Every year thousands of people move to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Some succeed. Some go home. Others just? disappear. There are bad apartments ? rats, bad plumbing, crazy landlords - and then there?s the Lusman... more » building. Something evil lives deep in the building itself, something linked to the architecture itself? something that needs to keep killing to stay alive.« less
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 4/9/2010...
The original Toolbox Murders was a cheap rip-off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre so it's somewhat fitting that the director of Chainsaw (Tobe Hooper) is the director of the remake. The remake uses pretty much just the title from the original and is a far superior film in every way.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Teddy B. (tigerted) from TUJUNGA, CA Reviewed on 6/10/2009...
Tobe Hooper ('Poltergeist' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre') returns to do a re-make of the bizarre and disturbing 'Toolbox Murders'. This version is much more bloody and graphic, but is very well done for a slasher film. The acting is convincing and there is some dark humor thrown in, too. If you're a slasher film fan, this is one you have to see. It will creep you out for days to come!
3 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Entertaining, gory and smart Tobe Hooper is back.
NecroComicon | The Inn at Innsmouth | 03/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Ambassador Hotel an L.A. landmark takes center stage in Tobe Hooper's re-envisioning of the THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. Sharing the leading role with the Hotel is scream queen in the making Angela Bettis. Here she is cast as a more down to earth character than her two star making roles in CARRIE, and MAY and it is nice to see she is capable of great range. The rest of the ensemble cast fares well also, most notably Rance Howard (Ron and Clint's father). The first half of the film is mostly buildup with a couple of effective jolt type scares, while the later half lets the blood spill and harkens back to directors more classic work in being just genuinely frightening. Some great ideas are evident in the writing and while the finale could be a bit more "fleshed out" the pieces are there for you to put together (unlike the hit you over the head forced twist ending of say SAW). I was quite pleased as the credits rolled on this stripped down piece of throwback horror, something that can't be said of most of the recent genre attempts (excluding SHAUN OF THE DEAD and Bubba Ho Tep) No its no TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but what is? Worth a peek if you are intrigued by a real horror flick, worth buying for fans of Tobe's and Angela."
Tobe Hooper's Come Back, Sort Of. Old-Fashioned and Spooky
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 04/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One of the respected horror directors Tobe Hooper comes back with the star Angela Bettis ('May' and TV's 'Carrie'). This 'Toolbox Murders' is a remake of the 1978 film of the same title, in which a killer uses various items in ... er ... the toolbox. Though the gimmick itself is unchanged, the new version gives more stress upon the spooky atmosphere coming from the well-chosen locations. And Ms. Bettis (I really like her) is a real talent, which is a bonus to the film.
The film is about the married couple newly moving in a decaying apartment building in LA. The place is surely spooky, and looks either infested with evil spirits, or just tenanted by a bunch of strange, slightly crazy inmates. As you know, so many people come to Hollywood with dreams, and if you are acting like a little bit starnge, no one cares. Even if you suddenly vanish.
But Angela Bettis's heroine plucky Nell notices something different, What is the dirty package hidden behind the wall of her room? What do the marks signify engraved on the floor of the building? The film slowly builds up the story.
[GREAT LOCATION] Tobe Hooper chose The Ambassador Hotel, now closed, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I don't know how many films in the past used this building as location, but in this Hooper's new film the place becomes the spookiest. In usual places, an officious manager or a creepy repairman is a big no-no cliche; in here, they look so real that you might feel that Hooper is talking about an old-fashioned ghost story, not a serial killer horror. (But actually, it is a serial killer story.)
However, Hooper's 'Toolbox Murders' is not perfect. The third and final act suffers from confusing cat-and-mouse situations, and when you can solve the mysterious writings simply by, say, opening a book or two, what is the point of its being a mystery? The spooky atmosphere slowly vanishes from the air, which I regret very much.
