Thursday, April 13, 2017

In short: Demonic Toys (1992)

Police woman Judith Gray (Tracy Scoggins) has a very bad night. Her partner and fiancée is killed during an apparently completely unsupervised undercover operation. When she follows the two perpetrators into a nearby warehouse, things become really bad. Turns out the place is the home of a demon who prefers to show himself in the form of a little boy. Said demon has chosen Judith’s unborn child to become his new body. Towards that goal – and because this is a Full Moon feature – he possesses some toys, namely a potty-mouthed baby doll, a jack-in-the-box (including the box), a crappy silver robot that shoots lasers and the teddy bear from hell. They lock Judith, a chicken delivery guy, a random teenager, the surviving killer and a security guard in the warehouse and proceed to murder their way through the cast, while the demon taunts Judith with exposition, while various other supernatural crap occurs.

In retrospect, this relatively early phase of Charles Band’s and Full Moon’s obsession with evil dolls, puppets and whatnot is pretty fascinating. At this point, the company could still afford professional actors, and – while things certainly had to be done on the cheap – the company’s products still looked like real movies. Director Peter Manoogian had been working with Band since Empire times, and while nobody will probably get out the auteur label to pin on the man’s work, his direction generally shows craftsmanship and the ability to treat the weird stuff the script (in this case written by a young David S. Goyer) throws at him with the appropriate seriousness.

Which is a good thing in a film containing stuff like that talking murderous baby doll. Otherwise, all the entertainment value of the general craziness would be drained away by the film smugly winking at its audience. So yes, while Demonic Toys does have a clear idea of how silly it is, it clearly sees no reason not to treat its audience to as much entertainment as it can wring out of the nonsense. Goyer’s script also contains some genuinely good ideas that tend to be used rather bluntly – a problem his scripts still suffer under, just that the bluntness here is appropriate and often needed to make the film’s low production values work, Goyer today doesn’t really have that sort of excuse anymore.

Anyway, while one needs to keep one’s disbelief and probably one’s sense of being a very serious grown-up suspended quite heavily to enjoy Demonic Toys, the film really works hard for our enjoyment. It’s not a thrill-a-minute ride, but there’s something fun, something entertaining, something low-brow funny, something interesting, or something whacked out bizarre (did I mention how the teddy bear later transforms into a teddy bear werewolf costume thing?) happening at least every two minutes, the film putting all its money right on the screen. I, at least, couldn’t help enjoying myself quite a bit. There’s always something to be said for unapologetic yet enthusiastic genre nonsense, and I wouldn’t want to miss it and films like it for the world.

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