Shiny Shelf

The Toybox DVD

By Mark Clapham on 20 May 2007

Too many UK-based horror films concentrate on a bland, internationally marketable version of Britain, centred around the modern office buildings and loft apartments of the capital. It’s clear from the opening of ‘The Toybox’, in which bits of East Anglian folklore are re-enacted in Flash animation, that this is a film which is willingly to be defiantly regional.

After a memorable prologue involving junior witchcraft and a gerbil in a blender, the film turns into a bleak British farce about a horrible family Christmas, as nervous Conrad gets introduced to his girlfriend’s family of sitcom cliches: widowed grandma twitchily defending her creepy late husband, Beatles-bore dad telling terrible jokes, sex-starved mum making advances on Conrad, and creepy brother Brian over-attaching to his older sister.

Initially, it’s unclear where writer/director Paolo Sedazarri is going with all of this. While it’s refreshing to see a horror film with references to Bobby Davro and cider, ‘The Toybox’ uses these as trappings for what builds into a fairly standard slasher movie with the odd mystical/surreal jolt. While this means that the film opens strongly, it also makes for a disappointing experience, with all the surprises at the start and a very predictable last act.

Sedazarri directs the action effectively and with a degree of style on what looks like a limited budget, and his unknown cast hold up fairly well in broadly written roles. Entertainingly, the nearest thing to star power on display here is the old Chief Super from ‘The Bill’ in a guest role as the local vicar.

‘The Toybox’ is a potentially interesting twist on the horror genre, but unfortunately one which burns out it’s creative potential long before the movie ends. While it dabbles in folklore and magic, as well as themes of family disfunction and sexuality twisted by childhood experience, these are never fully developed compared to the basic slasher narrative at the film’s centre. Nonetheless, at 80 minutes it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and will hopefully provide a calling card for Sedazarri to apply his original imagination to a bigger, more creative project in future.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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