In any artistic endeavour, film-making or otherwise, there’s an old saying ‘always steal from the best.’ Of course this isn’t enough to guarantee the quality of the final project but a winking reference, a cheeky homage, or even a plain old pastiche is always fun when it’s done right. In some cases the outcome is just a direct rip-off but it’s always possible that it will be entertaining anyway. However the makers of this toy themed anthology seem to have got the wrong message, deciding to only ‘vaguely mention the best’ without actually take anything of value from films like Poltergeist. In fact with only two chapters and a very brief framing story it’s a pretty meagre offering in general.
The opening tale involves a young boy afraid of a monster under his bed, and the questionable parenting skills of his Step-Father (Zach Galligan). It’s a blink and you’ll miss it appearance but at least he’s trying his best with what he’s been given. If you’ve seen Creepshow you know how this bookend story will end, but in the meantime his wife takes the boy to a toyshop to find something to give him a little comfort. As a result they meet the creepy owner of the store who sits repairing dolls in a back room. Again if you’ve seen From Beyond The Grave or any of the classic Amicus portmanteau movies you can see where this is going. Instead of selling them a child friendly toy he decides to to them about two of the creepiest items he’s working on.
In what is a pretty confusing transition we’re first treated to the tale of the leprechaun doll Patrick O’Mally. Jessica (Hannah Fierman) has moved into her Great-Grandmother’s spooky old house while her husband is away. Her job as a writer is disturbed by the local tales her two kids come back from school with; tales or murder in the house that involve a leprechaun. It’s Halloween so she doesn’t think anything of it, but the arrival of her old friend Susan (Courtney Hogan) reminds her of an incident when they were children that suggests there’s more going on than she will admit. Things get even stranger when the doll of Patrick arrives mysteriously in front of the house.
There’s a lot to take in here from the strange family history to the weird old fireplace Jessica seems worried by. Did her ancestors make a deal for the leprechaun’s gold? Is the doll alive? Why is it a doll? Why doesn’t she destroy it as soon as it moves by itself to grab a kitchen knife? The way the plot unfolds and the way she behaves are pretty mystifying, and things aren’t helped by jumpy editing and strange sound design choices. Scene transitions seem to cut off the library music that is used and there are jarring loud noises and volume changes. These aren’t obvious jump scares, they’re just a result of post production mistakes. If this was just a twenty-minute segment of a longer film it might not be so bad, but the whole things drags on for what is almost half the film.
If they used this length to explore the characters or offer some thematic food for thought about the effects of greed it could work. But instead it’s just a slog. Patrick himself is an ultra low budget effect but at least there’s a cheap confrontation similar to the killer doll from Trilogy of Terror that offers some fleeting entertainment value. If the whole thing was restructured and given some real Halloween flavour it might work, but beyond an off-screen trick or treat outing it lacks any seasonal atmosphere. It’s all slow and flat and lacks suspense. Unfortunately the same can be said of the second chapter which involves the supernatural doll Patty and her mentally unstable owner Abby, (Courtney Lakin) which also lacks any sort of eerie tension.
Some time ago Abby was in a fire that left her with a big facial scar, instead of any actual burns for some reason. She lives alone with her dolls, one of which can talk and move. There’s no build up to this reveal and there’s no attempt to suggest that Abby is imagining any of this. Patty is weird and possessive and makes various threats in a twee voice that gets old really fast. Why does her face change and where do her psycho-kinetic powers come from? It’s never revealed. It’s a pretty strange affair to say the least in a story that feels rushed but laborious at the same time. It’s jus a series of ideas rather than a real narrative. One of these is Abby’s interest in dolls which takes her to a fantasy convention in Atlanta. Patty’s jealous nature soon rears its head when they meet Abby’s old friend Jeremy (Jonathan Horne).
Despite plenty of warnings that something is very wrong he insists on trying to rekindle their relationship, with gruesome results. Patty’s abilities are never given any obvious limits or explanations so the resulting conclusion just feels throw together when things quickly get out of control. Spectacle is put ahead of logic which is strange when the obvious choice for this script would be to make it about vanity or grief. Abby’s history and her condition is never examined which is a missed opportunity. But the same could be said of this whole movie which feels like it needed way more time on the drawing board. Past traumas and people living in denial can be powerful horror ingredients but here they’re consistently overlooked.
There are lot of weak inclusions that make this lack thrill power or atmosphere, from the editing to the lighting and direction. Substandard acting, effects and editing are also fatal flaws. But the real issue is the story which needs a lot of revision to really capitalise on the themes being skirted around. You’re better off watching some of the other films that are given lip-service during the running time.