A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Toys of Terror is a 2020 holiday horror movie in which a family spending Christmas in an isolated rehabbed mansion must contend with a group of murderous old toys. Horror imagery and violence. One of the characters gets impaled through the chest by a piece of hardwood flooring. A woman is stabbed to death before falling through a third-story window. One of the characters is attacked by a Christmas tree, choked by the lights. A car accident during a bad snowstorm. The toys, when not killing or attacking, encourage suicide by jumping out of a window. Jump scares throughout. Some profanity, including "f--k" during a climactic moment. While not as gory or violent as other horror movies, there's plenty of imagery that's likely to give younger and more sensitive viewers nightmares, making this best for older teens and up.
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What's the story?
In TOYS OF TERROR, Hannah has just closed on a secluded old mansion that she hopes to renovate and sell for tremendous profit. With her kids Zoe and Franklin, husband David, his teen daughter Alicia, and the kids' caretaker Rose, they decide to spend Christmas at the mansion. Upon arrival, they meet Emmett, the mansion's contractor, who tells them not to go up to the third floor, as it's still being rehabbed. As they settle in, Zoe and Franklin find a chest filled with old toys. Once out of the chest, the toys come to life, and they seem to possess Zoe and Franklin. After the toys lure the kids to the third floor, a near-fatal injury ensues, and David must drive Emmett to the hospital in spite of the blizzard that keeps everyone else stuck in the mansion. Meanwhile, the toys continue to wreak havoc, and Rose and Alicia begin to suspect that there are some very dark forces at work that Hannah knew about and didn't tell them. Soon, they learn about the mansion's dark past, and together they must find a way to put the toys back into the chest before anyone else is killed.
Is it any good?
Toys of Terror is a cheesy, low-budget holiday horror movie constrained by the formulaic nature of the "haunted house" movie. While parents who were kids of the 1970s and '80s will have plenty of "Oh yeah, I remember..." moments when seeing these possessed toys that look similar to the popular toys of their childhoods, the kitsch of these toys turned psychotic doesn't quite carry the day. If anything, it suggests a missed opportunity for something with the potential to have been much more original than what it ended up being. The twists and turns to the story never break out of the mold, and the result comes across as something seen so many times before.
On the plus side, there's a welcome diversity to the cast, and one of the subplots concerns a blended family where the parents and kids struggle with making the holidays work. However, like the kitschy toys, this also feels like a missed opportunity as the movie becomes too concerned with hitting plot points than working the blended family dynamic more into the action. Also, there's a caretaker of the kids who seems, in hindsight, to only exist for the purposes of the attempt at a "spooky epilogue." Toys of Terror will be enjoyable for those looking for a break from the standard saccharin holiday fare, but the result is ultimately disappointing and a wasted opportunity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror movies. How does this compare to other horror movies in terms of suspense and violence?
The movie is centered on a blended family. How does it address issues blended families may deal with during the holidays?
While horror movies are often thought to be a part of Halloween, there are quite a few Christmas and holiday-themed horror movies. Why do you think that is?
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