The wonderful thing about horror is titles often double as summaries. No explanation required for The Toolbox Murders. You got murders, you got a toolbox. None of this, what in hell is a Darjeeling and what’s limiting it? Or, what’s a Hudsucker and who’s its proxy?
Nah, The Toolbox Murders is exactly as promised. There’s a creepy giallo-type killer in a ski mask hunting tenants of an LA apartment complex.
A video nasty banned in the UK (1982 to 2000), and finally released with nearly two minutes chopped out, you could say The Toolbox Murders built up a bit of a reputation, much of it deserved.
Bolt your doors. In this apartment block, management doesn’t even spring for extra security when unit after unit is suddenly becoming available…
The film mutates from a stalk-and-slash police procedural into a talky psychological thriller midway through. And that’s the part that actually makes it memorable, strangely enough.
The LAPD abandons any pretense of basic police work that a viewer could glean from watching a few episodes of Blue Bloods. To wit: not immediately sussing out that the entries weren’t forced, therefore the culprit is either known to everyone in the building or can let themselves in, or both. The biggest mystery of all is why they don’t immediately cast suspicions at the weirdo superintendent.
Attractive women along the covered/uncovered spectrum are offed using a variety of implements that can be found at Lowe’s. One’s even pierced with a nail gun (for those of you interested in horror movie weapons, please check out our acclaimed book Death by Umbrella!)
There’s even a scene that’s like Jack’s forced entry in The Shining, but HEEEEEEERRRREE the killer doesn’t bother speaking while going about his grisly business.
When young Joey’s teen sister goes missing, he takes matters (and his Ellen DeGeneres bangs) into his own hands, perusing the building to find clues since Los Angeles’s finest have clearly dropped the ball. For his efforts, cops actually haul HIS behind in for questioning, even though Joey has absolutely no motive to speak of.
B-movie icon Cameron Mitchell (The Swarm/Blood and Black Lace) is the building super and his nephew is played by Wesley Eure (a soap opera regular who was actually conscripted to join The Partridge Family, lest you think the cheap, caption joke at his expense has no basis in truth).
The Toolbox Murders was given a new lease on life with a 2004 reboot. Tobe Hooper did it, minus the definite article. It’s not the worst such film (The buggy Nic Cage remake of The Wicker Man makes a compelling case for that) but it’s far from one of the best (Invasion of the Body Snatchers/Dawn of the Dead).
***1/4 (out of 5)
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2 thoughts on “The Toolbox Murders (1978)”
Okay, I gotta check this out. It sounds lke the perfect ballance of cheese and serious. Great review.
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Thank you kindly!