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.
From being stuck in stand still Floridian hurricane traffic to waking up in a hospital without any recollection of how she got there, Amy Barrett finds herself in a seemingly evacuated sanitarium on the verge of being hit by a category 5 hurricane. When she finally makes contact with the limited hospital staff, Amy discovers that the staff are not in the position to help, but desire to perform unnecessary surgeries. Then, she finds herself in traffic again. Then, she wakes up in hospital…again. Amy, and other patients, find themselves trapped in a nightmare loop forged by the powers of the massive hurricane. Before the storm passes over, Amy must find a way to end the corkscrew of timelines that propel her limbo hell or else she will be trapped in the hospital forever.
To the O.R. stat! From writer-director Christopher Lawrence Chapman comes “Inoperable,” the horror equivalent to Bill Murray’s exceptional dark comedy “Groundhog Day.” As Chapman’s sophomore directorial, first in the realm of horror, the director takes “Inoperable” to rebrand the quantum paradoxical plight by introducing a medical butchers with hours upon hours, days upon days, years upon years of experience with exploratory surgery and ghastly invasion procedures. Behind the wormhole of terror script with Chapman is co-writer, the b-horror screenwriter, Jeff Miller whose extensive credits include “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” and “Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove.” In this go-around, Miller explores the space-time-continuum, or does he, with Amy reliving the same moment, experienced slightly differently, in an endless loop of grisliness.
Starring in “Inoperable” is the “Halloween’s” franchise third favorite star, behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleseance, being Danielle Harris (“Halloween 4,” “Halloween 5,” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remakes). Harris keeps and maintains the tension, supplementing an increasing annoying and frustrating tone with each and every reset, and does superbly in extended takes running through the hospital’s dark corridors. Amy’s center storied character really puts Harris to work on her ability to flex in sequentially illogical scenes that go in various tangents and come to a dead halt in the end, flipping the script that forces the modern day scream queen to relive some of those killer “Halloween” moments. Harris is accompanied by Katie Keene and Jeff Denton, both whom worked with Chapman previously on the clownsploitation slasher “ClownTown.” Keene and Denton’s characters are also caught up in the same situation as a Denton plays a beefy good looking cop named Ryan who brings in a witness, Keene’s JenArdsen, a dolled up blonde who while in his custody, to the hospital following a multi-vehicle pile up; the very exact incident Amy in which Amy was involved. The two fall for each other more and more with each and every restart and that pain coldly passes over when to bare witness to each other’s demise over and over again is disturbingly twisted. Rounding out the cast is Chris Hahn “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan”), Cher Hubsher (“The Amityville Terror”), Michelle Marin (“Bloody 27”), Philip Schene, and Crystal Cordero.
The trio of resetters formulate a wildly speculated theory that a nearby military compound, experimenting in spatial physics, was ravaged by the hurricane that oozed out their experiments that disrupted timelines, affecting this particular hospital, and the only way to escape the madness is by displacing the same energy that was put into it; so for example, since Ryan and JenArdsen arrived together, they would have to escape together. As long as Amy doesn’t die, every trapped soul is eligible for escape. Wait, what? Like aforementioned, Amy is the centerpiece to the puzzle and the whole entire situation actually revolves around Amy, intentional or not. Even though clues try to put a monkey wrench in that notion, the story always seems to revert back to Amy much like the loop she’s caught in. That in itself is the biggest hint of all that funnels to a underwhelming ending in null and voids the rest of the story.
ITN Distribution presents “Inoperable” onto DVD and VOD. The DVD is presented in a widescreen to “preserve the aspect ratio of its original exhibition” and, yes, this was done so. Nothing too particularly to note about the image quality being a modern release, but the color palette is balanced and vivid. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital track has some good range and clear dialogue that effective communicate all theories and explanations on why this is happen to Amy, Ryan, and JenArdsen. Extras are slim that include a cast and crew commentary and the theatrical trailer. The Zorya Films and Millman Productions’ “Inoperable” is open heart surgery gory and is unique in a deadfall environment that’s sublimely refreshing for the over saturated genre, but culminates flaccidly with a conventional finale too predictable for comfort.