“The Devil’s Toy Box” is a found footage film and horror movie directed by Allen Kellogg and written by Allen Kellogg and Spencer Jay Kim. The film follows a team of paranormal investigators researching the disappearance of five people who went missing in a haunted abandoned asylum five years earlier.
This film, released in the UK under the title Out of the Shadows (2017), is the sequel to 7 Nights of Darkness (2011) and the second installment in the 7 Nights of Darkness film franchise. Both films in the series were helmed by Allen Kellog. In a recent interview with Found Footage Critic, director Allen Kellogg said that there’s more to the 7 Nights of Darkness story, but as of the writing of this review, he has no active plans for a third film.
7 Nights of Darkness (2011) Recap [Contains Spoilers]—7 Nights of Darkness (2011) follows six reality TV show contestants who must spend seven nights in an abandoned asylum to collect their share of a one million dollar cash prize. The reality TV show goes awry when an evil entity picks off each of the contestants. In the end, contestant Carter (played by Allen Kellogg) is the only survivor of the horrific ordeal.
The Devil’s Toybox (2017) opens with the closing scene of 7 Nights of Darkness (2011). Carter, the remaining survivor of the first film, makes a mad dash to escape from the abandoned asylum. In what turns out to be a mixed blessing, Carter finds an unlocked exit and makes his way to the street outside of the asylum, only to be struck by an oncoming car.
Five years later, Carter recovered from his physical wounds but is still receiving therapy for the emotional trauma of the horrific events he experienced on the reality TV show. In an unexpected turn of events, the daughter of one of the missing six contestants asks Carter to return to the asylum to help find her father. The company that produced “7 Nights of Darkness” won’t fund the investigation unless Carter (now a minor celebrity) participates.
A guilt-ridden Carter reluctantly joins the paranormal investigative team at the abandoned asylum. The team is armed with state of the art ghost detection equipment, a battery of cameras, a full production crew, a demonologist, and a psychic. As the investigation gets underway, it’s not long before strange phenomena are observed. Will this second visit to the abandoned asylum culminate in the same tragedy that took place five years earlier? Watch the terrifying footage to find out.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography used throughout The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is quite good. The film employs a wide variety of video camera, including handheld video cameras, micro-spy cameras, professional video cameras, surveillance cameras, and an older 4:3 aspect ratio VHS video camera. Director Allen Kellogg also uses night vision in this film, which is a departure from 7 Nights of Darkness, which used spotlights and handheld flashlights for low light cinematography.
Cinematically, The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is an improvement over 7 Nights of Darkness (2011), in both directorial style and variety. Allen Kellogg makes good use of the plethora of available camera types, locations, and angles to make a film that is cinematically interesting to watch while maintaining the found footage conceit the film sets out to achieve.
Unlike 7 Nights of Darkness (2011), which has the flair of a reality TV show, The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is a cross between a faux documentary and paranormal investigation show. The film opens with documentary-style filmmaking, describing the events of the first film and offering a historical background of the abandoned asylum (Madison Seminary) and expert interviews.
From here, The Devil’s Toy Box transitions to a more traditional ghost hunting format. This segment of the film includes behind the scenes footage of meetings at the production company and the film crew setting up their equipment at the abandoned asylum. Finally, the events of the actual investigation are captured using a variety of different fixed and mobile video cameras, as well as daytime and night vision cinematography.
As we often write on the pages of Found Footage Critic, the filming reason is frequently responsible for making or breaking the suspension of disbelief in a found footage film. To this end, director Allen Kellogg provides exceptional filming reasons that span the runtime of The Devil’s Toy Box (2017).
The opening scenes of The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) are a composite of recovered footage from Carter’s video camera when he escaped from the abandoned asylum. Also scattered throughout the film is flashback footage from other cameras recovered from the abandoned asylum during Carter’s original stay (during “7 Nights of Darkness”).
The faux documentary footage presenting the history of Madison Seminary (i.e. the abandoned asylum) and expert interviews were shot (and perhaps edited) before the paranormal investigation, providing a solid reason for their appearance. The same holds true for the archival footage of Carter’s therapy session, which was recorded as a patient record prior to the events that took place during this second film.
When it comes to the actual paranormal investigation, the surveillance cameras were recording 24/7. These cameras were surreptitiously placed throughout the abandoned asylum and the hotel rooms of the investigative team, providing a wide berth of filming locations and a complete record of everything that transpired. Since the production company sponsoring the paranormal investigation is also is in the business of filming reality TV shows, placing a large number of video cameras in both public and private locations is logical on its face and will likely go without question for most viewers.