But thanks to the good acting from Angela Bettis (whose debut was 'The Sparrow' directed by Franco Zeffirelli!), the film remains interesting. And a few bits from Rance Howard (Ron's dad) as the oldest tenant recounting the golden age of Hollywood add precious touch of credibility to the film. "
A surprising creep-out
J. Perrotta | New York, NY | 10/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Recently I've been trying to figure out for myself exactly what I enjoy about horror movies and how it is that I come to love some, laugh at some, and yawn at most. After seeing Toolbox Murders the remake, I'm starting to understand what it is exactly that makes a horror film work for me and what makes some of them laughably bad. I watched this movie with no notion of what it was about and found myself riveted. As you watch, you really don't have a sense of who the killer is at all, you figure the maintenance guy is the obvious red herring so you rule him out, and the film doesn't give you any real idea of what you're dealing with. The murder scenes are creative and you start to wonder why more filmmakers haven't used nailguns, drills or table saws as their weapons of choice as they are seemingly logical items to use in serial killing. LOL. But when the story line seems to be taking you down a path of the usual slasher psychopath, it suddenly turns and becomes the supernatural, leaving you with lots of questions and wondering who and what the killer is exactly. You never do get the answer to these questions and that, for me, is what I love about certain horror films. I LIKE unanswered questions in horror, especially when there IS no explanation for things; that is what makes some horror really disturbing and others just plain cliche and stupid. This is a fine line however, as some films throw a bunch of garbage in the movie that makes no sense and expect the audience to come up with a solution that isn't there but this can be done cleverly so it works, as it does in Toolbox Murders. For me, I like when everyday things are turned into mazes of confusion and I enjoy being led down one path only to discover I have ended up somewhere else. It is the genius horror filmmakers that can do this and it is clear why Tobe Hooper is one of the Great Masters in horror."
Tobe Hooper returns in style
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 05/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tobe Hooper, the creator of the legendary "Texas Chain Saw Massacre," returns to the horror scene with a remake of the 1970s sleaze classic "Toolbox Murders". No. I have seen the original "Toolbox Murders," and I can safely tell you that this remake has absolutely nothing to do with the original film. The two movies aren't even close in subject matter. The shiny new "Toolbox Murders" is not even a "reimagining," one of those tricky Hollywood terms we horror fans hear quite a bit these days. Reimagining implies that crucial elements from the first outing will appear in the remake. Sure, both versions of the "Toolbox Murders" deal with a sleaze ball systematically working his way through a bevy of female flesh with instruments pulled out of his trusty Black & Decker tool chest. That's where the similarity between the two movies ends. It's the underlying plots that separate the two flicks by a distance that spans continents. So let's not delude ourselves into thinking Hooper's 2004 picture is a remake of the 1978 video nasty, o.k.? Now that we got that out of the way, I will say this film marks a return of sorts for Tobe Hooper. Read on to find out why.
"Toolbox Murders" introduces us to Nell and Steven Barrows (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) as they quickly find themselves in an extremely unpleasant situation. Steve went ahead and rented an apartment in the distinguished Lusman Arms apartment complex, located in good old Hollywood, California, without giving Nell much of a say in the matter. So what's wrong with that? One, only a newly married guy would make such a decision without consulting his wife. Two, the Lusman Arms looks more like a Howard Johnson's in Baghdad than an apartment building. The structure is literally falling apart. Junk seems piled everywhere, nothing works from the elevator on down, and the denizens of the building would be out of place in the Twilight Zone. Steven doesn't think it's too bad, but he's a doctor and doesn't have to hang around in the building like poor Nell does. Within minutes our heroine senses something amiss in the building. She hears all sorts of disturbing noises and, even worse, notices that neighbors start disappearing. Then there are the strange runes and symbols on the walls. Oh dear. Of course, no one believes Nell when she voices her concerns. And why would they? This is a horror movie!
One thing leads to another and we soon see Nell starting a serious investigation into the origins and subsequent existence of the Lusman Arms compound. The picture that emerges is decidedly grim. Remember all those cryptic runes on the walls in the building? Turns out they represent some sort of spell. It also turns out that a space exists inside the building, a very old space nearly inaccessible to the building's ignorant tenants. I won't offer up any serious spoilers that would ruin the conclusion of the film, but I can talk about the gory happenings that occur while Nell works her way to a solution. Our girl's neighbors meet their ends in seriously messed up ways. We see a hammer meeting a skull, an interesting take on the requisite nail gun killing, a real nasty band saw atrocity, a drill bit through the head, and a melting face gag that looks quite nifty. I'm not going to waste time describing the cast of characters largely because most of them stand around until it's time for them to die. Rance Howard shows up as a long time resident with knowledge about the building, and Juliet Landau has a small part as Nell's only friend in the building whose disappearance spurs our protagonist into action.
