When a psycho killer becomes a real tool

A few months before John Carpenter brought us the masked killer to remember in 1978, some dude in a ski mask did some carpenter work in The Toolbox Murders. Despite being more of a cult favorite than a hit, The Toolbox Murders got a remake in 2004, with the noticeable removal of the “The” in the title…but still involving an apartment building in which a bunch of people are being killed. So let’s hammer these two out.

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978)

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The Toolbox Murders has some recognizable faces. First there’s Cameron Mitchell as the landlord. As his nephew we have the adorable Wesley Eure, who played Will Marshall on the Land of the Lost TV show in the 70s…and is now openly gay (childhood dreams do come true!).

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The final girl is Pamelyn Ferdin, who is most recognizable as Felix Unger’s daughter on The Odd Couple. She also bares a striking resemblance to Linda Blair, and according to her imdb, she auditioned for the role of Regan in The Exorcist. Ironically (or maybe not?), she ends up tied to a bed in this movie.

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The Toolbox Murders gets right in to it after a brief flashback scene. A dude carries his toolbox into an apartment building to do some work in a woman’s place—and within seconds, is chasing her with a drill! Look for the bad edit job of a magically resealing door that he just put a drill hole in.

Minutes after he drills the chick in the head, another chick shows her boobs then gets hammered, and then another gets screwdrivered! This dude’s going to run out of tools (and stamina) and we’re only ten minutes into the movie!

We meet some of the characters then it’s back to the killings. Some chick loves her naked body in the mirror for a few minutes (do women do this in real life like they do in the movies?), then gets in the tub and REALLY loves herself to the beat of a cuntry song…I mean…country song!

Don’t know what the point was of using country songs during most of the kills, but it really ruins any creepy atmosphere. Anyway, after the self-loving, the killer comes in and chases the naked lonely lady around the apartment, giving us plenty of shots of boob and bush. She offers to do anything if he won’t kill her, so he nails her…with a nail gun.

Then the final girl gets kidnapped and the whole movie slows down. It becomes a sort of “mystery” as the police and the lead chick’s brother and landlord’s nephew try to figure out who done it and where the lead chick could be.

We know where she is—with a killer spouting stuff about the Bible and young people doing unnatural things to their bodies. There are some unexpected and odd twists and turns that bring us right to the end of the film, which has completely lost its “slasher” edge. Just before the closing credits, there’s a postscript about the movie being based on a true story, complete with details, names, and dates! I didn’t care enough to Google it….

TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004)

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With Toolbox Murders, I think Tobe Hooper brought us one of the best of the paint-by-number remake slashers of the post Scream era. It’s fun, suspenseful, scary, atmospheric, has good brutal kills, and shows that Angela Bettis makes a great final girl when she’s not actually playing the psycho.

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Once again, the killer uses various tools. Angela and her hubby have just moved into this building that was originally built for famous actors. She learns this from a nice old man in the laundry room. Backstory! Soon, Angela is convinced she’s hearing murders in the other apartments, but every time she calls the police, they find no evidence of a death.

Of course, Angela is determined to figure out where all the bodies are disappearing to….

Toolbox Murders has a more “monstrous” killer than the original, and we eventually end up in his lair, where things get nasty. Real nasty. It’s a goody, giving us everything we’d expect, from the final confrontation to the moment when it’s not over when we think it’s over.

Tobe Hooper didn’t even need name recognition when he made his movie. It’s way better than the original, although, the first 15 minutes of the original rock.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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