The Toolbox Murders (1978 & 2004)

toolboxmurders bannerThis review compares two films- the original and remake of The Toolbox Murders. Prior to this review, I had only seen the remake, which is sub-par at best, but when I finally got to view the original, it put the remake to even more shame.

When I received my Blu-ray DVD in the mail of the 1978 version, the chapter selection thrilled me.
1. Drilling for blood
2. Claw hammer hemorrhage
3. Screwed to death
4. Bloody mess
5. The good girl and the topless trampevelynguerrero toolbox murders 1978
6. Nails and nipples
7. Hands of a maniac
8. Autopsy
9. Blood stains
10. Dead girl’s dildo
11. Uncle psycho
12. Madman’s rant
13. Loving torment
14. Working late
15. Bound and gagged
16. Joey’s theory
17. Fiery death
18. Incest and murder
19. The blood soaked doll
20. Virgin rape

the-toolbox-murders-1978-With titles like these, you can expect a highly exploitative film reminiscent of Don’t Torture a Duckling, Driller Killer, and The New York Ripper. It is about a masked killer targeting a low-rent apartment complex which is strangely occupied by a large number of sexy, single women (and most of them sexually promiscuous). It stars Cameron Mitchell from Blood and Black Lace, as well as other well-known stars, including an adult actress. It is not hard to figure out which one is the adult film star with the scene of a nude woman masturbating in a bubble bath. I bet you can guess she doesn’t last long. Death by nail gun.

There is a lot to complain about, like the acting and the decision-making during action sequences. But let’s be honest- that’s not the reason we are watching this movie. We do it for the gore! The kills are not lacking in creativity with the “tools” used, although, it is hard to care for these victims when they make stupid decisions like not even trying to run away when the killer is in their presence. Gore hounds will be delighted with the death scenes but the stagnant long drawn out scenes in between leave much to be desired. I wonder if the remake picks up on this issue and fixes it. We will soon find out.

the toolbox murders gifIf you like cheesy exploitation/ 80’s style slasher films, this will be one you love. I thought I would be in for a treat when I saw those terrific Chapter titles, but I ended up being bored to tears. A few good deaths scenes do not make a good movie. Now, on to the remake.

The remake has a slightly higher rating on IMDb, which is a good sign, thus far. The movie opens with Sheri Moon Zombie, wife of Rob Zombie and star of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. If we know anything about horror movies, we know the opening scene usually involves a murder. Bye-bye, Mrs. Zombie. She tries her damnedest to run away though, thank God, and actually seems scared. A big improvement from the original.

toolbox-murders-2004-This Tobe Hooper film (director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 & 2, The Funhouse, and Poltergiest) is more of a re-imaging than a remake and only loosely follows the plot of the 1978 version. This version has a much more moody atmosphere and focuses more on the apartment complex itself as the evil entity. We are also more invested in the characters, especially Nell, played by Angela Bettis from May and The Woman. She has just moved into the building with her husband who is a doctor and isn’t around a lot. She is left home alone quite often and becomes friendly with the eccentric, actor-type, neighbors until they start being killed off one by one.

Toolbox-Murders-Nail-Gun-740x493The kills aren’t as is in your face but still extremely bloody nonetheless. In the nail gun death, the victim looks a lot like the adult film star from the original. But if you are expecting a lot of gratuitous nudity, you will be disappointed. There is no nudity in this movie, whatsoever. Nudity is usually pointless in a horror movie, but in this case, I think it is a failure to not have nudity. The 1978 film is FULL of nudity and you just can’t call this a remake without it.

The remake is described as “an entertaining throwback to the glory days of exploitation horror”, yet this is anything but exploitation. Unfortunately, the best part is the opening sequence with Sheri Moon Zombie. You would think that Tobe Hooper would have knocked this one out of the park with all those hits under his belt. The 1978 version wasn’t even that good to begin with, proving that a remake should never have been made.

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The Toolbox Murders (1978) on IMDb

Toolbox Murders (2004) on IMDb

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