An estranged and recently widowed grandfather purchases a used RV to take one last family road trip with his two sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to rekindle a broken relationship. On an isolated stretch of desert highway, the family decides to pull over to assist two stranded motorists and offer them a ride to the next town. Suddenly, the RV veers out of control, steering itself to the middle of the dangerously sweltering desert. The group now finds themselves all stranded and alone with a RV that outputs a strange vibe, displaying vividly horrific secrets inside the RV’s enclosure. One-by-one, the RV kills them off and soon they realize that their ride to family fun is no more than a reincarnated recreational vehicle with a long lineage for death and thirsty for new blood.
Fan crushes are a strange phenomena. Once an actor or an actress imprints their image, their voice, or their one-time portrayal of a charismatic character onto you, the unexplainable captivation never releases the firm grip around the psyche. Denise Richards has had a long impression on this reviewer, resulting in a severe case of fan crush. The Illinois actress won my heart as the determinedly beautiful starship pilot Carmen Ibanez in Paul Veerhoven’s “Starship Troopers,” one year before her anticipated and unforgettable champagne popping nude scene in the convoluted thriller “Wild Things.” Twenty years later, Richards, an ageless beauty, co-stars in the Tom Nagel supernatural horror, “The Toybox.” Nagel (“Clowntown”) directs his sophomore film penned by screenwriter Jeff Denton and, together, the pair of filmmakers toy with and present an idea of a detestable serial killer leaving his twisted soul in the under the rusted hood of a his torture chamber, a beat up old RV camper. A killer RV story that sounds to be right up horror-comedy’s alley is actually a rather earnest narrative that has a solid kill count with an innovative, outside the box villain and a no one is safe attitude.
I’ve already mentioned that the goddess Denise Richards co-headlines “The Toybox” and though I have yet to experience her more recent work over the years, “Valentine” was the last horror film that I can recall with Richards in the cast and her role in Nagel’s film as a loving, yet undisciplined mother and wife in “The Toybox” puts her at the opposite spectrum of her roles in the late 90’s/early 2000’s career. Still, the now recently re-married mother of two still has her unrivaled hots and still has her acting chops as a leading lady despite the lack of Hollywood glam and stardom. Her co-star, Mischa Barton, has been an upcoming figure in the b-horror community. “The O.C.” actresses has starred in a string of horror films in recent years such as “The Hoarder,” “L.A. Slasher,” and “Apartment 1303 3D.” Barton tackles a tomboy Samantha whose picked up, along with her brother, by the RV traveling family and while Barton has a fine performance, she doesn’t quite sell the intensity as a final girl. Greg Violand (“The Devil’s Toy Box”), Matt Mercer (“Contracted”), David Greathouse (“Yoga Hosers”), writer Jeff Denton, director Tom Nagel, and introducing Malika Michelle round out of the remaining cast.
“The Toybox” loosely aims to unravel the inner turmoils of the characters mainly focusing around the estranged relationship of the father and his two sons. The trio can’t quite shake the secret inducing uneasiness that boils inside their broken relationship, making a situational cakewalk for the killer RV to pit them against each other as a deranged therapy session to unsheathe their kindred issues. The bickering and the blaming hurts those they love the most around them first, a very relatable and unfortunate circumstance in beyond the sensational borders of movie magic. However, no matter how much movie magic Nagel constructs to gore-out “The Toybox,” a stiflingly story rears an ugly head via undercooked characters pivotal in being the heart of the narrative. Samantha, Barton’s character, has soft, buttery edges that don’t take shape to ultimate purpose for being a focal point and the same can be said for David Greathouse’s serial killer character Robert Gunthry whose RV-inhabiting backstory is whipped swiftly a single anecdote.
Skyline Entertainment and Steel House Productions present Tom Nagel’s “The Toybox” onto Blu-ray home video in high definition 1080p and a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Image is quite sharp despite lacking vivid coloring and going more for a dusty western-horror, exhibiting the rocky arid landscape of the pacific coast. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is nothing to write home about, but offers a clean dialogue track, ample ambience, and balance. Depth’s slightly weak, but won’t hinder the experience. Bonus material on the single layer BD-25 includes a behind the scenes of various takes throughout production, the theatrical trailer, and a feature commentary with cast and crew. “The Toybox” is no child’s plaything. A RV serial killer with the homicidal motivations stemmed from pure evil and, in a fair opinion, only director Tom Nagel could have poised a coherent film without making it out too, for a lack of a better word, campy and that’s not my weird obsession with Denise Richards talking.
