DIRECTOR: Tobe Hooper
Sheri Moon Zombie
When married couple Nell and Steven Barrows move into an old apartment building in Hollywood, they believe they are about to start anew. The old apartment building was at one stage a glamorous residence in the early days of the golden age of Hollywood. Now, the building is in disrepair and falling apart. Little do the residents realise that a supernatural killer is living in the walls of their apartment complex and plan on taking them out, one by one with the tools in his toolbox.
Rewatching the Toolbox Murders remake again after watching the original film. I can confirm that the remake is a lot more fun than the original film. My mention that the remake was indeed better than the original still holds up on a repeated viewing after not seeing the remake for over a decade. After finishing Toolbox Murders, I think Tobe Hooper and his writers on the movie successfully inject the slasher with a decent dose of comedic timing and gory fun which the original sadly lacked.
When Toolbox Murders began, I was a little concerned with what I was watching. The movie opens with Sheri Moon Zombie, and it took me a few moments to get back into the swing of things as the remake starts off with a pretty cheesy performance by the actress. Sheri Moon has always been hit and miss with me. I think here, she chews the scenery a bit. It's not until her brutal demise that the movie had me relishing in her gory death which isn't seen often when she is starring in her husband's films.
Once the story shifts focus onto our main character Nell, her husband Steven, and all the rest of the residents of Lusman Arms does Toolbox Murders get a hell of a lot of fun. I wouldn't class Toolbox Murders as highly original or even great but what Tobe Hooper manages to do is give us a much better apartment complex, a supernatural twist and the writers build on the characters here, so we have a few that we actually care about. This isn't the original where the immoral women are just brutally killed, and we don't have one character to really for in the story.
I really enjoyed that the story while focusing on Nell. It gave us enough screen time with Juliet Landau's Juliet. The teenage boy who spies on her via webcam. The loud female hippie who is always fighting with her boyfriend. The nosey and flamboyant building manager. The creepy handyman. The old guy who has lived in the complex since its heyday, and we also have the lovely concierge. I think they all get enough screen time and while some are written to be annoying, I still found that I cared for some of the characters. Mainly the growing friendship between Nell and Juliet. Her death is kind of heartbreaking.
I also thought the supernatural touch to the story is a big improvement over the story of the original. I loved that we have a killer who is confined to the apartment complex and needs it to sort of survive as does his need to murder and maim. While the story feels like it's missing certain things that don't always tie everything up in a neat little package. I think I was satisfied just enough and enjoyed watching this creepy killer run around and brutally murder the residents. While we only get the backstory in a conversation, I would've loved to see the coffin birth as it would have made this little slasher a lot more twisted.
Now, I have to talk about the gore in this film. This is Tobe Hooper getting to unleash his inner gorehound and throw around the blood and viscera by the bucketloads. The entire movie is brutal, the kills are ferocious, and it all amounts to a lot of top-notch death scenes. The highlight is watching a handyman having a circular saw slammed into the side of his head, and it gets stuck when it short-circuits while trying to cut through his skull. We even have the killer swinging a guy around while a pair of bolt cutters are trying to sever his spinal cord and his response is hilarious as he screams out 'just kill me, already'.
On a suspenseful level. I think this one has a few solid moments. We have a couple of jump scares that I could spot coming from a mile away. There is one scene that I had completely forgotten about, and it sent chills down my spine. Nell knocks a metal pole down the middle of a stairwell, the killer is finally revealed to be almost monster-like in appearance, and as she hides, she looks back over the railing to reveal the killer is not running up the stairs but climbing up the centre of the stairwell. It's a creepy and highly intense moment. I thought this was the standout for me and thoroughly chilled me to the bone.
Lastly, the acting in the remake is a vast improvement over the original. While I'm not the biggest fan of Sheri Moon Zombie opening the film. I think both Juliet Landau and Angela Bettis deliver great performances. Brent Roam as the husband Steven is also decent in his performance. I think the killer is ultimately creepy and played very well by Christopher Doyle. I think the makeup fx are great and his performance at times is pretty intense. I think adding the coffin birth storyline elevates the performance as I did sympathise with the killer in a few moments.
DEATH TOLL: 7
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman's throat is slashed with a hammer claw.
- A woman is repeated hit in the head with a hammer, clumps of hair and blood.
- A man's face is melted by acid.
- A woman's body is shown split in half and hung on hooks.
- Lots of rotting corpses are shown nailed to a wall.
- A woman is nailed to the ceiling while still alive.
- Someone is thrown against a wall and killed.
- A man's spine is severed with a pair of bolt cutters.
- The killer is repeatedly shot and falls out a window with a cord around his neck.
- A handyman has his head split in two with a circular saw.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- A woman gets a power drill to the back and head.
- A woman is shot in the throat with a nail gun.
The Toolbox Murders remake is a vast improvement over the original. With a lot more character development, a supernatural twist, a larger apartment complex and some creative kills, the remake is a lot of fun. While the story doesn't always make sense and we have some pretty cheesy acting, Tobe Hooper still delivers an enjoyable mid-noughties slasher that gives us enough gore and bloodshed that should keep most horror fans relatively happy.