Today’s feature is 1992’s Demonic Toys, a horror film that unsurprisingly prominently features a group of demonic toys.
The original idea for Demonic Toys is credited to company head Charles Band, with screenplay credit going to David S. Goyer, who has since become a bit of a Hollywood sensation with films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Man Of Steel, The Dark Knight, and Blade. However, his earlier credits include b-movies like Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, the abysmal early Marvel film Nick Fury: Agent of Shield, and Kickboxer 2.
The director of Demonic Toys was Peter Manoogian, who was also behind low budget flicks like Arena, Eliminators, The Dungeonmaster, Seedpeople, and DevilDolls.
The editor for Demonic Toys was Andy Horvitch, who cut the Stuart Gordon movies Stuck, Edmond, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and The Pit and The Pendulum, as well as the low budget flicks Arena and Beeper.
The musical score for Demonic Toys was provided by Richard Band, who has worked on Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dreams in the Witch House, Castle Freak, The Pit and The Pendulum, Arena, Troll, and Laserblast, among many others.
The most prominent producer of the film was Full Moon Features and Empire Pictures head, Charles Band, who is widely known for his low budget horror films. His companies have been behind franchises like Dollman, Puppet Master, Ghoulies, Demonic Toys, and Trancers, as well as cult classic films like Robot Jox and Re-Animator.
The effects work for Demonic Toys was done by a team that included Palah Sandling (Dr. Alien, Trancers II), Dennis Gordon (Robot Jox, Q: The Winged Serpent), Harvey Mayo (Robot Jox, Puppetmaster), Kevin McCarthy (Ice Cream Man, Hobgoblins, The Ambulance), Phil Meador (Splash, Ghost Dad), Mark Rappaport (Predator 2, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Core), David Allen (Dolls, The Stuff, Laserblast, Q: The Winged Serpent), Yancy Calzada (Mega Piranha, Trick or Treat), Chris Endicott (Prehysteria), and Allen Gonzales (Mortal Kombat, Highlander II, Ghost Dad).
The plot of Demonic Toys follows a group of people who are trapped in a locked toy storage facility, where they inadvertently awaken a demon. The otherworldly creature then uses the various shelved trinkets as vessels and weapons, and makes himself stronger with each subsequent kill.
Demonic Toys has had crossover sequels with fellow Charles Band properties Puppet Masters and Dollman, but didn’t get a true standalone sequel to its own until 2010, with Demonic Toys 2.
The reception to Demonic Toys was generally negative: it currently holds an IMDb rating of 5.1 and a Rotten Tomatoes audience review aggregate score of 32%. As with many Full Moon movies, it never released to theaters, and has thus not had a huge number of eyes on it outside of dedicated horror fans.
First off, the eponymous toys in the movie look absolutely terrible. Most of them are nothing more than semi-elaborate hand puppets, which is painfully obvious every time they are on screen. Worse than that, however, is that a couple of them are vocal, meaning that they have constant, jarring mouth movements. It would be one thing if they were saying things that were menacing or otherwise necessary, but most of the dialogue from the monstrous playthings are poorly delivered one liners and riffs. Speaking of which, the biggest weakness of this movie is a sense of humor that never finds its footing. Throughout the whole film, I can’t think of a single joke that honestly landed for me, and I can’t imagine it looked any better in screenplay form.
The primary antagonist of the movie is a mysterious demon who controls the various toys. However, he doesn’t use the toys for much other than his casual dirty work, preferring do engage in a few parlor scenes and monologues with various characters himself. Typically, I wouldn’t mind that so much out of a b-movie villain, but the demon here has a huge problem: until the very end of the movie, he is played by a child, who is dubbed over with an adult voice with a heavy effects filter. It both sounds and looks terrible, and is immensely distracting in all of his scenes.
Speaking of which, I’m not entirely clear as to why each of the toys had a unique personality, when they are all being directly controlled by the same demon. Wouldn’t they all be identical reflections of that demon, rather than different based on their appearances? Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much time spent on how the toy possession works, so it just stands as lingering logic issue.
The setup for the plot of Demonic Toys is a bit overly complicated and over the top, to say the least. The plot kicks off with an undercover illegal gun trafficking bust that goes wrong, which sounds like the start for a very different kind of movie. Apart from establishing the location and revealing a tiny bit of character backstory, this elaborate initial setup doesn’t have any real bearing on the rest of the plot. Some good movies can pull this off really well, as crucial information is revealed before the turn. However, there isn’t much revealed about the characters in the opening, apart from the fact that the lead is newly pregnant. The experiences shown in the opening don’t reveal a whole lot about the gun runners or the demon either, making it feel basically like wasted time.
Towards the middle of the story, it is revealed that the demon is looking for a new physical body, and needs to take over an unborn human child to do so. From that point on, the plot centers around the demon setting up a ceremony to take over the woman cop’s 1 month old fetus, which is a bit of an odd turn. From there, an umbilical war occurs between the demon and the fetus soul of the unborn kid, which eventually ends in the demon being thwarted. The end of the movie shows a bit of a creepy/supposedly-touching moment between the cop and her fetus-ghost, which gives the movie a vague anti-abortion vibe. After all, it is established that this fetus, which is less than 1 month into development, has a fully developed soul that is capable of possessing objects and influencing the natural world. To put it mildly, the tone of the entire last act is fucking weird. I half expected a post-credit sermon about the demonic evils of abortion.
Overall, Demonic Toys is just a less entertaining or well developed version of Dolls / Puppet Master / Child’s Play, and it doesn’t try to hide that at any point. Much like Dolls, there is a giant killer teddy bear. Much like Child’s Play, there’s a innocent doll with a filthy mouth. Much like Puppet Master… it is almost exactly the same thing as Puppet Master. For the life of me, I don’t understand why this is its own franchise when Full Moon already had Puppet Master in their arsenal. In any case, the bizarre third act almost makes it worth watching for the WTF-factor, but not quite. I still enjoyed seeing shitty hand puppets murder people, but enough to recommend this to anyone but the most die-hard Full Moon die-hards.