We all have these horror movies that have marked us for life. That your blood froze because of the macabre family dinner at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or you found yourself deranged and nauseous watching Regan’s head spin The Exorcist, these terrible fears became the catalyst for a life of horror in love. When I think back to my childhood, it’s movies like Tourist trap, Fighting spirit, and even Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker which left deep impressions. It’s like a freezing winter cold that you just can’t shake, or that ominous feeling that comes down at nightfall and seems to shake among the shadows on your wall. It’s certainly hard to imagine that the fifth installment of a B-movie franchise has much to offer, but the director Martin Kitrosse‘s The toy maker injected the series with a dash of whimsy, a few drops of absurdity, and a whole handful of mayhem that is just as terrifying today.
Released on VHS in late 1991, The toy maker, whose screenplay was written by Kitrosser and Brian yuzna (the man behind Company, Bride of Re-Animator, The Dentist, and a host of other schlocky ’90s horror gems), adapts Pinocchio’s magical fable into a perverted tale of childhood trauma. Kitrosser weaves themes of abuse and lust for love into the fabric of the story using the absolute fantasy as a setting. Naturally, as a five-year-old at the time, I was much more addicted to the grisly violence when toys, seemingly innocent inanimate objects, came to life and killed. As an adult, I came to appreciate the dysfunctional and broken up household, something I have also experienced, and how a boy’s imagination is completely destroyed after witnessing the murder of his step-in-law. dad.
It’s Christmas Eve and there’s a knock on the door. Too naive for his own good, an angel-faced boy named Derek (Guillaume Thorne) responds and discovers a perfectly packed parcel on the porch. His stepfather Tom (Van Quattro) lashes out, demonstrating his own fears, and orders him to get to bed. Her curiosity to know what’s in the package wins out, of course. When he tears off the glittering holiday paper, he finds a musical globe inside, its bright red curves reminiscent of Santa Claus himself. The DIY toy plays the sweetest of tunes before transforming into an evil creature with razor-sharp fangs and Inspector Gadget’s rubber arms, which cling to Tom’s face, seemingly sucking life out of him. In a fight to break free, Tom stumbles and impales himself on a fireplace poker – and poor Derek, hidden on the stairs, testifies to this.
What a horrible experience. It is certainly, unequivocally, etched in his memory, without a doubt. This opening scene prepares the viewer for a marvelous camp level; setups are generally ridiculous, but Kitrosser walks dexterously between serious and clumsy. As a franchisee, Silent night, deadly night rested on the public’s willingness to suspend their disbelief at the same level as you would the Child’s play and Puppet master movies. But these horror stories work because they lean heavily on one of the biggest fears I had as a kid, and probably most people: bloodthirsty toys that destroy utter chaos. . I was also terrified of Sid and his mutilated toys in the 1994s Toy story, so what do I know.
Two weeks later, Derek’s mother Sarah (Jane higginson) regrets that he still has not recovered. And how could he? It’s way too early. “On top of everything, he won’t be entering her room now,” she tells her best friend Kim (Neith Hunter), noting that he has not said a word since the accident. Derek barricades himself from the world, as much as he does from fantasy land. Toys are just the biggest horror of his young life, and even a Christmas shopping jingle, hanging on the exact toy that killed Tom, sets it off.
“Derek, I know you’re angry and scared, and you have every right to be, but you also have to remember that you’re not alone,” Sarah consoles later in the morning. To perhaps lure him out of his self-imposed shell, she takes him shopping at Petto’s Toys, founded by the merry owner Joe Petto, an erratic but fascinating performance by Mickey rooney. “Fate is playing cruel tricks on all of us,” said Joe, offering his best condolences. After his son Pino (Brian bremer) tries to force them to buy a toy Larry the Larvae, Sarah and Derek abruptly flee the store, much to Joe’s chagrin. “A real son would help his father!” he is blowing anger.
Joe tends to break out into blind anger when Pino doesn’t quite meet his expectations and blames him for the financial ruin of the store. His personal tragedy (the death of his first son before birth) fuels his suffering and he puts it squarely on Pino’s shoulders. Perhaps in an attempt to find some meaning in his existence, Pino later breaks into Sarah’s house, where he lived in 1975. After his discovery, Joe releases all his pent-up resentment, bubbling with sour words and chasing him in. the basement store. Joe’s pain became Pino’s punishment, embodying the cyclical nature of human existence. As they say, hurting people hurts people and all Pino wants is to love and be loved.
