Jane Higginson - Sarah Quinn
William Thorne - Derek Quinn
Mickey Rooney - Joe Petto
Tracy Fraim - Noah Adams
Brian Bremer - Pino Petto
Neith Hunter - Kim Levitt
Conan Yunza - Lonnie
Zoe Yunza - Brandy
Eric Welch - Buck
Van Quattro - Tom Quinn
Genre - Horror/Holiday/Mad Scientist/Killer Toys
Running Time - 90 Minutes
Out of all the horror franchises out there, the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT series has to be the most unique one of them all. The first one dealt with some traumatized kid, named Billy, who punished the naughty while dressed up as his biggest nightmare, Santa Claus. The second film dealt with the younger brother of the traumatized kid, Ricky, picking up where he left off and killing people while shouting "Garbage Day!". Hell, Ricky had flashbacks of things he had no right having [since he was just a baby and wasn't even there when the events of the first film were taking place]. The third film continues Ricky story, only this time he has a punch bowl on his head and wants to murder a psychic blind chick. And let's not even get into the fourth film, which steered away from anything Billy or Ricky related. Instead, it was about man-hating witches who got off on worms and cockroaches while not caring much about the Christmas spirit.
So what's next? Deadly toys? Kids watching their parents and babysitters have sex? A robot who's bitter because he doesn't have a penis? An abusive Mickey Rooney?
Wait...SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER does have all of the above? Oh. Well, let's get to the review then...
Man, this franchise is messed up.
One night, a young boy named Derek (William Thorne) wakes up hearing his parents Sarah (Jane Higginson) and Tom (Van Quattro) having sex. Probably disturbed, Derek sneaks downstairs and opens the front door after the doorbell rings. He finds a present on the doorstep addressed to him, with a note saying not to open until Christmas. Derek, being a kid, refuses to listen and begins opening it. But Tom stops him and yells at Derek for being awake, sending him back to bed. Being a great dad, Tom decides he'll open the present himself. He finds a ball with decorations of Santa Claus on it. It doesn't seem like much at first, but once the ball releases strands of rope from the sides and begins to wrap itself around Tom's head, he panics and ends up fatally impaling himself on a fireplace poker. Derek watched the entire scene, now traumatized by his father's death as Sarah freaks out.
Weeks pass and Sarah tries to make Derek, who is now mute due to trauma, feel better about what he had seen. She takes him to local toy store, run by Joe Petto (Mickey Rooney), who seems to have a lot of history in their neighborhood. Even Joe's creepy son, Pino (Brian Bremer), tries to force a toy larvae on Derek, who refuses it. More creepy is another visitor to the store, Noah (Tracy Fraim), who can't stop staring at both Sarah and Derek for some reason from afar. Sarah and Derek leave empty handed, but Noah buys the toy larvae and is suspicious about this toy store for some reason. Noah begins destroying the toys he's bought from Joe Petto's store, trying to see if there's anything strange about them. However, his research is paused by his landlord who is ready to evict Noah for late rent payments. Noah doesn't have enough money, but convinces the landlord for an extension by giving him the toy larvae. Unfortunately the extension is permanent as the larvae comes to life and kills the landlord.
Meanwhile, Derek receives another anonymous present on his doorstep. Wanting none of it, he tosses it out in the trash. His neighbor Lonnie (Conan Yunza) takes it for himself. Seeing that they're roller blades, Lonnie tries them out. Too bad they're laced with rockets, sending Lonnie into an oncoming car. Derek realizes that someone is targeting him with these gifts, potentially making this holiday season both silent and deadly.
It's really funny how SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER is the last installment in this franchise. While SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is a 'great' film because it's so bad and cheesy, THE TOY MAKER is honestly the best sequel due to quality and competence. I'm not saying it's the best horror film out there or that it demands to be watched every December. But it's a whole lot better than both the third and fourth installments and has the most Christmas-y feel since the original.
