September 12, 2018 The Toybox (Movie Review)
Buyer beware. That is always the advice given when purchasing anything used. With anything used, the entire backstory is often left out and it is up to the buyer to decide whether or not the item’s past is important enough to question. Who really asks if an item intending to be purchased is possessed? Set for limited theatrical release on Friday, September 14, 2018 and Digital/Blu-ray release on the 18th, through Skyline Entertainment and Steel House Productions, The Toybox will make it a standard question.
Directed by Tom Nagel (ClownTown 2016), directed and written by Jeff Denton, in his debut as a writer, The Toybox follows Charles (Greg Violand: ClownTown 2016, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016) and his two sons, Steve (Jeff Denton: King of the Lost World 2005, Frankenstein Reborn 2005) and Jay (Brian Nagel: Katy Perry: Roar 2013, ClownTown 2016), who have a very strained relationship. In an effort to become closer, the trio plus Steve’s wife, Jennifer (Denise Richards: Starship Troopers 1997, Vanity 2015) and their young daughter Olivia (Malika Michelle) plan a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Charles has purchased a rather old and used RV for the road trip. The RV is extremely dated and not everything works as intended. The air conditioning is broken and the windows only open when they feel like it, to name a few.
As they are driving along in the desert, they pick up brother and sister, Mark (Matt Mercer: Contracted 2013, Beyond the Gates 2016) and Sam (Mischa Barton: The O.C. series, Checkmate 2015), who are stranded on the side of the road. A quick detour to see the painted caves proves to be costly as now the RV and all those in it are stranded in the middle of the desert miles from anyone else. The strange and soon to be deadly issues with the RV continue to escalate. It becomes clear that Charles has purchased an RV with a mind of its own. Individually, each odd incident can be written off as coincidence, but all together the RV seems to have its own agenda for the trip.
Can an RV even be possessed? Is the RV really out for blood? Why? How did this well intentioned trip meant to pull them together turn into something so gruesome and life-changing? Will they ever find a way out of the desert… alive?
Home, whether it be the place that you live or where you are just staying temporarily, it is supposed to bring comfort. When going on a trip, the hotel, RV, tent, or wherever is supposed to be the safe place to lay down and relax. It is scary enough to think that a building might be possessed or haunted, but an RV? That is truly terrifying. It has wheels. It can go almost anywhere and take whoever is unlucky enough to be inside with it. There is no real escape especially if the trip cuts through the middle of nowhere. The idea of the RV being the evil presence in this film is quite brilliant. An RV is a home of sorts on wheels. Home is supposed to be the safest place. When it is not, then what exactly is the point of trying to survive? How could a person trust another vehicle or, really, anything ever again?
All these questions asked, The Toybox succeeds in displaying characters that are complete opposites of each other and yet it makes complete sense that they are occupying the same space. Brothers Steve and Jay could not be more different. Denton’s Steve is the responsible older brother. A family man, the one who carries the family secrets and the weight of everything on his shoulders. He is the one that anyone would expect to break down, but when he finally hits his lowest point it is shocking.
Nagel’s Jay in contrast is the pot-smoking younger brother with a chip on his shoulder. Neither want to be on the trip but Jay is the most vocal about his displeasure. He is simply there because his big brother told him to be. This is ironic because the safety he expects from Steve is simply something on this trip that cannot be provided to anyone.
The women too are extremely different. Richard’s Jennifer is the typical suburban wife. Beautiful, caring, but exhausted. She puts all her faith into her husband, Steve. At one point even telling him, “I know you don’t have all the answers, but I trust you will figure it out.” She has relied on him for so long that she no longer has her own strength. Richard’s face says it all as the RV continues to spill blood. At one point it is clear that she is empty and has nothing left to give. The line between survival and acceptance of fate clearly crossed. Barton’s Sam is a tough single woman who works as a mechanic. Her brother is important, but she is obviously a fighter and will do whatever it takes to survive. Both women make the viewer hope for their survival. Both allow the viewer to feel the emotions that their characters are dealing with.
Yes, The Toybox contains gore and many terrifying moments. What makes them all work so well are the characters. The viewer will hope that all will survive, but what kind of film would that make? The film is subtle at first, but then it goes all out with the reveal. Truly the reveal itself, while interesting, is the least satisfying part of the entire film. The buildup is what makes The Toybox chilling. It is for these reasons that CrypticRock gives this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.