Reviews Short Narrative

The Toy Story (2020) – 2 stars

Director: Sudipta Chakraborty

Writer: Sudipta Chakraborty

Cast: Susmit Chakraborty, Sudipta Chakraborty, Paramita Dutta, Amit Kumar Thakur

Running time: 6mins

There is something about involving the innocence of a child in a horror scene that always hits home. Examples abound; be it the classic placing of a young family at the heart of a paranormal infestation in Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Insidious, Sinister and so on; or the infamous noisy space shuttle toy from A Quiet Place that leads an innocent boy who just wanted to play to be swept away by monsters; chills abound.

Writer/director/actor Sudipta Chakraborty makes the most of this classic contradistinction in The Toy Story, through a combination of a peaceful setting, a creepy background score and some creative camerawork. In fact, the cuts and dynamics of the film are effective through and through.

We are inescapably drawn into the fascinating contrast between the serenity of a child playing with his action figures, and the looming spookiness of something otherworldly somewhere in the backdrop. Far from the warm feelings of nostalgia the title might evoke then, The Toy Story is a tense five-and-a-half minutes.

What works best about the film is Chakraborty’s commitment to sustaining suspense until the very last second. The events unfolding, while predictable at times, remain inexplicable throughout the film, but holding the patience not to cash in on the building tension too quickly, keeping our interest intact. At the same time, what chalks up in the pros column here doubles down as a weakness for the film.

In most horror/suspense films of this nature, inexplicable events build up to a climax, after which the audience is treated to a cathartic explanation of events, which either resolve themselves in any manner ranging from happy to absolutely gruesome – depending on who’s making the film. Chakraborty’s film builds up to a climax of inexplicable events, and immediately abandons us to our thoughts.

No doubt, it could be argued that this twist works for some people, as the somewhat shocking turn makes up the last scene of the film, tying up the spookiness of the whole affair. But I personally was left with the feeling that something was incomplete. What caused the events, if they even happened as I interpreted them? Why were they happening? Who was making them happen? What did it all mean?

Of course, there is always room for films to leave you with more questions than answers. Just look at Inception, for instance, or The Matrix. However, the difference with these films is that they give the viewer something else – a deeper, more philosophical conundrum that they can feed on after the film. All else explained, it is only the future of the characters that remains in question, or the past, or what might have been…

In The Toy Story, by contrast, pretty much everything is unanswered. We never come to know who these characters are as people, beyond their assumed roles in a nuclear family, or what their story is, or why they have suddenly… well, maybe you should see for yourself. Without getting into spoilers, the film was not long enough to allow for this growth, or for more action to at least leave me with the feeling that I had had my dose of adrenaline. In the absence of all these elements, come the credits, all the film really amounts to is a series of mildly spooky vignettes that do not constitute a story of much substance at all.

To sum up, The Toy Story certainly hints at the technical capability to produce something truly scary – especially among a single household during a pandemic lockdown – but it lacked the story, symbolism, or meaning to leave me with any truly memorable sensations. Chakraborty did well with the personnel and resources at his disposal, and the minimalistic filmmaking necessitated by Covid-19 actually suits it rather well. At the same time, just a touch more information, context or action could have given the film the third dimension that it needed.

Still looking to get your independent horror fix? Indy Film Library is hosting a Halloween Horror Showcase, featuring seven seasonal shockers. To get a look at some of the genre’s future stars, see the screeners of the films here.

1 comment

  1. Very well written Aftab. I liked your honest feedback to carry on my filmmaking journey, while improving my craft. Nice day.

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