Friday 15 September 2017

Movie Review: THE TOYMAKER (2017)

The Toymaker 2017

The Toymaker (AKA Robert and the Toymaker in the USA) is a low budget Horror film that's the third instalment of the killer puppet 'Robert' franchise. I saw the first movie, simply entitled Robert, and while it was a valient effort in the world of microbudget filmmaking, it wasn't exactly something I'd watch again. So, why am I watching this one?

I recently met actor Nathan Head on the set of the upcoming slasher movie Clownface, and I found out that he had a role as a Nazi in The Toymaker. Being the ever supportive chap I am, I picked up the DVD when it was released a couple of weeks ago, for the mega-cheap price of £7 in Tesco.

From the packaging and the synopsis, the film looks like a cheap knock off of the classic and utterly brilliant film, The Puppet Master. Nazis, killer dolls, a tag-line on the DVD cover reading "There's a new Puppet Master in town", why would I not make this assumption? I can only think it was marketed this way to get all of the Puppet Master fans out there to take a punt on this, and stick it in their supermarket trolley alongside grown-up, boring things like actual food.

To my surprise, The Toymaker is very different to The Puppet Master, both in story and general tone. The movie begins with a man fleeing from the Nazis. He has a book he needs to keep away from them, and eventually this book ends up in the hands of a toymaker who eventually uses it to bring some butt-ugly dolls to life. As you do.

The acting throughout the movie is excellent, and the tension during some of the scenes with the Nazis is nail biting. The serious tone of the movie gives it a darkness and cruelty that's quite unsettling in places, and this is compounded with some wonderfully sinister dialogue from the 'evil as fuck' Colonel Ludolf Von Alvensleben, played by the incredibly talented Erick Hayden.

As expected, the killer dolls don't get much screen time. They are clearly moved by a puppeteer, and the 'less is more' approach, along with some clever lighting and camera angles helps them to remain a little scary. There was obviously no budget to digitally animate them, and if the budget is smaller than what Chucky would get, it'd probably have looked crap anyway, so the old school approach was a good call.

The Toymaker himself, played by Lee Bane, was well portrayed, but his make-up was a bit shit to say the least. The bald cap, fake hair and 'old man make-up' wasn't up to scratch for a movie like this, and detracted from Lee's acting skills as it broke my suspension of disbelief. In the days of VHS, make-up artists could get away with all kinds of things, but these modern ultra HD cameras show no mercy.

Aside from that bugbear, I really enjoyed the movie. It was overall entertaining, and infinitely better than I expected it would be. The Toymaker is both a triumph and an inspiration for independent Horror film making.


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