Sunday, 16 September 2018

Horror Film Review: The Toybox (2018) starring Mischa Barton ★★★★☆

Mischa Barton in The Toybox

Evil, like secrets, lurks beneath the surface, gone but never quite forgotten. All it takes is the turn of a key to unlock it all. Mischa Barton and Denise Richards star in The Toybox about how a family’s dream to travel across America in an RV becomes the embodiment of a nightmare.

Before his wife’s death, Charles made plans with her to take their estranged family on a trip across America that she knew she’d never make. Now that she is gone, Charles has finally bought an RV and is making that trip. He is joined by his sons Steven and Jay, Steve’s wife Jennifer (Denise Richards) and daughter Olivia and the family dog.

Tensions are high, this is a family with a past and no one quite trusts anyone else. Suddenly, Charles is slowing down to stop at a broken down car where he picks up siblings Samantha (Mischa Barton) and Mark.

The Toybox (2018)

All they need to do is make it to the next town to drop Samantha and Mark off, before they continue on the family trip of a lifetime. But what evil resides in the cracks and tears of the RV, waiting to surface and destroy the lives of its passengers? After taking a detour into the desert, the group soon finds themselves at the mercy of the elements and in increasing peril from the evil that lies beneath.

The Toybox is good and is a mobile take on a classic haunting story. The scares are plentiful as are moments gory and grim. It was interesting to see the characters cross into awareness of their situation and become divided between those who’d seen enough horror films to know that this couldn’t possibly be a haunting and those who absolutely recognised that it was.

The film is buoyed by good performances all round. I especially enjoyed Mischa Barton’s performance as the independent and sassy Samantha, who for most of the film was the only competent adult on the RV. Barton really can act and I’m glad to see that she had a greater role in this film than The Basement which I reviewed last week. Special mention must also go to Jeff Denton and Brian Nagel, who star as brothers Steven and Jay in the film. Denton was especially good as Steven began to unravel towards the end of the film.

Brian Nagel and Greg Violand in The Toybox

My only complaint about The Toybox was the very last scene. Given the drama in the penultimate scene, I expected a different outcome and would have much preferred that. Still, you can’t always get what you want with films of this nature.

The Toybox is an independent film directed by Tom Nagel who also wrote the story along with Jeff Denton, Brian Nagel and Jeff Miller. It won three awards at the 2018 Northeast Film Festival for independent films with best director for Tom Nagel and best actor / actress for Jeff Denton and Mischa Barton respectively.

The Toybox is one hell of a ride and I give it four out of five stars. I'd recommend it to fans of independent horror.


The Toybox will be available nationwide September 18th on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, including Amazon Instant, iTunes, iN DEMAND, DirecTV, Comcast, Optimum, Dish, Google Play and more.

_ToyBox 3D Cover   Disc


Thursday, 13 September 2018

Book Review: Phantom by Leo Hunt ★★★☆☆

Phantom by Leo Hunt

Leo Hunt first arrived on the young-adult scene in 2015 with the excellent Thirteen Days of Midnight, a story about a young man who inherits a host of ghosts and whose life is subsequently torn apart as he fights to control them. I declared it the most exciting supernatural novel of the year and gave all three books in the trilogy five star reviews. I was definitely going to read his latest novel Phantom.

Phantom takes place on an Earth many millennia in the future. Forget wearable tech, in this society technology is implanted straight into our brains and what we experience through our senses is wholly customised and exploited by marketing. Books, paper, writing are a thing of the past to the extent that alphabets are ancient relics, replaced by a world gone mad on ‘glifs’ (there is an emoji for everything).

What is most fascinating about Leo Hunt’s new world is the architecture. The City in which the story is set is built on the ruins of the past but whereas the ruins of ancient civilisations lay as dust beneath our feet, the skyscrapers and concrete monoliths of today aren’t so easy to demolish in the future.

Instead, the ruined, flooded and toxic remains of the past lie miles and miles beneath the gleaming magrails and traffic tubes of the future. Sunlight costs money and while the executives at the major corporations can afford a home with a view, most of the rest of the population is relegated to the lower strata. And then there is the underclass; those without the means to move when their strata go dark, who must live in the Undercity amongst the mutated, blind dogs and the rising pile of rot and detritus.

I could have spent weeks in this dark new world that Hunt created but unfortunately, Phantom is a story of thirds. In the first third of the book, we meet the extraordinarily gifted hacker Nova who catches the attention of the greatest hacker of all time, Moth. Nova is tasked to infiltrate Bliss, one of the biggest corporations on the planet and become an assistant to the CEO. It’s an impossible task, to be sure, but the payout will be worth the trouble and Moth is offering a down payment of more than Nova can make in a lifetime.

