AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD
RUNNING TIME: 87 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera. Official HCF Critic
While on an undercover mission to bust two arms dealers, police detective Judith Gray tells partner and boyfriend Matt Cable that she’s pregnant. The arrest goes wrong, Matt is shot dead, and Judith pursues the two men as they flee into a toy warehouse. She apprehends one only to find that she’s accidentally locked the both of them inside a storage room, though is able to attract the attention of the security guard Charnetski and Chunky Chicken delivery boy Mark Wayne. However, the toys come to life and start attacking people, and Judith is contacted by the demon that lies buried beneath the building and controls the toys, and who announces that he intends to rebirth itself in her unborn child….
Originally made as Dangerous Toys, Demonic Toys is probably the best known of the Full Moon doll pictures which also include Blood Dolls, Doll Graveyard, Dangerous Worry Dolls, Devildolls and of course Dollman. And I guess you could include the Puppet Master series too. The Bands sure had a thing about dolls, though I’ve said on other reviews that I tend to find them intensely creepy so they were probably onto something. Demonic Toys is not a Full Moon film that I remember seeing back in the day, and I would have surely recalled it if I had because it really is quite good. Yes, it’s made on a tiny budget that ensures that its characters never leave the warehouse setting, but for at least some of the time the lack of money doesn’t really hamper the film too much unlike Dollman where one wonders why they tried to make that movie on what they had. The creatures are cool, the plot is half decent with at least a couple of good ideas, and – something Dollman did have as well – there’s a sense of humour about the whole enterprise without it degenerating into a send-up. Call me mad, but I would say that this is overall a pretty nifty example of cheapie horror movie filmmaking.
The film immediately hooks with its opening dream scene which is stylishly shot with Dutch angles, multiple dissolves and even that Psycho swinging lamp! A woman sits in a chair while two young boys play cards on the floor, one of them eventually having green eyes. The dream belongs to cop Judith Gray who awakes inside her car with her partner [in both senses of the word] Matt Cable beside her. The dialogue of her revealing that she’s pregnant is both stiffly delivered and rather awkward, though thankfully the script – an early effort by David S. Goyer [who was initially intended to direct this film until Peter Manoogian was brought in] who’s certainly written worse screenplays – does soon improve, and the acting? – well, it’s variable throughout – but some of it is good. Anyway, the attempt to arrest two arms dealers results in Matt dead and Judith chasing the bad guys into a warehouse. She catches up with one and handcuffs him, but the other, who’s wounded, seems to escape. Also in the warehouse is security guard Charnetski who constantly has Puppet Master 2 on TV. He orders some food from Chunky Chicken and insults the person on the end of the line Mark Wayne, who is then told off by his boss for smoking while on duty [surely he’d be fired as he’s right by and is probably preparing food? – oh ok maybe not as this was 1992] and his attitude – but when he turns up at the warehouse with Charnetski’s “usual”, the two seem like best buddies and Mark starts gawping up at a centrefold in a magazine Charnstski has.
The injured crook finds himself in a room full of toys and we’re reminded of how sinister toys can look. Part of the floor lights up and cracks, and then he’s attacked in a pretty gruesome sequence with a Jack in the box chewing part of his face off, a teddy bear biting off two fingers, and a robot blasting holes in his chest with lasers. These terrible toys, designed by the way by John Carl Buechler, actually have names; Jack Attack [whose box is part of his body], Grizzly Teddy [was he inspired by the one in the non-Band pic Dolls?] and Mr Static. The film holds off showing its star toy for a few more scenes, the really creepy looking Baby Oopsie Daisy who uses whatever weapon is at hand to kill and who’s given lines like: “Will you be my friend? I can walk, I can talk and I can even shit my pants, can you shit your pants”? With the phone line down and the appearance of an orphan girl called Annie who’s ran away from her violent father and who’s been living in the warehouse’s air vents, the stage is set for murderous mayhem, and quite grizzly it is too though apparently the UK Blu-ray is missing 16 seconds of footage from some of the kill scenes. The US Blu-ray is also missing the same shots, which is really quite an oversight, especially when some of the DVDs of this film are uncut, though they apparently look awful while the Blu-ray looks great so you win some and you lose some. Sadly this isn’t an isolated case though, Casino being a very similar example of a film in which all Blu-rays are missing footage present in some of the DVDs including the UK rental.
We soon find out that a demon is controlling the toys and wants to be re-born. In a slightly disturbing but also rather funny flashback set 66 years ago, we see him being born [replete with horns] dead on Halloween night and given to some trick or treaters to bury. He’s chooses Anne to be his rebirth vessel but first of all has to do what he calls “the nasty” with her. Not all the story quite makes sense, such as the supposed explanation for Judith’s dreams, but at least it tries to bring more to the table than just having toys attacking and killing people.The toys are chiefly puppets, with the camera avoiding any shots of their bottom halves, though Grizzly Teddy eventually grows into a man sized sasquatch-type creature. Sadly the suit, which was maybe only briefly constructed, is only shown in quick shots. There’s also a stop motion toy soldier who looks pretty good, though the eeriest characters are some ghostly children on tricycles wearing gas masks on, the demon liking to play with people’s minds, even appearing as the centrefold shown earlier and Matt, though he prefers to take the form of a young boy speaking in a man’s voice. There’s a decent amount of imagination on show here, and only a few brief effects moments look hokey, like when you see the pull string as someone is thrown backwards, or characters standing still and not thrashing about too much when attacked so the puppet can awkwardly hang on long enough to supposedly induce bloody death. There’s also a daft bit when somebody’s being attacked and the other person in the room just stands there doing nothing to help. And does hiding behind open shelving really protect someone from flying bullets?
Manoogian is allowed to provide some visual flair in a few moments but obviously only had time to point and shoot most of the time. The production design consists of little more than boxes with Arcadia Toys printes on them though are some glimpses of other dolls, and pretty good they look too so some effort was certainly spent on that, while composer Richard Band does his usual solid job with a slightly haunting main theme which I can still recall as I type. Tracy Scoggins gives her role her all and Robert Mitchum’s grandson Bentley Mitchum shows evidence of a nice comic touch. By contrast, most of the other cast members tend to overact to amusing effect, though you can’t really say this doesn’t ruin the film, which is as good a slice of ‘B’-movie schlock as one realistically has a right to expect.