The Toolbox Murders (2005)
Director: Tobe Hooper
A money challenged couple (Bettis and Roam) move into some old, run down Hollywood Hotel. When the tenants start vanishing; Nell takes it upon herself to ScooBy-Doo the premises. She soon discovers that the toolbox (in the elevator shaft) is not the problem; it’s the entity behind the tools that’s causing a “slash slash” ruckus. Hooper’s back! It’s about f*cking time!
Every year, thousands of people come to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams.
Some succeed. Some go home. And some just disappear.
Well color me purple and dip me in marmalade! I finally got to witness Tobe Hooper’s remake, re-imagining or stealing the title of a movie “The Toolbox Murders” and it resulted in being the highlight of my day! Not having seen the 70’s slash-fest of the same name, I snooped inside this box with zero expectations and what I found made me one happy horror nut. Not
having dug what Hooper put out from 1988 and up much, I can now safely say that the lad has FINALLY returned to the genre in splendid form
with this power-drill of a movie! The Toolbox Murders brought me back to the Hooper of old, with The Funhouse and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (two films that I love) ringing in my bleeding ears. Decaying corpses, a drab setting, brutal kills, slick gore… it was all in here and executed with a panache that only a veteran could have.
The story itself although nothing really new, had me by the jewels. Think a mix of Hooper’s own Funhouse and Argento’s “Suspiria by way of Phantom of the Opera. I was personally imbued by the events at hand while being wooed by the entrancing dark mood, the crafty production designs (loved the behind the walls shite), the flick’s unpolluted slasher heart and the narrative’s endearing penchant for the supernatural. The latter trait went on to give the whole “she-bang” that extra dose of “oomph”, elevating the fun-times to “really fun-freaking-times’. Pace wise, yes, this fix took its time to let her rip but since I was mucho invested in the story/characters that didn’t bother me none. The extensive build up acted as a constant knob tease and when the goose got loose, the ghastly ass-tapping that followed back-handed me like Tom Sizemore saying “I love you” with his fists. Now I’m not sure if it was the film itself or I was just thin-skinned today, but the “scares” really
kicked! Hooper cleverly altered the usual “fright set pieces” recipe to frighten the cow out of me! I can’t count the bits that had me thinking “Okay the killer is going to pop out right here” to then see my assumption shot down, with the killer lunging out of somewhere else. Good stuff! I was leaping off my couch like a plumber with a bad case of beans induced gas
95% of the time.
A couple things did grate my cheese though. First, some of the groovy kills were hard to see since it was so damn dark in there. I’m sure I missed out on some swell red-grub! TURN ON THE LIGHT! Then there was the
clichéd or/and clumsy characterization with the “old dude" being the worse of the lot. He was half assed fleshed out and was solely there to act as “Captain Exposition”, coming to save the “fill
in the blanks” day. Sadly, even with his ramblings; I still didn’t fully grasp as to the killer’s supernatural “raison d’etre”. And what was up with
that transparent "red herring" and that shoddily executed "Nell has a past with
her pops" thing? I didn’t buy the execution of either "ho hum" devices and they
didn't bring much if anything to the chopping block. My last beef had to do with that bit where our heroine meets up with the “building plan” dude. That exchange felt way off! Sniff…sniff…is that bad acting I smell?
All in all,
The Toolbox Murders was an experience similar to bunny hopping into a time machine.
I went back in time to the 70’s where slashers had some heart and a genuine mean streak as opposed to the polished, WB, MTV slasher light
spreads we’ve been getting for the last couple of years. Hooper, bro! Welcome back! What took you so long?
When the flick showed us the goods, it came through and then some! We get some nail-gun fun (ouch!), a head sawed in half, a drill in the neck, a facial acid mask, some hammer hits to the head and some decrepit corpses (that split in half one rocked…nice!)
Angela Bettis (Nell) is a favorite of mine and it was slick to see her in a “straight role” for a change. She pulled it off admirably! NOTE TO SELF: I have to see that Carrie TV remake, just for her. Juliet Landau (Julia) managed to evoke high sympathy within her limited screen time! I was impressed! Is it me or did Brent Roam (Steven) look like a Spanish Chris Sarandon? The man worked! Sara Downing (Saffron) was such a hottie and she handled her “coked up” part like a champ. I wanted more of her. From a fan note, seeing Sheri Moon (Baby from “House of a 1000 Corpses”) and Marco Rodrigez (The Supermarket Killer in “Cobra”) carved a big smile on my face! It should be said that the whole of the vast ensemble cast were EXCELLENT!
T & A
Much to my dismay; nobody gave up the goods. I was sure Sheri Moon was going to drop the top and was hoping that Sara Downing would lose ALL OF HER CLOTHES…but nobody came through. At least Juliet Landau looked snazzy in hey flimsy sportswear. Oh well…life goes on….or does it…DOES IT! That’s it…I can’t deal with this…where’s my gun…click-click…BANG!
I was truly impressed by Hooper's stylish, yet subtle show. I would call this under the wire, manipulative directing. Hooper took me by the hand, led me through this funhouse of horror and made sure that I got jumped most of the time. I also really dug the bleak mood at hand and the orange-ish look the film sported in moments. It augmented the dread factor big time!
Was there a score in this film? Yes. It was there but in a mucho low key fashion. I guess it worked where I never complained!
Hooper’s The Toolbox Murders charmed me with its retro feel (it WAS 70’s), involved me with its gnarly slasher-plus storyline while gracing me with scary bits, yummy gore and a Grade A cast to boot! What else could I have wanted from a slaher effort? Not much (except for that damn tit shot…come on!). Sure the script was a wee bit “off” in moments specially when it came to its characterization and the nature of the killer; but that didn’t spit on the gnarly experience that was viewing this heavy hitting genre hammer. There’s nothing like a solid, old school slasher to start the day on the right stab! Watch out night! Here I come!
Juliet Landau is the daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain
The flick was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in LA. Wanna visit it? The address is: 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, USA
Genre heroes Lion's Gate own the US distribution rights to the film and are aiming for a Fall 2005 DVD release.
Lucky McKee (Director of May) was at first supposed to play the role of the killer but didn’t wind up doing it where he went and did The Woods instead.
CHECK OUT A DOCUMENTARY ON THE FILM HERE
CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL SITE HERE