The Toolbox Murders review by The Grim Ringler

I dunno what’s worse, that this abomination of a film, a very bad one but not so bad as to take it much below average, is the work of a once great horror director or that it’s actually been lauded as said director’s return to form. It feels as if people are just saying that because the poor guy has been down for so long. In a way, you can say – hey Mr. Hooper, you made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what more do you need to prove? But the hell of it is that it doesn’t pay the bills to live on that one film, great as it may be. And director Tobe Hooper has never really been the same since that seminal film. Sure, he did the wonderful Poltergeist but the more films he makes the less I think he was as much the man in charge as just the director Spielberg directed through. I dunno. What I do know is that this is not a good film, horror or otherwise, and the people that say it is are very misguided and need to see better films. And fast.

A remake of a seventies slasher sleaze, this film has nothing really to do with the original, which may be good, though I never saw the first so we’ll just shrug and leave it at that. What this story, if story you deem it, deals with is a happy, horny (as aren’t all newlyweds dying to bone?) young couple moving into their first apartment as a married couple. Unfortunately for them they have chosen a ratty building in LA that, though once home to the stars of yester-year, is now home to mysterious secrets, and a psycho killer. So we get to see the young wife, her hubby at the hospital, she, not doing much though she says she needs a teaching gig, dealing with all the weird neighbors of the complex. Though why all the neighbors seem to live on one floor, I can’t say. And while our adorable young couple is getting the hang of their new building, background characters are being brutally murdered by a deranged killer with a handyman fetish. Things go from weird to scary though when the new running buddy the young wife makes disappears suddenly and the search for her leads the wife to discover the secret of the strange apartment building and its kill-crazy resident.

Yawn. Sound interesting? Not terribly. Maybe if this were 1983 and I was all about anything with some modicum of gore, this woulda been a revelation. As, if nothing else, the film makes with the killing, but that’s it. And I am just not fifteen anymore and need more in a film than some spurty blood and a killer. Where do I start?

-This movie has some great casting. There, are some really good actors here, and it breaks my heart to see Angela Bettis wasted here, as, man, there are few actresses these days that want to do horror films and those that do deserve better than to be stuck in crap like this. I will assume that Hooper’s name was what drew people, and not the script.

- What script? There is barely a story here, and what there is, has been seen a million times. The premise is straight out of Phantom of the Opera – masked killer hiding in undiscovered parts of a building, stalking the people, killing, blah, blah, blah. So what’s new? Not a damned thing. You don’t even get to really find out who the killer is, why they are killing, or anything. Oh, sure, there’s a couple toss off lines about how the person was born – born of DEATH, bah – but who IS the killer? Why are they really killing? Why do we care? How does NO ONE notice that there are people suddenly missing? There is no logic at all here. The hell of it is that there’s an interesting location, some good actors, and the premise of a building WITHIN the apartment complex – a hidden area, is great. None of that is fleshed out though. What we get are show-stopping – literally – death scenes that are embarrassingly bad.

- And the saddest thing here is the direction. I want so badly to say that Tobe Hooper is back, because horror needs strong directors to lead it back to prominence and to start getting dark and serious again, alas, Mr. Hooper isn’t back. The direction in Toolbox is lazy, there is no suspense, and the use of gore is dreadful. The beauty of a film like Texas Chainsaw was that it was so reserved. That people THOUGHT there was all this gore when there wasn’t. The direction and use of sleight of hand and suggestion connected all the dots in your head. Sadly that isn’t the case in Toolbox, where the film stops dead so someone can be brutalized endlessly. The funny thing is that they went to the trouble of all these gore effects yet the DVD is rated so it’s all cut. But, boy oh boy, you can see all the ‘good stuff’ in the deleted scenes. Bah. What this film reeks of is someone desperate to make a comeback and to please the hardcore horror fans. And I suppose I can understand that, but man, this isn’t the way. Look at Carpenter, who hasn’t really had a hit in AGES, yet he refused to remake Fog or Assault on Precinct 13, why? Because he made those movies and wanted to move on. With Hooper you don’t get that sense. You get the sense that he wanted to make something brutal and ‘old-school’ and show he still had what it took. Only, here’s the deal, screw old school. We had the seventies, and I am tired of every damned horror movie being sold as a throwback. Why not create a new horror masterpiece? Why not create a new legend? Hooper had the chops once, and I believe he can still make a great horror film, but first he has to let go of what people’s concepts of what it should be are.

I have no grudge with slasher films, hell, I love some of them, nor do I dislike Tobe Hooper as a director, but I hate lazy movies like this. Movies that waste acting talent, and waste the time of the viewer. Good god, as if the movie weren’t bad enough, lazy enough, they actually have the throw-back false ending and then the twist of…the killer disappearing. Sigh…so great, we’ll get a sequel. I can’t wait. What kills me is that there was good buzz, and Rue Morgue magazine called this a comeback film. You kidding me? This is not a comeback, at least not a good one. It’s a lazy, pointlessly brutal film that is far to eager to please the fifteen year old fanboys that ramble in blogs about ‘hardcore’ horror movies. This isn’t hardcore, this is boring, and I hope you save yourself some time. Me, I still look forward to Tobe’s real comeback.


4 out of 10 Jackasses
blog comments powered by Disqus