In his desperation for the unconditional kindness that Joe refuses and, more importantly, cannot give him, Pino rewires many toys in the shop to have an unnatural hunger for human flesh. He frequently leaves anonymous Christmas packages on Sarah’s doorstep in hopes that Derek will die and that he can finally have the family he always wanted. Its unpredictable demeanor frames many of the best, most memorable footage the film has to offer, including a set of roller skates that sparkle and emit smoke like cryogenic boosters.
“It’s human nature to want clear and neat answers to everything, but life doesn’t work that way,” Kim expresses to Sarah moments before her son Lonnie loots a pair of roller skates and is almost killed by a car. This simple, almost disposable scene becomes the crux of the whole movie. Toys that go haywire when Derek’s real father, Noah, appears (Tracy fraim), which spends the entire movie hunting down and buying all the damaged toys, the real-world brutality appears ornamental but in truth, it throbs in the center.
Presented as an expected red herring, Noah has nothing but the best of intentions. Her subplot is clearly brought into focus halfway through a touching scene with Sarah. Turns out she never told Noah about her pregnancy and he ran away almost six years ago. “I wanted to tell you,” she said, almost in tears. But he was never “ready to settle down,” she says. “I wanted to finish college. I wanted a career. I needed security, and you couldn’t give me that. Tom could.
Her words sting, but her feelings remain unchanged. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he swears. The two then embark on a hatchback adventure, and Kitrosser juxtaposes this rekindle of romance against a murderous, blood-soaked backdrop. Back home, babysitter Merideth (Amy L. Taylor) and her punk boyfriend Buck (Eric Welch) get freaky in the sheets with their own sexual exploits, as an army of toys (including a T-Rex and a wayward animatronic hand, planted by Joe) stalks and then attacks in the film’s bloodiest setting. In Buck’s struggle to unravel a rubber snake around his throat, a remote control car, decked out with razor-sharp blades and spikes, slams into his chest and slices deep into his chin strap.
Amid the chaos, Joe kidnaps Derek and takes him to his toy store to prepare for one of the strangest showdowns in horror. Sarah rushes into the snow and confronts Joe in the bunker, a makeshift factory under the store. It is quickly revealed that Joe is not Joe after all. It was Pino, who killed his father in a fit of rage. “He always broke me. I had to make sure this time he didn’t hurt me anymore, ”Pino said, exposing his true robot form. The revelation is quite unsettling, but his delusional thought, that killing his father has finally set him free, throws the eerie image into a vat of cold, hard truth.
Many people have experienced trauma during the Christmas season, and it can be incredibly difficult to navigate reopened wounds and a flood of emotions. The toy maker does a surprising job of planting this thematic seed inside such an overblown premise, and it only gets more painful from there. Pino strips off his Santa costume – don’t worry, he’s not anatomically correct and only mimics what he saw on Merideth and Buck’s sexy date earlier. “All I ever wanted to be was a good son,” he says. He walks over and grabs Sarah, assaulting her as he continues to express his lustful desires, “Derek has to die so you can be my mom.” I can be your son now. I can love you like a real son. I can. I can. I can. I love you mom!”
Pino is eventually defeated (Noah and Sarah both chop him to pieces with an ax), but it’s this assault scene that has given me quivering nightmares over the years. It’s a level of creep that makes me think Pino must have been watching Black christmas at one point ; an aggressive and possessive attitude towards women is pervasive in both films. Now imagine a five year old huddled under his homemade blanket, terrified. There is no way that I will come out unscathed.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker holds remarkably well. As much as I hate the word, the movie is underestimated. In conversations about haunted or demonic toys, the 1991 feature is largely overlooked. Kitrosser cakes on mounds of blood, tension, and social commentary in a way that feels organic and serves intrigue. Where Disney’s Animated Adventure Pinocchio (1940) instills a message of moral integrity, The toy maker digs much deeper into the darkest crevices of human existence, from death to sexual assault, to present the realities of the world in the harshest light possible. Underneath those layers, there remains a damn entertaining horror film thirty years later.