The Toybox

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Toybox
"Only Denise Richards attempts any kind of ongoing emotional shift and her acting would look over the top in a silent film."

It has been a long time since the thrill of seeing a car drive itself made Knightrider top Saturday night entertainment despite David Hasselhoff's acting. In a world where real vehicles do more and more independently - not least sending people miles away from their intended destinations of persuading them to drive into the middle of rivers - is there still room for films about scary, possessed forms of transport? Somebody clearly thought so because here comes The Toybox, the (ahem) spirited tale of a family, a cute dog, and a haunted RV.

Charles (Greg Violand) has acquired this seasoned vehicle so that he can take his two adult children - extended family in tow - on a road trip in order to repair their relationship and make amends for all the times he failed as a dad. En route, however, he's keen to go and look at some cave paintings - like Wolf Creek's crater, this supplies just a hint of the ancient and unknowable before the main narrative starts. The RV breaks down in the desert, however, presenting the already overheated and poorly supplied family with real problems which are completely ignored in favour of expositionary arguments about the past and dream sequences so clich├ęd that they give the impression everybody has been up late watching cheesy horror films and eating cheesy snacks. Is this an indicator of terror to come? You bet.

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Terror, that is, for the characters. To be terrified as a viewer you'd need to be half asleep yourself and flit in and out of consciousness at just the right pace so you didn't notice how badly scenes fit together. You'd also need to be stupid or have an unlikely amount of sympathy for stupid people. A scene in which a character being chased by the RV runs in a straight line pretty much sums up the problem there. This vehicle only kills people because they let it. Oh, and because it used to belong to a serial killer. He occasionally appears on the screen of its broken TV and gawps at people, intent on being super scary when, given how much he looks like he needs a bath, what kills those who get too close to him is probably the smell.

Given its other qualities, the film is surprisingly well acted, with most of those involved turning in sincere if not exactly inspired performances. There's little in the way of character development, though, with few characters permitted more than one emotion. Clearly short on direction, they drift back to default blandness whenever they're not centre stage and seem to take about 15 minutes to get over the emotional impact of each successive loss of a loved one. Only Denise Richards attempts any kind of ongoing emotional shift and her acting would look over the top in a silent film - at times her horror-stricken stare gets so wild that she looks as if her eyeballs are liable to fall out.

The film isn't short on gore, which is adequately rendered, albeit rarely surprising, and will keep some genre fans satisfied. For the rest of us, however, the thought of being stuck in an RV where nothing is happening, in the company of a young child when the TV is broken, is a far scarier prospect.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2018
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A family find themselves in peril after going on a roadtrip in a possessed RV.

Director: Tom Nagel

Writer: Jeff Denton

Starring: Denise Richards, Mischa Barton, Jeff Denton

Year: 2018

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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