Phantom by Leo Hunt coverThus Hunt takes us from the fascinating, lurid and colour-drenched world of the City into the sterile, generic world of Bliss. There are even tech blockers here and none of the intrigue from outside filters into the towers. And there we stay for a full third of the novel. It pains me to say this, of one of my favourite authors, but it was boring.

Somewhere along the way, and in the most improbable of circumstances taking place over one meeting of not more than a couple of hours, Nova falls in love.

This was the second issue I had with Phantom, the idea that Nova and Ziran fall in love instantly and make some pretty terrible decisions based on that instant and undying attraction to each other. It felt extremely forced in the subsequent storytelling, to the extent that I didn’t trust it at all and kept waiting for Ziran to betray Nova, but most importantly it wasn’t even necessary from a plot point of view. Far more interesting would have been to examine the morality and survival instinct intrinsic in the decisions made and not just I’ve loved you all my life, well for all of five minutes, now I’m going to risk my life for you.

I feel a sense of loss. I would have gladly read an entire series of books set in the City but instead, we’ve gained a glimpse of a brilliant new world but one which simply wasn’t explored enough by its own architect. I believe that Phantom is a stand-alone novel but if there is a sequel then please, Mr Hunt, spent more time in the City that you created!

And so it is, with a very heavy heart, that I give Phantom by Leo Hunt a disappointing three out of five stars.


Phantom is published by Orchard Books and is available in hardback and Kindle.



Sunday, 9 September 2018

Horror Film Review: The Basement (2018) starring Mischa Barton ★★★★★

Mischa Barton is Kelly Owen in The Basement (2018)

One of my favourite moments in television history was when Mischa Barton’s character was killed off in The O.C. Now don't get me wrong, I loved The O.C. and initially liked Marissa Cooper, but by that point in the series I was thrilled to see her go. It's no surprise then when I heard Mischa Barton was starring in the indie-horror film The Basement that I was going to jump at the possibility of seeing her killed off again.

The Basement begins with Barton doing what she does best and playing the rich and vacuous Kelly Owen. Her husband Craig (Cayleb Long) is tinkering away on the piano when she sends him out to buy more champagne. This seemingly innocuous errand goes wrong, however, when her husband is abducted and awakes to find himself constrained to a chair in a basement.

Caleb Long is Craig Owen in The Basement (2018)

Soon he is confronted with everybody's favourite nightmare as a garish clown begins to interrogate him. That is just the beginning of Craig’s problems for his captor has not one but twelve outlandish identities and he intends to act out the twisted events in his life in sickening detail.

It gets worse and what follows is the most revolting scene I have ever seen in a film. In fact, I had to walk away from the screen and compose myself before my stomach felt settled enough to carry on watching. Without divulging any spoilers, let’s just say it involves swallowing teeth and a certain recurring nightmare of my own. But I digress.

The Basement is directed by Brian M Conley and Nathan Ives and features killer performances from the cast. Pun intended. Jackson Davis (Shameless) is Bill and he has incredible range as an actor. He is utterly convincing and creepy as he plays each of Bill’s twelve identities before an increasingly frustrated and incredulous Craig. For his part, Cayleb Long is excellent as Craig, utterly bewildered yet defiant in the face of his own helplessness.

The best part of the film is the twist, which I did not see coming but which was utterly satisfying.

For its successful twist, scenes of revulsion and class entertainment, I give The Basement (2018) a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend it to fans of claustrophobic horror and psychological thrillers.


The Basement gets a 10-market theatrical and digital release on September 14 from Uncork’d Entertainment.


Monday, 13 August 2018

First Look: Kiernan Shipka in Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

I love Riverdale. I love that the light and witty Archie comics that I read for all of my teenage years have become this dark and surreal show. The characters are recognisable but they are definitely not the same wholesome, one-dimensional characters I used to draw in art class.

One of my favourite characters from the Archie universe is Sabrina the Teenage Witch and now Sabrina is getting her very own show. The Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will debut on 26 October 2018 and hails from.Warner Bros. Television-based Berlanti Productions

Starring Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina promises to be as dark as Riverdale, if not more so. With themes of witchcraft, horror and the occult, the show will focus on Sabrina’s fight against evil while wrestling to reconcile her dual nature as half-mortal, half-witch.

The script for the series has been penned by Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa who executive produces alongside Riverdale collaborators Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater and Lee Toland Krieger.

Joining Kiernan Shipka will be Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis (The Office), Ross Lynch, Michelle Gomez (Doctor Who), Chance Perdomo, Jaz Sinclair, Richard Coyle, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail Cowen, Lachlan Watson, Bronson Pinchot and Gavin Leatherwood

Roll on 26 October!

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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