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By Steve Anderson | July 4, 2007

Got to love those crazy Brits! There’s nothing quite like starting off your movie with a story about some lunatic who haunts a road and eats human flesh at the merest sound of polite conversation then following it up with a rousing game of “Put the Gerbil In the Blender.” At least, that looks like a gerbil. These small rodents–who can tell?

And this is only the start of the weirdness. We’ve got a girl coming home for the holidays with her new boyfriend, and her brother doesn’t like it one bit. See, brother dear is a little “emotionally dependent” on his sister–it’s only almost as creepy as it sounds–and his sister believes herself to be the descendant of the only person who can defeat that lunatic I was talking about earlier. And she’s a witch.

So now, the witch’s descendant with all the creepy powers will have to take on the cannibalistic psychopath of folklore right around the house in the midst of a Christmas party.

Yep… those Brits. Almost, but not quite, as freaky as the Japanese.

As anyone who’s watched “Hex” or “Doctor Who” or “MI-5” or any of those other shows that keep cropping up on BBC America is aware, the Brits like their drama cold. And pointed, too, for example a dinner table brawl which is almost as vicious as the go-round with the cannibalistic psychopath. It only goes downhill from there. You’ll find out more about old people and their porn habits than you ever, EVER wanted to know.

Perhaps even better is how the tension builds. Steadily, throughout the course of the first two-thirds of the film, little clues will pile up in an almost tangible heap, one on top of the other, until they all collapse into one beautifully twisted whole with a surprise so massive you’ll probably wind up as startled as I was. Which is to say, very startled. It’s amazing.

Though there are some plot holes here, plot holes that will go sadly unresolved even by the end of the movie, it does little to bring down the overall effect of the film, which is plenty bone-chilling in its own right.

All in all, “The Toybox” packs a whole lot of tricks into one clean and surprising little whole, with lots of originality and plenty of chills.

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