THE TOY MAKER's odd, but watchable, narrative [written by Martin Kitrosser and Brian Yunza] is based on several sources that are familiar to many people. The big one is obviously the killer toy aspect of the story. I'm really surprised someone in this franchise didn't tackle this sooner, since it actually makes a whole lot of sense. The Christmas season is the biggest and stronger season for toy makers, due to children demanding them from stressed out parents. So having killer toys traumatize children and unsuspecting adults in a Christmas horror movie seems like the perfect fit. Also by the time this movie was released to home video, horror was pretty big on this horror aspect anyway. After all, 1988's CHILD'S PLAY turned Chucky the Doll into a pop culture phenomenon, which helped bring about other films like 1989's PUPPET MASTER and brought more attention to 1987's DOLLS. It's also handled pretty well in the story as well, as these toys don't appear much until the end really, which helps make these scenes more effective. These toys are not the coolest or the most inventive, but they fit within the context of the story quite well and help create a decent mystery that's pretty obvious to figure out.
The other part of the narrative is the story of Joe Petto and his son Pino. Now if you know your fairy tales and children stories, you should realize what's going on here. THE TOY MAKER is pretty much Pinocchio but more evil and during Christmas time. Joe enjoys making toys, mainly as a way to deal with the fact that he lost a child years ago and these creations are like his own children. His son Pino is pretty strange and kooky, as if trying hard to gain the attention of his father in vain. Pino pushes toys on customers. He invades people's homes. He wants a mommy to hump and love [not kidding]. Pino is a troubled young man who doesn't feel like a real boy because his drunk abusive father puts him down and is missing a certain things that would make him feel complete. It's an interesting subplot to use, but it actually works here. Sure, it sort of gives away who is behind the deadly toys deal, but it's interesting to watch and is told well enough to be watchable and intriguing.
Even though the subplots are pretty strong, the narrative still is still too shallow to mean much of anything at the end of it all. It doesn't really help that the characters don't have much depth to them or are all that likeable really. Derek isn't too bad since usually child characters can be really annoying. But Derek doesn't speak at all for much of the film and just stares and sort of acts scared, I guess. His trauma is understandable, so we can kind of feel for him. But he isn't someone I would necessarily root for. Sarah, on the other hand, is a terrible mother and wife. She has sex with her door slightly open, knowing her son could just open the door and watch in horror. When her husband is murdered, we barely see her grieve or care that he's gone. When Noah reappears, who happens to be an important figure in Sarah's life [and unknowingly for Derek as well], she has sex with him in a parking lot the moment she sees him. Then when her son and/or Noah is in trouble, she takes her time helping them out. I had no sympathy for this woman at all. Noah isn't in the film enough to care about. He comes across as creepy and sneaky, then suddenly turns heroic at the end? The only interesting characters are Pino and Joe Petto. They are the only ones who have an aura of mystery about them. They're the only ones who also do things that are memorable in the story. It's one of those screenplays that should have interesting characters, but are written flat for whatever reason. They all seemed autistic because they all lived in their own world and didn't react much to anything. How am I supposed to believe characters like that?
Also we get unexpected cameos from Kim, Lonnie, and Ricky from SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION. I guess this is to tie this installment to the last one, but it just ends up confusing me more. For one, Ricky was killed off in the last film, but is totally fine here. Does this film take place before part 4? But that can't be possible because Kim is taking care of Lonnie due to the aftermath of the last film. And why is Lonnie such a prick all of a sudden? I guess it's a cool nod to fans of the last film, but these characters really don't need to be in this film because they don't add anything at all but fan service [are there any fans of INITIATION out there?].
Also, the toys end up killing characters who are barely in the film to begin with. I'll get to the actual special effects and death scenes soon enough, but it's pretty pointless and not all that effective to your story having people who are barely in the film for five minutes get murdered when you have characters with larger screen time ready to be cannon fodder. Not once did I ever feel that any of the main characters were in any sort of threatening situation. The closest one is Lonnie, but even he survives quite easily. I feel it was a lost opportunity really to create tension for the narrative.
I will say that the ending was actually pretty good and very weird, but in a cool way. The twist was actually presented well and I believed it, even if it was pretty bizarre. I wish I could give away a certain scene that really made me laugh, but it involved dry humping without the necessary anatomy parts. I thought the aftermath was solid and quite twisted, which I enjoyed.