Based on the real life teenage ‘thrill killer’ Alyssa Bustamente, Shame Ryan (“Amateur Porn Star Killer”) directs “My Name is ‘A’ By Anonymous” to tell what may or may not have happened to murdered Elizabeth Olten by her neighbor Alyssa Bustamente. The story tells the story of a group of teenagers left to their own emotional devices and left to their own parentless neglect manifesting a dark world that sparks angst leading to murder.
Shane Ryan mixes real life with an art film and the result doesn’t and won’t translate to most audiences. The non-linear story creates more confusion than clarity and being that this is one possible scenario on the murder of Elizabeth Olten, the scenario leaves more questions that perhaps vivid answers. One quality the film does do is color Alyssa Bustamente to be a thrill killer with self cutting tendencies, a dry attitude toward life, and the possibility of having a multiple personality disorder. Does this revolution around Alyssa paint a portrait that the film is more about a killer than about the victim?
The expectation bar was set high for director/writer Shane Ryan. With the exploitations of his earlier work such as “Amateur Porn Star Killer” movies and “Warning!!! Pedophile Released,” there were hopes that this film would be more intense and graphic. Since Ryan decided to take a cheap and artistic route, the outcome will confuse, bore, and shred any bit of entertaining qualities to itty-bitty pieces.
Marketed as being in the same vein of more infamous teen angst films such as “Kids” and “Ken Park” is very deceiving. Besides the killing, which was mostly described in sub context art form, and the implied incest-rape, also in sub context, there is really no comparison to “Kids” or “Ken Park.” Very few moments in the movie where the scene feels powerful and telling but these scenes are overpowered by lack of story telling and more of just teenage girls scenes of them brutalizing themselves and dealing with parental issue.
I’m not a fan of this Wild Eye Release. I’m encouraging you, however, to try to have an open mind and give it a whirl. Ryan’s film is not for everybody and won’t be a stellar hit. “My Name Is ‘A’ By Anonymous” teases mostly in the same likes as “The Life: What’s Your Please?” teases the possibility of Denise Richards and Daryl Hannah, a pair of escorts, getting their freak on but leave the view limp all the way to the end. This film harks on that same flaws. Don’t get your hopes maxed out, but instead go into the movie, being released this Tuesday September 23rd, with a backup plan just in case of severe boredom.
Like Paul Verhoeven’s intergalactic warfare movie Starship Troopers where mankind battles an arachnid army known as “Bugs?” Did you know that Starship Troopers is based off a novel of the same title and was published in the late 1950s? Well if you did not know, now you do! Written by a former naval lieutenant Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers bares little action similarities to the novel’s more recent movie counterpart.
Juan Rico decides to join the service against his parents’ wishes and embarks from a private in boot camp to non-commissioned office to finally commissioned officer. Rico’s backdrop is war; an intergalactic war with a nasty enemy known as the “Bugs,” an arachnid species that can calculate and that can strategize with the help of a brain caste pulling all the strings.
If you’ve seen the movie, the plot pretty much describes the movie, right? Most of the Heinlein’s novel follow’s Juan “Johnnie” Rico’s career through the trials and tribulations of Service, from boot camp to being a lieutenant, in becoming a citizen, but the action and bloody mess that was experiences on the big screen was not translated from the book as most of the Mobile Infantries whom were killed in action were described as “buying the farm.” You can’t blame Heinlein as this book was written in 1959 mentally constructed as a totally different mind set than from our generation. The words on page are seriously outdated and can be technical for the most of the novel due to Heinlein’s military background.
The novel touches more upon the power suits which make an appearance in Starship Troopers: Marauder (“Marauder” is a name of one of the many power suits). These suits give Rico and the other M.I.s a superhuman ability and give them an even playing ground with the Bugs. I rather prefer no power suits as like in Verhoeven’s film that make the bugs seem like an unstoppable force. The novel does delve a bit more into the Bug society and hierarchy as well as how the Bugs reproduce endlessly. Much of James Cameron Aliens was inspired of Heinlein’s novel in the aspects of “Bugs” and their being a Queen to produce the “warrior Bugs.”
Heinlein touches mainly on civic duty and the social norms of a military lifestyle through the confines of war. We live through Juan Rico much like we live through Johnny Rico in the movie, but don’t expect to read much about Johnny Rico’s companions. Ace, Carl, Carmen, Dizzy Flores, Sargent Zim are a few characters that you might remember from the film that are in the book, but Ace, Carl, Carmen and Dizzy are brief mentions that probably span no more than a page and half out of 260 plus pages. Zim is all through bootcamp and near the end of the novel. Instead, Juan Rico encounter various people and ranks that stem from privates to cadets to sergeants to generals.
Starship Troopers can be an interesting read for anybody with a military frame of mind or a curiosity for it. But don’t expect the chaos of battle scenes or the gore of the arachnid M.I. slaughter. Robert Heinlein’s novel will not be everyone, but a good read none-the-less.