With three Puppet Master movies successfully released into the world, producer Charles Band, head of Full Moon Entertainment, was looking to expand his company’s stable of tiny terrors. And so the idea struck for a movie originally intended to be called Dangerous Toys, which eventually had its title fittingly changed to Demonic Toys.
Band came up with the concept, then approached a young screenwriter to flesh it out into the script, even providing the writer with promo art for additional inspiration. Despite only being in his early twenties, this writer already had two film credits to his name – the Jean-Claude Van Damme prison thriller Death Warrant and the Van Damme-less sequel to a Van Damme vehicle Kickboxer 2: The Road Back. Following Demonic Toys, this writer would go on to become one of the biggest success stories in Hollywood.
The writer was David S. Goyer, who today is best known for the Blade trilogy and being involved with nearly every DC Comics adaptation Warner Bros. puts into development.
Goyer knocked out the Demonic Toys in just over a week and the movie went into production with Peter Manoogian directing.
The film begins with police officer Judith Gray and her partner/live-in boyfriend Matt Cable sitting in a parked car in an empty city parking lot at night, waiting for a couple criminals named Lincoln and Hesse to show up with $20,000 worth of illegal weapons that the cops are going to bust them for trying to sell. While they wait, Judith informs Cable that she’s pregnant… and ever since she became pregnant, she’s been having this recurring dream about two young boys playing the card game War in a room full of ticking clocks and rocking chairs that move on their own.
When Lincoln and Hesse show up, Cable is on edge, more protective of Judith than usual now that he knows she’s pregnant. When the officers inform the criminals that they’re under arrest, the bad guys don’t respond with compliance… I find it hard to believe that the cops wouldn’t have backup waiting in the wings during a gun-runner bust, but Judith and Cable don’t. In the exchange of gunfire that ensues, Cable is killed and Hesse is mortally wounded.
The criminals make a run for it and Judith gives chase, the three ending up in a large toy warehouse called Toyland.
There’s a touch of Child’s Play to the image of the wounded, bleeding Hesse stumbling among the toys, it’s very reminiscent of the opening of that earlier killer toy movie, which featured a mortally wounded serial killer being chased into a toy store by a police officer. But instead of passing his soul into a toy like the Child’s Play serial killer did, Hesse just collapses on the floor in an unnatural circle of light. As the blood seeps out of his body into cracks on the floor, some of the toys around him begin to come to life…
The Demonic Toys of the title are a group of four nasty little things designed by special effects artist John Carl Beuchler and brought to life by him and his crew through a mixture of animatronics and hand puppets. The little killers are: Jack Attack, a clown jack-in-the-box with a maniacal laugh and sharp teeth, with a tentacle tail to wrap around a person while he chews on them. Grizzly Teddy, a vicious teddy bear. Mister Static, a robot that rolls on tank treads and fires deadly lazers from its gun arms. And the leader of the pack, mouthy baby doll Baby Oopsie Daisy, voiced by actress Linda Cook.
After the demonic toys finish off Hesse, Judith and Lincoln find that they’re trapped in the warehouse with these killer creatures, along with three other potential victims – lazy security guard Charnetski, Chunky Chicken restaurant delivery boy with a bad attitude Mark Wayne, and Anne, a runaway teen who has been hiding out in the warehouse.
A group of toys out for blood isn’t all these people have to deal with. There are supernatural forces at work that make escape from the warehouse seemingly impossible, and Judith soon realizes that these forces are exactly what she’s been dreaming about… The boys from her dream are both in the warehouse, one good, one evil, waging a spiritual war on each other, and whichever one wins will be the spirit that inhabits the child Judith gives birth to.
The source of all this evil is the little boy played by Daniel Cerny, who would go on to be a cult leader for He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. Here he’s a demon that is seeking to be born into our world. His previous attempt was sixty-six years earlier, when he was stillborn on Halloween night. His corpse was dumped on the plot of land that Toyland Warehouse ended up being built on. The demon was imprisoned in that corpse for sixty-six years and has finally been released by Hesse’s spilled blood.
So, as you can see, the plot Goyer came up with is ridiculous, and his script is full of his usual nonsensical tough guy talk, but even though a lot of this is delivered completely seriously in an attempt to be as scary and unnerving as possible, it’s really all just set-up for some entertaining killer doll mayhem, and the movie does deliver a good amount of fun as the homicidal toys track the characters through the warehouse.
Most of the actors – Tracy Scoggins as Judith Gray, Bentley Mitchum as Mark, Peter Schrum as Charnetski, Ellen Dunning as Anne – do fine work making their characters likeable, enjoyable to spend time with and to watch deal with the absurdity and terror of their situation. The killer toys, demonic possession, and hallucinations really make Mark crack, which makes the situation all the more fun to watch out play out. I’m a big fan of the comedy of hysteria, and Mark gets quite hysterical.
The Demonic Toys themselves aren’t as cool as the puppets from Puppet Master, but they are a good batch of characters. As the end of the film nears, Grizzly Teddy is revealed to have a very powerful ability that he only puts to use in this one, higher budgeted entry in the series: he’s able to transform into a man-sized beast, chasing down characters, throwing them around, and smashing through doors.
Demonic Toys may not be ranked highly among Goyer’s work, but it’s a good time, and being the sort of movie watcher I am, I’d much rather spend 84 minutes watching Demonic Toys than I would spend my time watching some of his more recent, more critically adored fare.