Halloween is here, the perfect time for watching scary movies. It’s great to shriek, shiver, and huddle up against your significant other for comfort…even if she doesn’t think the movie is that scary and finds the constant sobbing a turn-off.
So every year I gather friends and family to watch the scariest movie of all time. A terrifying panoply of peril and psychological horror.
But Nathan, you say, that doesn’t look like a terrifying that thing you said of peril and psychological horror. That looks like an innocent, unassuming children’s movie. That’s exactly what it wants you to think. That’s what it wants your mom to think too. “Let’s make sure this isn’t some weird porno,” she says, popping it in the VCR. Once she’s determined that ‘brave little toaster’ isn’t a euphemism for ‘vagina’ and sees the happy little anthropomorphic appliances cleaning house to Little Richard songs, she thinks, “Oh, what innocent, good-natured fun,” and leaves you alone with it.
And then this guy shows up.
A bitter, cynical air conditioner channeling Jack Nicholson berates the appliances for awaiting the messianic return of their Master, who abandoned them in this old, run-down cabin. And when they say he’s just jealous because he’s stuck in the wall, he bursts into a paranoid rage. “I’M NOT AN INVALID! I WAS DESIGNED TO STICK IN A WALL! I LOVE BEING STUCK IN THIS STUPID WALL!”
Since this is a happy children’s film, what do you think happens next?
A. The toaster talks down the air conditioner from his rage spasm and they all learn a valuable lesson about anger management?
B. The air conditioner continues to rant and scream until the other appliances walk away in disgust?
The answer is…
C. Air conditioner explodes.
He freaking explodes, showering the other appliances with sparks, which is probably the air conditioner equivalent of arterial spray.
The only thing that could make this scene more traumatizing would be one last shot of the air conditioner lying in pieces and billowing smoke.
Mom decides to pop back in. “Is everything all right? I thought I heard the sound of innocence dying.” Now the appliances are bouncing on a pogo stick.
“Oh, what hilarious hijinks! I’ll just leave your impressionable mind alone with the influence of the television now.”
Which is fine, because things stay light for a while. The gang sings a cheerful tune about road tripping. The childlike Blankie cries himself to sleep because the others refuse to cuddle with him. A daffodil molests Toaster and then dies of heartbreak. You know, normal kid’s movie stuff.
But then it’s off to dreamland, and time for Child Trauma Moment #2.
Oh, it’s a happy dream! The Messiah–er, Master–has returned! All is well. Except…do you smell something burning?
That’s right, Toaster, the smoke billowing out of you turns into a monster that will drag away your beloved Christ-figure. YOU WILL KILL THE ONES YOU LOVE, TOASTER. Hmm, you know what, this symbolism might be a little too existential for the kiddies. Let’s dial back our nightmare to something a little more relatable…demon clowns!
The demon clown, I should mention, has a fire hose that sprays forks made of water.
Forks made of water. That’s like you seeing a giant snake made of spiders. Then Toaster falls into a bathtub and electrocutes.
Don’t worry, kids, it wasn’t real…it was only a dream! Toaster only got electrocuted in a dream!
And then he wakes up and Lampy gets electrocuted in real life.
But he survives…and then they all fall into a waterfall.
But Kirby the vacuum jumps in saves them…until he falls into quickmud, dragging all of the other appliances down to their certain doom.
But just when it seems like our heroes are lost for good, they are rescued by the pudgy hands of this cheerful fellow.
Well, children, things certainly looked dark for a moment there, but it looks like things are finally taking a turn for the…
Huh. There are an awful lot of spare parts and glinting steel tools lying around. M-maybe he’s just a kind-hearted, benevolent appliance doctor?
Oh God. No. No no no no. Whyyyyyy?
Remember Sid from Toy Story? This is the creepy uncle that taught him everything he knows.
After a creepy song from some Frankensteined gadgets, our heroes escape from Silence of the Lamps and make their way to the Master’s new home. Safe at last!
Except the Master has some new appliances, and they aren’t going to let some old junk get in their way. So after convincing the older appliances that they are obsolete, they gleefully shove them out the window into the garbage bin.
And now it’s off to the graveyard–I mean junkyard–for a musical number involving old dilapidated cars. Phew…I was starting to feel gloomy and nihilistic, but this is where everything turns around. This is where the old cars teach us that no matter how bad you feel, everybody still has innate value, right? Right?
Or maybe it’s a five minute ballad of broken down cars proclaiming their own obsolescence and worthlessness as they ride, one by one, to die by being crushed to the size of dice.
Well, after the cars finish their animated children’s version of a Rent song, the Master arrives and finds his old appliances. But as punishment for thinking there might be a happy ending to the story, a vindictive junkyard magnet drops him onto the conveyor belt, mere yards from the jaws of the crusher.
This is the price of nostalgia.
But if you’re a toaster, what is the price of rescuing your Messiah figure? The price is pulling a Jesus yourself, diving facefirst into industrial machinery.
And then, finally, we get a happy ending. Master fixes Toaster (and the air conditioner too, while he’s at it), and they all drive off to college, where he probably makes out with his hot girlfriend under Blankie.
So the final deathcount:
1 raging air conditioner (later Lazarused back to life)
1 lonely flower
1 terrified blender
8 despondent cars (with countless more implied)
All your hopes and dreams
The funny thing is, for me at least, this movie was really only dark and terrifying when I came back to it as an adult. I watched it dozens of times as a kid, and I turned out fine. Oh, sure, my best friend always tells me I’m crazy, but I just laugh and pat him on his stovetop. Ol’ Oven’s such a kidder, always making funny jokes. Like when he tells me to leave the gas on all night. Ha ha ha ha. So funny.
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