While covering the 2018 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) this week, I had an opportunity to check out a new Christmas horror film titled Sick For Toys. I went into the film without many plot details, so when it ended up being one of the best holiday-themed horror films I’ve seen in years, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sick For Toys is the feature directorial debut for David Del Rio and was written by James Andrew Oster and Justin Xavier, the latter of which also starred in the film. The story follows a man, Roy (David Gunning), attempting to track down his good friend, Jason (Justin Xavier), who has gone missing for a few days. After searching his apartment, a clue leads Roy to a woman named Emilia (Camille Montgomery), who lives with her very odd brother, Edward (Jon Paul Burkhart), at their somewhat isolated home. Emilia is very childlike and completely giddy and wide-eyed when it comes to Christmas, mainly because it means that her brother gives her a new “toy.”
While most of the acting was top-notch across the board, Camille Montgomery’s performance blew me away. During the post film Q&A, Xavier said they knew she was the actress for the role as soon as they saw her submission tape, and I can see why. To pull off her role, she had to walk a line between childlike innocence and depraved lunatic, which she does seamlessly. Emilia gets more complex as the film continues and it is fascinating to see Montgomery not only keep up with the complexity required from her, but make us fall in love with, and feel sorry for, this character we should hate.
Even with that strong of a presence on-screen, Jon Paul Burkhart’s performance as Edward was captivating, creepy, and peculiar- but in the best possible way. Edward’s uptight and worrisome nature was in sharp contrast to Emilia’s whimsical, careless personality. He created many awkward and tense moments, which actually made me a bit uncomfortable watching at times. Burkhart mentioned during the Q&A that he usually does more comedy, but there’s no doubt he also belongs in horror.
Speaking of comedy, while the film has a darker tone overall, the first half has small comedic moments perfectly woven in. It does a great job ditching the humor and going all in about halfway through, so I didn’t really notice that it had shifted until all was said and done. Most of those moments are brought on by Roy, with actor David Gunning having a natural smirk and subtle wit about him.
Sick For Toys is a fantastic Christmas horror film, psychological thriller, and fresh take on the “family is everything” storyline, like we’ve seen in films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While it is making festival runs right now, the producers did say that the film will be available via streaming services and On Demand in the near future. When you get a chance to check this one out, do yourself a favor and don’t hesitate.
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