Part 4 director Brian Yuzna returns as co-writer for part 5, but hands over the directing reins to first-timer Martin Kitrosser. I never heard of the guy but I should’ve because he wrote a movie I love, FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D, plus the story for FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING. He started as a script supervisor on the first two FRIDAY THE 13THs and has also worked in that capacity on all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. So maybe that’s how that one thing happened where Tarantino came in for a meeting about doing a FRIDAY THE 13TH even though he wasn’t serious about it but the rumor got our hopes up. I’m discovering alot of Tarantino-SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT franchise connections here.
Anyway THE TOYMAKER loosely connects to INITIATION by having Neith Hunter return as Kim in a supporting role. It’s cool because she’s just a friend of the protagonist, it never comes up that she had those problems with the lesbian cult. Yuzna’s son Conan also returns as Lonnie, but in this one you’d assume he was Kim’s son, even though last time he was her dipshit boyfriend’s brother. (Clint Howard also returns as Ricky I guess, but he doesn’t seem like the same mentally ill homeless man. Now he’s just a wacky department store Santa. Also, his name being Ricky doesn’t mean he’s supposed to be the killer Santa Ricky from parts 2 and 3, does it?)
The horror this time is more Charles Bandian. Late at night a kid (William Thorne) hears a knock on the door, he goes out and finds a mysterious gift on the doorstep. His dad (Van Quatro) stops him from opening it but when he investigates himself he finds a toy Santa that attacks and kills him.
Later, the kid is so traumatized he becomes mute and the widow/mom (Jane Higginson) takes him to a kindly (?) toy shop owner (Mickey Rooney) who shows him a bunch of toys. I assumed right away that Rooney would be the maker of the evil toys, but they do a good job of throwing in some question marks in the form of his weirdo son and some dude in a leather jacket that’s snooping around and could possibly be altering regular toys into evil toys.
Oh, I should mention that Rooney’s character is named Joe Petto and his son is named Pino. One of those subtle literary references. Then there are more gifts that are opened that unleash little planes and vehicles and army men that fire projectiles or chop people up. I have a hard time buying that these little flimsy things couldn’t just be kicked out of the way (they don’t have extra-dimensional Phantasm technology) but I will forgive it. A caterpillar thing called Larry the Larva crawls into a guy’s mouth and tears out his eye. A rubber hand fingers a guy’s butthole during sex and he thinks it’s his girl and he likes it.
I’m gonna have to spoil some plot twists in order to tell you what made this movie worthwhile. First of all, the guy in the leather jacket turns out to be a good guy, he’s trying to track down the killer toymaker, he’s not the killer himself. But I love that he gives the hotel manager who’s hassling him about rent the Larry the Larva that kills him. At the time it seems like maybe it means he’s the killer, but in retrospect you have to decide whether it was an accident (he honestly didn’t know this was one of the killer toys – seems unlikely) or if one of the heroes of the movie committed murder because he was behind on rent.
Then there’s the ridiculous final twist, where we learn that Pino is more occhio than his name lets on. He is not a human but an advanced doll. He even takes his clothes off to show his doll-like joints, then tries to rape our heroine with his Ken-doll style anatomically-incorrect crotch. While calling her “Mommy.” I hadn’t seen this in a movie too many times before this.
The relationship between the living doll and the toy maker has some parallels to EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and his inventor played by Vincent Price. I know Scissorhands stabbed that football player and threw him out the window but still it seems like he turned out a little more well-adjusted than little Pino Petto.
One thing I thought was funny about this movie is that the character of Pino reminded me the whole time of the lead nerd on that sitcom I hate, The Big Bang Theory. In that show he acts that way because it’s adorably nerdy, in this movie he acts that way because he’s a murderous rapist robot built by a drunk Mickey Rooney. I guess things have changed culturally since 1991.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.