I liked "Toolbox Murders" for a number of reasons. I can't get enough Angela Bettis in my diet, for starters. I think she's very pretty and an excellent actress, although I'm worried about her thin frame. Anyway, seeing her put her talents to use in the lead role helps the movie immensely. I enjoyed the gory kills, obviously, but I also liked the film's atmosphere. The decrepit Lusman Arms serves as the perfect backdrop for a slasher flick, and Hooper takes good advantage of this creepy structure throughout the movie. Even the look of the film, mainly the somber lighting, gives the movie credibility that most slashers sorely lack. So much for the good. The bad includes a too large cast, a confusing conclusion, and a few plot holes you could sail an ocean liner through. For example, Nell discovers that a certain room on every floor of the building doesn't seem to appear on any blueprints. When she tells the building manager, he says something along the lines of, "I never noticed that before." WHAT? How is that even remotely plausible, let alone possible? These problems aside, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. Hooper did a good job with this movie.
The DVD version of "Toolbox Murders" comes to us with a great picture transfer and good audio quality. Extras on the disc include a very short behind the scenes featurette that doesn't really tell us much about what went on during the shoot. We also get two commentary tracks, one with Hooper and screenwriters Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson that's worth a listen. The second one, with two of the film's producers, isn't as good. Also included for our amusement are five deleted/extended scenes, a few of which show us the gore excised from the R-rated cut of the film. Previews for other films, along with an odd one-minute feature that shows Hooper telling a story onstage somewhere, round out the disc. I highly recommend spending some time with "Toolbox Murders". It's a fun, creepy, gory ride that does credit to a filmmaker who's spent most of his career churning out clunkers. Welcome back, Tobe!"
Director Tobe Hooper makes the most of the location in this
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tobe Hooper's "Toolbox Murders" is one of those horror films where it becomes a running battle to see if the good parts are going to outweigh the bad by the time we get to the final credits. Since at the end of this 2004 film I was remembering the good parts rather more than the bad parts, I end up rounding up on this film. Ironically the last time I saw a horror film that managed to creep me out as much it was the recent remake of Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The good parts in this more are visual rather than narrative (to be specific, the nail gun victim is the one that keeps sticking out in my mind), which is why I think the director gets the credit for making this B-movie worth watching late at night in the dark. But while I think the hits outweigh the misses here, I certainly recognize that many horror fans but end up thinking the scale tips the other way on this one, which just reflects the problems with contemporary horror movies.
Nell Barrows (Angela Bettis) and her doctor husband, Steven (Brent Roam), move into the Lusman Arms apartment hotel. The place has certainly seen beter days, but it is the nights that Nell has to worry about. The Lusman Arms is crawling with quirk neighbors and with Steven working doctor's hours she has plenty of time to be alone and let her imagination get the better of her. The cops are tired of her calling them about somebody screaming bloody murder, which is when the bloody murders start happening. So Nell investigates on her own, which is how she discovers that the Lusman Arms has some interesting architectural secrets in its history. When Nell makes the classic mistake of going through the secret door she discovers, Hooper really starts going through his bag of cinematic tricks, the best of which the location (e.g., the stairwell).
Apparently this is a remake of the 1978 misogynistic splatter flick "The Toolbox Murders," which also involved a masked killer in an apartment building disposing of tenants with whatever tools he had at his disposal (apparently this is all loosely based on a true story, which may mean nothing more than at one point in history somebody in an apartment building killed somebody with a tool from a box). Besides the killer and his motivation the key difference is the use of the location, which in this case is actually the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the site of the first Academy Awards and the place where Robert F. Kennedy was shot. Screenwriters Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch come up more than a list of tools to be used in the killings in this one with their building inside the building along with some attempts to confound expectations based on conventions of the genre. Unfortunately the explanation for the killer is one of those silly ideas that only makes sense if you insist on having an explanation and do not mind it being stupid (although Coffin Baby is certainly different as the name for the maniacal killer).
Fortunately the cast is above average for this type of film and most of the characters are given specific bits so you could think that they might be the killer behind the mask, which is just another way the script is having fun with the genre. I ended up watching it because I discovered Juliet Landau was in the cast, although she was given nothing that would make anybody forget her marvelous turns as Drusilla on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But she is out of the picture before we get to the final act of "Toolbox Murders," which is the point where Hooper puts Nell through the wringer and shows what the director of a low-budget horror film can do. Bettis makes for an interesting heroine because she is smart enough to get herself into trouble but not smart enough to get herself out. Plus the art direction by Steven R. Miller, set decoration by Peggy Paola, and sculptures by Mark Shostrom make it so that even when Coffin Baby is not around Nell has ample reason to be just as freaked out as when he is there behind her with one of his tools (although notice that his choice for her is not something that would ever fit in a toolbox)."