Review by Win Wiacek
It’s a bumper time if you have kids who love the grimmer side of storytelling. Here’s a superb slice of macabre all-ages Euro-whimsy, courtesy of the wildly talented and incredibly prolific Stéphane Blanquet.
Do you remember the heart-wrenching scene in the 1964 stop-motion television classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer when he finds the Island of Misfit toys? Do you recall how all they wanted was children to love them? Hold on to that thought…
At a Halloween fancy-dress party a disgruntled little boy is sulking. In his heart he’s a vicious pirate king, but his cheapskate mother would only pay for a pink bunny costume nobody else wanted. As the other kids tease and bully him, he retreats to a corner where he meets a geeky kid in a chicken suit.
Poultry boy has a broken leg and a raging thirst, but his friend – a girl in a kitten outfit – has been down in cellar fetching drinks for ages. After some pleading, Pink Bunny, keen to avoid further embarrassment, or to be seen with a nerd dressed like a chicken, goes after her.
At the bottom of the stairs he finds her paralysed with fear: the basement is filled with maimed and broken toys, alive, angry and determined to wreak bloody vengeance on the cruel children who maltreated and abandoned them. Luckily, because of their stupid outfits, the toys assume the kids too are dolls, because if they were real children…
Playing for time, Catgirl and Bunnyboy follow the maladjusted playthings to a vast underground cavern where all broken toys are massing, readying for the day they will rise and take over. The children gasp in horror at the artificial army’s secret weapon – a gigantic ravenous Frankensteinian beast named Amelia, cobbled together from thousands of discarded toy fragments, all hungry for righteous slaughter.
Dosed with dry, mordant wit and just the right tone of macabre Ghost Train suspense, Toys in the Basement is a simply terrific goose-bumpy thriller rendered magical by the wildly eccentric, brilliantly imaginative and creepily fluid artwork of Blanquet. This dark delight, sadly only available in physical hardback form, also has the perfect moral message for loot-hungry, attention-deprived youngsters – and their kids and grandchildren too.