In addition to the fixed position surveillance cameras, many members of the investigative crew were wearing body-mounted micro-spy cameras. These video cameras captured many of the first-person POV shots. More importantly, since the surveillance cameras and micro-spy cameras recorded 24/7 without human intervention, footage of the characters was captured even when they were faced with mortal danger—skirting the fact that had these characters been carrying handheld video cameras, they most likely would have dropped their cameras at the first sign of danger. At the very least, unmanned cameras always capture a clean POV without having to take the character’s mental state into consideration.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity is a measure of how a film comes across as actual recovered footage. This review component considers cinematography, sound, filming reason, acting, and a myriad of other factors. The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) does a commendable job presenting what can conceivably be actual recovered footage.
When measuring found footage purity, one of the first questions that comes to mind is how and why the edited film came into being. Most found footage films end in tragedy, and one often asks, “why was this edited to look like a feature film?” In the case of The Devil’s Toy Box (2017), the film is structured as a documentary. The raw footage was undoubtedly owned by the production company that funded the investigation. Since the production company specializes in reality TV shows and is in the (often unscrupulous) business of monetizing footage whenever possible, it makes sense that they would use this tragedy as a means of making money. The likelihood of this scenario, of and by itself, is enough to justify the film as a whole.
Similar to the final scene of 7 Nights of Darkness (2011), the closing shot in The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) breaks from found footage. Found Footage Critic asked director Allen Kellogg about the shift to narrative filmmaking for the ending of The Devil’s Toy Box (2017), and he had this to say, “For The Devil’s Toy Box we do the same thing [as 7 Nights of Darkness]. I made the decision that that was going to be our system of doing things for these movies. At the end, we do a straight up narrative scene. In either case, I was happy with how both turned out.”
The acting by the ensemble cast in The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is decent. Director Allen Kellogg reprises his role as the stoic and soft-spoken Carter. One noteworthy change in Carter is that after surviving his ordeal in 7 Nights of Darkness (2011), his character in The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is portrayed with some courage. Greg Del Torto is exceptional as Kenneth, the minister and demonologist on the investigative team. His performance is outstanding as the authoritative expert amongst the group. Kylie Edison turns in a noteworthy performance as Dana the veteran host of the paranormal investigation and is a dead-ringer for the typical host of a ghost-hunting reality TV show.
Providing welcome comedy relief is Sean Manos as Wesley, the technical support member of the investigative team. His character is the quintessential socially awkward technical geek, who can’t hold a conversation with the opposite sex and doesn’t know when to stop talking during a meeting. There were more than a few occasions where this reviewer broke into a smile during his on-screen appearances.
Co-writer Spencer Jay Kim performs the role of Shane, the lead cameraman and somewhat boisterous personality on the production crew. Brooke Morriso plays Cynthia, the grief-stricken daughter of John, from 7 Nights of Darkness (2011). Rounding out the cast is David P. Thomas as the crass, no-nonsense producer of the investigation, Randall; Ashley Bossard, who does a great job playing production assistant Rose; Julie Tylicki as psychic medium Simone; and Kristi Michelle Fox as camera operator Ashley;
Also making cameo appearances from 7 Nights of Darkness (2011) are Meredith Kochan as Brooke and Larry Nehring as John.
The 7 Nights of Darkness films were shot in Madison Seminary, an actual haunted house in Madison, Ohio. Madison Seminary was built in 1847 as an educational institution and was subsequently repurposed and changed owners a number of times. One such owner was the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene, the core focus in the 7 Nights of Darkness films. Today, the facility is open for tours and can be rented for private paranormal investigations.
The title of this film, “The Devil’s Toy Box” has some foundation in U.S. folklore. According to legend, and the details vary widely, “The Devil’s Toy Box” ranges from a small box to a large room covered with mirrors. Some stories claim that if a person spends too much time in The Devil’s Toy Box, the devil will show up and steal their soul. Meanwhile, Other tales claim the device will attract ghosts or demons, and once they enter the device, will be unable to escape. In either case, the mystique and folklore of The Devil’s Toy Box was the inspiration for the Lament Configuration appearing in the Hellraiser film series—and most recently, Allen Kellogg’s The Devil’s Toy Box (2017).
During an exclusive interview with director Allen Kellogg, we asked how he came to shoot 7 Nights of Darkness (2011) and The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) in Madison Seminary, “When I first came up with the idea and decided to shoot, the concept called for just a house, actually—an actual haunted house. So I went on a couple of scouting visits and then a co-worker of mine approached me and mentioned the Madison Seminary. It was perfect. An actual old and haunted institution that I never even knew existed. They even gave tours (and still do to this day). At the time you could tour the building and even sleep there through the night if you wanted to. I’m not sure what they do now, but it was an amazing find. The owners of the building were amazing to work with and were more than happy to host us. There were very minimal location fees and the space was certainly authentic.”
The Devil’s Toy Box (2017) is a worthy successor to 7 Nights of Darkness (2011). The film answers many of the mysteries left open at the end of the first film, but at the same time raises even more questions about the mythos of Madison Seminary and those behind the reality show contest. Hopefully, Allen Kellogg will grace the found footage genre with a third installment in the series to answer these questions and more.