It’s a bitterly cold winter’s night. The heavy wooden door to the derelict Georgian town house protests your intrusion with a loud, guttural groan as you force it open. In the small Tyneside village rumours abound about this house. Indicative of the village’s former affluence, it belonged to a local merchant family of some acclaim, but has been derelict since the unexplained whittling down of their number from many to just one. That one doesn’t go by a name anymore, only a number on the shirt of the mental asylum which you visited Thursday last in order to procure some more news about the strange occurrences at his former abode. The wraithlike man’s utterances were little more help than the scant coroner’s reports, so you decided to enter the house yourself. At night because, so the rumours say, that’s when the electric cracks sound out and the windows fire their blue flares.
Your detective’s intuition ensured that all the electricity was cut off from the house, so as you creak your way up the sweeping staircase in the lobby, your only guide is your Mag Light torch. Its weight reassures you, while the Walther PPK in your pocket invigorates you to continue on into the darkness. As you turn the corner on the upper corridor, you regain the bearings the staircase’s turns robbed of you. As you do, a sliver of moonlight through an ajar door slides into your peripherals. “That must be the front of the house,” you say but your voice is too timid to break a whisper. Not a floorboard creaks nor a hinge whines as you approach and encourage the old door to open smoothly. The former master of this room could have been no older than 6, given the abundance of playthings in the room, and his nanny must have been fastidious in her duties since the toys were aligned on shelves in perfect order. Dolls, clowns, musical chimps with apish grins mid chorus. Their eyes, those once sweet porcelain eyes, now glistened in the moonlight and stared unblinkingly at one point in the centre of the room. A foggy silence weighs heavily all about you, stifling your footsteps and the ruffling of your heavy coat. You step further into the scene, when you realise that this room, unlike the others, has no dust. No cobwebs line its windows, no floorboards creak in protest and the door … you turn towards the only door in the house that moves as if it were new … A laugh. A shrill, mechanical laugh spurts out of a grinning clown and you turn just in time to see its shoulders bouncing before … FLASH!
It’s a common scene in countless movies but one which still captivates the audience’s imagination. And the reason for that? Toys! Why Toys? Surely their only purpose, their reason for being is one of joy, benevolence and altruism? Aside from the obvious – and never let it be unsaid, cynical – sinister consumerism, there’s something about toys that just seems to strike a note of terror in some members of the audience. In the much laboured scene laid out before you earlier on, the only real antagonists were toys and yet, in some cases, this seems to be enough to cause neck hairs to stand on end in an instant.
Over the next ten pages we’re going to take a look into why exactly toys should be feared and how they’re used as such in films!
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