatting in the warehouse, who is literally killed off within fifteen minutes.
Why should we care about these meat puppets? We don’t, so their demises don’t resonate at all. They’re all a bunch of assholes, really, with the only highlight being the security guard, Charneski, and his inability to correctly convey common phrases.
Ultimately, Demonic Toys was meant to be tacky and fun, and it is, for the most part. The soundscape is in no way immersive, recycling the same track on loop throughout its runtime, and at some point we get gratuitous boobies simply for the sake of it.
It’s unapologetically mediocre, complete with hackneyed attempts at symbolism and a predictable outcome. You get what you paid for, but do you get anything scary whatsoever?
Not at all. It’s a more valiant attempt than the obtuse Pet Sematary Two, I guess, which says more negatively about that film than it does positively about this one.
Solid monster designs are rendered ineffectual by the lack of compelling content. They are simply scary-looking things that do little beyond chasing, chomping and maniacally laughing.
It’s less a gripping battle between good and evil, more a mutual shooting gallery between people and toys where they thin out each other’s numbers until we reach the conclusion.
Also, why does the teddy bear suddenly become big? They really glossed over that.