The special effects by Screaming Mad George are well done. I thought some of the toys were pretty cool. The Santa Sphere that suffocated whoever played with it was a fun one. I thought the larvae that crawled through people's mouths and then ate out their eyes was sweet. The toy soldiers firing real rounds were fun to watch. I will say the hand that enjoyed fingering men's butts was a bit odd, especially when said man enjoyed it and wanted more of it while humping his girlfriend. They weren't the greatest or most original special effects out there. But for a low budget, they worked and they were presented on screen well. I wish there was more gore to really add to the damage, but what can you do?
The direction by Martin Kitrosser is decent. There's not much style to the visual presentation really, but it's competent enough to tell the story well. The final act has some decent tension, even if the film isn't all that gory or scary. The death sequences are shot well. The editing is decent. Honestly, I can't really complain about the direction for THE TOY MAKER. It's not all that impressive, but I've seen a lot worse. It gets the job done and that's all I can ask for.
The acting was surprisingly decent, even if the characters weren't written all that well. Mickey Rooney out-acts everyone here as Joe Petto. He charms as the kind old man who enjoys making toys for children. He's also pretty hilarious and convincing as the sinister father who doesn't mind getting drunk and beating on his son, Pino. Ironically, he was one of the bigger opponents of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT's release back in 1984, calling the film immoral and a disgrace to the holiday season. I guess those checks dried up there, eh Mickey? Hypocrite.
The other actors are okay. Brian Bremer was good as Pino, giving off a very creepy and bizarre performance that I actually dug. William Thorne was okay as Derek. He really didn't do all that much but stare into space and watch his co-stars have sex. I guess that's not a bad way to spend on set. Jane Higginson was good as Sarah, even though I disliked her character. Tracy Fraim was also good as Noah, pulling off both creep and hero decently. We also have cameos from Neith Hunter as Kim and Conan Yuzna as Lonnie. Neither one added much really but weren't too terrible.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE ENJOYING THE SENSATION OF THAT TOY HAND SCRATCHING MY ASS
- Tom opened one of Derek's presents that resembled a Pokeball that ended up smothering him. Who knew Death was the 494th Pokemon? Oh well...gotta catch 'em all!
- "It was perfectly natural for a child to stop speaking after a traumatic experience." If only someone had traumatized Justin Beiber years ago...
- Joe has been disappointed in his son, Pino, constantly yelling at him and putting him down. Looks like Joe needs to send Pino to BOYS TOWN to learn how to be a good son.
- Some dude got choked out by a giant toy larvae that invaded his mouth and crawled out of his eye sockets. Now he knows how Pamela Anderson felt all those years being married to Tommy Lee. Or so I assume...
- Pino tried to drag Noah through a trap door inside the backroom of the toy store. Pino must have learned that tactic from Joe during Joe's days at AMBUSH BAY.
- A girl who looked about thirteen-years-old stood in line for Santa, eagerly sitting on his lap. She doesn't believe in Santa Claus. She just has a grandpa fetish.
- Pino rushed out of Sarah's closet, scaring her and Derek. Michelle Bachmann's husband did the same thing during their first date, but she still married him anyway.
- Lonnie got hit by a car due to a pair of jet-powered roller blades that went out of control. Who was he kidding? Only Tootie could handle skates like that. Just The Facts of Life, guys.
- Derek spotted his babysitter screwing her boyfriend in his bed. This kid knows more about Dick Chaney meeting multiple times with George W. Bush than he does the birds and the bees.
THE FINAL HOWL
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER is bizarre and unintentionally funny at times, but still manages to be a pretty watchable sequel. The acting is okay, the direction is competent, and there are some interesting moments that will stick in your brain whether you want them to or not. Plus watching Mickey Rooney's hypocrite ass get drunk and push his movie son around is always fun. THE TOY MAKER happens to be a highlight in an otherwise uneventful holiday horror franchise. I say watch the first two and then this one. They are the only three films Santa would want you to watch anyway. And if you watch SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III and 4, just expect a toy hand fingering your prostate. Just sayin'. Happy Holidays everyone!
2.5 Howls Outta 4