Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

DIRECTOR: Dennis Donnelly


Neva Friedman
Robert Easter
Ann Kindberg


Cameron Mitchell
Pamelyn Ferdin
Wesley Eure
Nicolas Beauvy
Tim Donnelly
Aneta Corsaut
Faith McSwain
Marciee Drake


A masked killer is murdering the women of an apartment complex. Using all the tools from his toolbox, the killer is hunting down and murdering the woman he believes to be immoral. When a fifteen-year-old girl is kidnapped by the masked killer. Her older brother and the nephew of the apartment complex owner try to locate the killer and bring her home safely.

The first time I heard of The Toolbox Murders was when I saw Tobe Hooper's remake sitting on a video store shelf when I was working in one. Up until that point, I never even knew that an original had existed. The remake was violent, gory and the killer was pretty darn memorable. So coming into this original flick, I expected something pretty similar. I imagined a deformed killer running around a high-rise building while killing off the residents.

The original and remake have some similarities, and that is that a killer is murdering residents of an apartment complex using tools from his toolbox. That is pretty much where I think the original and remake end with their similarities. Where I think the remake successfully wins out over the original is that it darkens the tone, give us a much more twisted killer and ramps up the gore. Also, it's just a better-made film. This is in the small minority of movies where I think the remake is more successful than its original counterpart.

I think the first thirty minutes of The Toolbox Murders is pretty solid. The first half an hour of the movie is where all the great carnage takes place. The women living in an apartment complex are brutally murdered by a masked killer. I feel the opening thirty minutes of killing was ferocious. I really enjoyed the masked killer who just enters the women's apartments and kills them without a worry at all. It made his presence much creepier in the first thirty minutes of the story. After they reveal who the killer is, the film sort of loses all eerieness and steam.

Once the film starts to dive into the police procedural side of things, and our brother character goes on the hunt for the killer who has kidnapped his fifteen-year-old sister. It sort of loses its way. The killer is revealed halfway through the movie and I think it pretty much kills all suspense and tension in the story. While it tries to deliver a few more shocks towards the end of the third act, I still think the movie really shoots its wad early on, and nothing can quite live up to the first thirty minutes.

The Toolbox Murders third act is one of the most mean-spirited that I think I've seen in recent memory. After all the horrible killing and the mystery of the film that ties up the opening scene to why the killer has kidnapped this fifteen-year-old girl. We also see another character rape the girl and it sort of ends after she seeks revenge. They also choose to set the only nice character in the film on fire. I mentioned above that the third act delivers on all the shocks and this just makes for an ugly experience. I think this was all shock for shock sake as they don't really serve much purpose.

I think I need to mention the long and awkward masturbation scene. While the killer breaks into one of the woman's apartment, she is masturbating in the bathtub. The scene has her repeatedly rubbing herself under the water as the killer watches her. The scene comes out of nowhere and feels very out of place that it's unintentionally hilarious. I think this was added to give the movie a bit of skin. It even has a country song over the scene that makes it completely unsexy. The killer even lets her finish before he kills her. The scene has the same shot used over and over again. It's all terribly edited.

The acting in the film is a bit all over the place for me. I think Cameron Mitchell as the apartment complex owner and killer delivers the wildest performance, to say the least. I quite enjoyed him more when he was masked and terrorising the women. He was much scarier in the mask than out of it. I think once it's revealed that he is the killer, his performance becomes a little more unhinged but it comes across as very cheesy. I think a lot of the actresses and victims were pretty solid and did the job of acting scared rather well.

Lastly, when it comes to the suspense and tension, I think The Toolbox Murders sort of fizzles out after the first thirty minutes. The movie goes hard out of the gate and delivers a couple of solid kills that are pretty gruesome. I think all the masked killer scenes are menacing and ferocious. The Toolbox Murders loses all that tension and suspense after the first thirty minutes when it reveals the killer too early. The scenes following are more shocking than scary.



- A woman is killed in a car crash.
- A killer uses a drill to kill a woman.
- A man is set on fire.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- A woman is shot in the stomach and head with a nail gun.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- A woman is suffocated and kidnapped.
- A woman is repeatedly hit in the head with a hammer claw.

The original Toolbox Murders is a pretty mixed bag. What starts out as an incredibly ferocious slasher about a masked killer who is killing immoral women in an apartment complex reveals the killer way too early and tries to deliver more shocks than scares. While the film has some solid death scenes using everyday tools, the acting is hit and miss, we have one of the strangest and unintentionally hilarious masturbation scenes to a country duet. The needs to be seen if you plan on a Toolbox Murders marathon just to see where it all started.

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