The Toolbox Murders (2004)
By: Andrew Gillies on June 24, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
21st Century (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director:Tobe Hooper
Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Juliet Landau, Greg Travis, Marco Rodriguez, Sheri Moon
Screenplay: Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch
Country: USA
Remakes seem to be the latest craze in Hollywood, and the horror genre has been affected the most. Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame has remade a 1978 slasher, and reworked it with modern scares and effects, to deliver one entertaining horror movie, Toolbox Murders.

Nell and her husband move into an old apartment building undergoing renovations in Hollywood, looking for a cheap place to stay while he attends the hospital where he works as a doctor. Left alone during the days, Nell becomes curiously aware that the building isn't quite as it seems. A cloaked maniac is killing off the residents with the contents of his toolbox for starters, and neighbours aren't as friendly as she'd like. As Nell gets closer to finding out the building's hidden secrets, tenants start dropping like flies.

I'm a fan of remakes, purely because a remake (when done well) takes the original story elements from a movie, and then reworks it to create new characters, situations and plot twists. A tale can be retold in a different, yet still effective manner. Although I have not seen the original Toolbox Murders, Hooper's re-imaging of this slasher has crafted an enjoyable and scary epic that features some good characters, engaging plot and some great gore.

This isn't a mindless slasher; it has an interesting story that develops throughout the movie. Nell, left alone during the days, discovers secrets about the building complex bit by bit, and slowly unravels the killing spree and hidden rooms. The story works well because it keeps you on your toes, and when there isn't any action happening, you're enjoying the natural feel that is on offer.

Then again, when the action does happen, it's a treat. There aren't many modern horror movies that can scare me, but this one really did. I was tense during the suspense moments, and jumped in the right places. Hooper has crafted some great scenes and some well placed misdirections that will shake the nerves of the audience. And when there's a kill, the movie doesn't hold back on what it will show. Unfortunately this is only the US rated version, and it shows. Death scenes are noticeably edited down to hide and/or remove gore. The original print had to be cut to obtain an R rating in America, subsequently losing all 'unrated' footage. But what has been left still makes for one nasty picture, from people getting their throats ripped open to heads being sliced off.

Tobe Hooper's recent output hasn't been memorable (Crocodile anyone?), but this movie has steered him back in the right direction. An entertaining and scary ride of mystery that leaves the audience satisfied. Toolbox Murders is a better than average slasher flick with some good characters and an intriguing plot.
Toolbox Murders is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colours are mostly strong and clear, however the overall tone seems slightly muted, possibly to contrast the bleak nature of the building. The picture is mostly free of blemishes, but early on the print suffers from some white spots that pop up. The contrast changes dramatically during a few moments in the movie, when a camera angle changes, so does the contrast. This only happened two or three times that I noticed. Overall, this is a pretty clean and crisp print, with just the occasional problem.
Unless my speakers are broken – which they aren't – Toolbox Murders is not presented in a Dolby 5.1 surround as stated, but rather a 2.0 Stereo mix instead. That being said, the audio quality is not that bad. At first, excessive and uneven music drowned out the dialogue and sound effects, which took away some of the impact of the first kill, but after that, things ran smoothly. The score came out nicely, and didn't tamper with the onscreen sound effects or dialogue.
Extra Features
A pointless under 5 minute "behind the scenes" look at the movie, which although showing some interesting stuff, is a badly made and poorly executed feature. The woman hosting has no idea how to ask questions, and manages to answer most of them herself through her wording.

Five trailers for other movies not including Toolbox are included, some of them looking bad, some looking rather good.
The Verdict
Remakes work best when the original idea is taken, and then reworked. What you want to see is a different movie that creates a new story, and respects the original. Although I haven't seen the original, from what I can gather, Tobe Hooper's Toolbox Murders is a very different movie. The story is better than many slashers, suspense is present as are jump scares effective, and the gore that is there, even though an edited print, is graphic and pleasing to any gorehound. The DVD itself is not too bad, with a good video presentation and decent audio. The extras are rubbish, compared to the US release which has commentaries and deleted scenes (including that gore that we won't see integrated back into the movie anytime soon), and because of this it loses some cool points. But for a DVD presentation on the movie itself, this is not too bad. I recommended this title for a rental, but if you do want to buy, import it.
Movie Score
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