I know it’s Halloween time, but Toys of Terror is jumping ahead to Christmas to spread some extra holiday horror.

David and Hannah take their kids up to a giant mansion up in the mountains to spend Christmas. But they’re trying to make it a working vacation – they’re in the middle of renovating the place in hopes of flipping it. With no wifi and a spotty cell signal, the kids must amuse themselves with the old toys left throughout the house. Unfortunately, the toys want to amuse themselves by killing off everyone in the house.

The Good

At its heart, Toys of Terror is about family. The movie works hard to establish a slightly strained family dynamic that grows and resolves itself by the end of the film. It’s not a perfect portrayal, but the effort is definitely there. (That’s more than I can say for most horror movies.) In particular, I’d like to draw attention to the teenager of the movie, Alicia. A pet-peeve trope of mine is “teenager causes catastrophic damage by being moody.” Toys of Terror actually managed a very natural feeling level of teen angst blended with rationality from Alicia. (She and the nanny Rose are by far the MVPs of saving the family.)

Plus, Toys of Terror is funny – and not in the “I’m watching a bad horror movie” sense you might expect. Funny as in jokes are intentionally made and I actually laughed out loud at a few of them. It adds a surprising brightness and realism to the film, and makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

Then there’s the toys themselves. They aren’t CGI creations, but actual toys animated using classic stop motion. The effect is perhaps less scary than good CGI, but less laughable than bad CGI. The stop motion gives everything a strange sense of nostalgia. It’s oddly charming.

Toys of Terror

The Bad

The dialogue and acting are generally clunky. Not terrible, but often awkward. The plot itself plays out predictably. The story behind the haunting here is pretty thin, and given a rushed explanation on top of everything. Since nearly all its surprises can be easily tracked and anticipated, it never actually succeeds in being scary. (I’ll admit I didn’t see the tinsel attack coming. But Doctor Who did killer Christmas trees better.)

Honestly, Toys of Terror is one of those movies I wish was worse. It’s got the premise and the humor to make a great “so bad it’s good” movie. If the script and the acting just leaned in to being terrible – instead of falling into the middling ground of “just ok” – I think this could have been an ironic hit.

Toys of Terror

Toys of Terror: The Bottom Line

Toys of Terror isn’t particularly frightening, although it’s got a strange nostalgic charm and moments of good humor.

Rating: 6/10

Toys of Terror is now available on digital platforms.

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