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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.5%
Worth A Look37.5%
Average: 17.5%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 10%

2 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Toolbox Murders, The (2005)
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by Scott Weinberg

"As grossly entertaining as the title implies."
4 stars

"Why even bother remaking such a classic horror movie?" is a question heard a lot these days. Putting aside the fact that the recent remakes of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'Dawn of the Dead' are both pretty damn fine horror movies in their own right, the question is still a legitimate one. Take the argument a step further and the next logical question is "Why not remake some CRAPPY old horror movies...and, like, improve them?" Well, hey, here's one: Tobe Hooper's grisly and generally groovy remake of a deservedly obscure old slasher flick called 'The Toolbox Murders'.

While I consider myself a huge fan of the Dawn and Texas remakes, neither modernization comes even close to eclipsing their respective forefathers. This new Toolbox Murders, on the other hand, surpasses its source material rather effortlessly. Granted, the original Toolbox was a pretty uninspired affair, but it all boils down to one thing: remake shmeemake, if a horror movie is good, it's good. Period. And this one's, surprisingly, pretty damn good.

Screenwriters Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch started out writing goofily entertaining monster movies (Spiders, Crocodile and Crocodile 2: Death Swamp) for the Nu Image schlockhouse. The first Crocodile flick was directed by legendary horror helmer Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) Hooper; The Toolbox Murders marks the second project between the three filmmakers...and it's clearly an impressive step up from flicks about giant mutant reptiles.

Aptly described as an unapologetic throwback to the slasher flicks of two decades past, The Toolbox Murders might not appeal to anyone outside the staunchest of horror hounds, but rest assured that it is a nasty little treat for those who remember titles like Happy Birthday to Me, Graduation Day or Prom Night with any fondness at all.

Hooper and company started off on the right foot by casting the fantasic Angela (May, Carrie) Bettis in the lead role. This phenomenal young actress seems to sign on for the horror fare because she digs horror movies; an attitude I greatly admire. She's due for either a big breakout sometime soon, or she'll be the next reigning Scream Queen. Either way, I love the gal.

Bettis plays Nell Barrows, young wife of an aspiring doctor and newest tenant of the dingy old Lusman Arms apartments. There is, of course, a maniacal lunatic hiding within the building, the sort of nutjob who kills people via power drill, claw-hammer and nail gun.

And those are the milder dispatches.

Nell quickly begins to realize that something funky is afoot, yet every time she calls the police... yep, bodies go missing, the cops get annoyed, and Nell finds herself knee-deep in Girl Who Cried Wolf territory. As more tenants go missing, Nell begins to dig a bit deeper into the history of her new home...and discovers a whole lot of icky news.

I had a ball with The Toolbox Murders. It's a gloriously gruesome and welcome return to the nasty low-budget slasher fare that lunatics like myself grew up on. (If you grew up in the 80s as a horror nut, you had no shortage of B-movie gorefests to choose from.) And if we are indeed in the midst of a Horror Movie Renaissance (as I'd contend we are, thank you very much), who better to deliver an old-school hack-'em-up than Tobe Hooper himself?

The Toolbox Murders knows precisely what it is and what its job is, and the flick does a bang-up job of delivering precisely what a good Slasher should. The kills are plentiful and horrific (my favorite occurs when one man's spine meets the working end of a big, rusty bolt cutter...yowch!); the atmosphere is bleak and creepy; the performances, for the most part, are better than one would expect in this type of flick; there's a healthy balance between the bloodletting and the storytelling; and the entire third act feels like something respectfully inspired by Hooper's own Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And that's a pretty lofty compliment.

The original 'Toolbox Murders' is a garish and relatively forgettable old chestnut, but one that any self-respecting Gorehound needs to see eventually. But Hooper's remake is light years better than the 1978 version, it's anchored by a great little performance by a great little actress, and it's absolutely something the horror freaks will want to see for themselves. This one might just be a small blip on the current Horror Remake horizon, but it's a knowingly nasty and entirely enjoyable throwback to a day when horror flicks really tried to gross you out in between the jolts and the 'plot' stuff.

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originally posted: 04/03/04 21:15:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

5/07/11 R.K. Hook I agree with this review. The original had a whole lot of nothing going on in it. 4 stars
10/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Bettis and Hooper can do much better 2 stars
11/11/07 mr.mike original was better 3 stars
10/22/06 AJ Muller better than the original - props to Tobe Hooper, Angela Bettis and the writers 4 stars
10/07/06 Gee Good flick. Good Killings. OK Story line. 4 stars
8/22/06 Steve Campbell This movie was aweful it had decent acting and really crappy death scenes and a bad story 1 stars
7/12/06 chris f a very good movie worth watching 4 stars
5/22/06 Jack Sommersby Lame, dumb, and just flat-out terrible. Boo, Mr. Hooper! 1 stars
4/09/06 MadoshiKurefu This movie sucks!!! It's boring and unnecessary!!! It is a waste of money and time. 1 stars
4/03/06 RobertoC. This one's running on theaters here in Ecuador! God it was so scary and tense on the big s! 5 stars
11/20/05 chris watched this movie and was delighted tobe hoopers back and btter than ever 5 stars
10/24/05 ShadowFace5 Worth a purchase. Do yourself a favor and watch it. 4 stars
8/18/05 ES le garbage, weak and stinky 2 stars
7/03/05 Eddie Good story 4 stars
5/27/05 Mark Louis Baumgart Good gore, professional acting, better than average slasher flick. Worth a look-see. 4 stars
5/17/05 Shawn Borucki A nice welcome back by Tobe Hooper! 4 stars
4/14/05 gemma not that good really its not a horror 2 stars
3/31/05 angela bettis this movie was a scare for me in the making it still gives me nightmares! 5 stars
3/22/05 Jack Sommersby I prefer the original's more trashy gore-and-nudity appeal. 2 stars
12/19/04 John Strycharz Room service called - Tobe Hooper's back! 5 stars
12/15/04 K. Sear Disjointed and typical horror movie fare. Not the return to form for Hooper as advertised. 2 stars
9/09/04 Dondi Ligon Great horror movie! 5 stars
8/30/04 Rolito Inutan two thumbs up 5 stars
8/02/04 Jonny Kassel Has it all; creepy atmosphere, shock, and gore 5 stars
7/10/04 Alex Cherrie Very Enjoyable little horror 4 stars
4/23/04 anthony a pullley it rocks 5 stars
4/13/04 jamison reeves I'm in it, read the script and still jumped at Paramount premier. 5 stars
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 15-Mar-2005



Directed by
  Tobe Hooper

Written by
  Jace Anderson
  Adam Gierasch

  Angela Bettis
  Juliet Landau
  Brent Roam
  Chris Doyle
  Rance Howard

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