Last night’s Lifetime movie The Toyman Killer was supposed to scare us, right? It was hard for me to tell because I wasn’t really scared. Maybe I’ve been desensitized by too many horror movies. Maybe it was just the fact that the movie couldn’t really show very explicit content, even though it made me stay up past my bedtime to watch it at 10 instead of 8. I had such high hopes because the story involves toys, which are like the scariest things I can think of, besides clowns and walking into a dark room where you forgot to turn off the TV earlier. Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure it was trying to be scary, and I appreciated that the filmmakers made one big homage to every horror movie ever. But I just wasn’t feeling it.
The opening credits feature a haunting rhyme that sounds oddly reminiscent of the One Ring poem, followed by a creepy exploration of a murder basement (American Horror Story, much?) with the names written in a font that looks like someone scratched it onto a wall with their fingernails. This whole torture chamber thing is very Saw 1-7, amirite? I’ve never seen Saw, because I prefer to only watch Cary Elwes as Westley the stable boy, but I think I get the gist. After the credits, we see a couple of cops looking at a crime scene, and one of them says “It ain’t pretty,” so you know it’s bad.
Cut to six years later and psychologist Kate Kovic (Sarah Carter) is on the stand reciting the psychology textbook she has memorized to explain why the defendant is sane and knew what he was doing when he devised an elaborate pulley system to torture his wife. Where’s that movie? Can I watch that? No? We’re gonna watch this one instead? Okay. Kate’s mentor is very proud of her and asks her to help out with a case. A young woman named Christine (Magda Apanaowicz) is set to be executed in seven days for killing a cop, but he thinks she’s innocent and asks Kate to evaluate Christine for multiple personality disorder.
Cue Kate walking through prison to meet Christine and being mocked by creepy prisoners all Silence of the Lambs-like. No bodily fluids were thrown at her, though, because this is basic cable.
Hannibal Lecter Christine does her best Exorcist impression and says she was just joking around when she acted all nutso before. Kate goes home, enjoys a single lady meal complete with TV dinner and a glass of wine, and decides to try to contact the daughter she gave up for adoption even though it’s nighttime and Child Services is closed. When she turns off the light to go to sleep, she somehow realizes that Christine (or whatever personality inhabits her) is afraid of the dark.
Kate goes back to Christine, where she finds out the dominant personality is someone named Fish who is apparently already dead. On her way out Kate runs into Evil Detective Something-or-Other (Tom Butler), who thinks Christine is a monster, as well as Hot Detective Santana (David Haydn Jones), who gives Kate his business card. I wonder if they’ll hook up…
Kate goes to investigate Christine’s life as a foster kid (How shocking that this girl has parallels to Kate’s daughter!) and learns that Fish was a boy Christine knew from the street who had a mentally challenged sister. They were both killed by the Toyman Killer, a case Detective Santana covered. He thinks Detective Massey (the cop Christine killed who also helped her while she was on the street) was the real Toyman Killer, and Christine killed him out of self-defense. When Kate goes to visit Christine again she notices that her new personality is Fish’s sister. Christine also cuts the word “GUILTY” into her stomach because SCAAAARYYYY.
After the judge dismisses their attempts to save Christine, Kate heads to the worst place you can go when you’re investigating a murder — a parking garage. There she receives a phonecall from a disguised voice. She runs to her car, makes sure to drop her keys first to complete the homage, and drives to meet Detective Santana at a bar, because she “didn’t know who else to call.” Alright, Dr. Seduction, we get it. Kate learns that Santana’s father was an alcoholic who used to work alongside the dead Detective Massey, and that’s why the case is so important to him. Hmm, personal ties to the case… iiinteresting. When Kate gets home someone leaves a doll on her porch. I got very excited at this point because creepy dolls promise creepy things.
The creepy thing it promises is the murder of Kate’s mentor. Kate is sad and all, but she’s got like two days left before Christine is executed, so she lets Santana’s arms comfort her a bit and then it’s off to tell Christine all about her experience getting pregnant by rape at 16 and giving the baby up for adoption. Are there ever any lady cops or psychologists who don’t have past trauma in these movies? No? Okay. Kate puts Christine under to get some explanations. In between a lot of thrashing, Christine reveals that she, Fish and his sister were kept in that creepy basement we keep seeing, where the Toyman Killer would recite the faux One Ring poem and eventually kill Fish and the sister at Christine’s selfish encouragement. She ran to Massey’s place, where he started sketching the killer, who promptly entered the house and killed him.
Kate somehow figures out that Christine was witness to a pimp shoving a girl into a car and that’s why all this happened. This leads her to a strip club where they’re playing an Evanescence song, which must be the only music Lifetime movies can afford, since they also played one in Jodi Arias. Kate comes very close to getting a private performance from a stripper named Serpentine, but she’s quickly attacked by the pimp in question and saved by Santana, who has magically found the murder weapon in the pimp’s apartment. Christine is free and everyone rejoices. But there are still 15 minutes left so let’s not get too excited.
Kate and Santana head to his lakehouse together so she can let out her tight bun and have sex with him by the fire. When she heads downstairs to retrieve another bottle of sexy wine, she discovers that Santana’s basement looks eerily reminiscent of every murder basement in every movie ever, complete with creepy dolls. She hears gunshots upstairs and finds Santana shot. She knocks out Evil Detective, who has arrived with Massey’s sketch of the killer, who is revealed to be… SANTANA. Ugh, I knew he was too hot to not be a murderer. Santana does that thing where a villain realizes he’s been found out and just gives up trying to act like a sane person. He explains that he wanted to punish Massey for not helping him regarding his abusive father. Kate of course shoots him, twice. Evil Detective admits he was wrong, and Kate drives Christine away from prison. We’re left with a scene of Kate trying to contact her daughter.
Maybe it was the murder-mystery-cum-horror-show storyline that threw me, but I found this to be a pretty dull one. I mean, how do you mess up a movie involving creepy dolls?! Maybe Lifetime should accept the fact that they already made the scariest movie imaginable — Liz & Dick. They’re never going to top that, nor should they.