Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Tony Didio
Written by Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch
Director of Photograpy Steve Yedlin
Music by Joseph Conlan
Cast: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Juliet Landau & Greg Travis

20043/94 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD

Poor Tobe Hooper. Whenever a new film from Hooper is being released, the advertisements always carry this line: "From the Director of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE". I can only imagine that those who only have a passing knowledge of horror films see this and think, "Wasn't that like 30 years ago?" And the answer is, "Yes, it was." In that time, Hooper has continued to make movies, the bulk of which have been in the horror genre, but save for POLTERGEIST (and it's controversy about who really directed it), he's yet to have another big movie. Every time a new Tobe Hooper movie comes and goes, people debate the question: Was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE a lucky fluke from a young filmmaker? Well, Hooper's latest film, TOOLBOX MURDERS, has just hit DVD. Get ready to begin that debate again.

TOOLBOX MURDERS is set in the Lusman Arms apartment building in Hollywood. As the film opens, a young couple, Nell (Angela Bettis) and Steven (Brent Roam) move into the building, and are frustrated to find that the building is in disrepair and that many of the upgrades and restorations which had been promised by the sleazy landlord, Byron (Greg Travis), have yet to happen. Byron reassures them that the building's creepy handyman, Ned (Adam Gierasch), will handle everything. As Nell begins to unpack and learn more about the building, she meets some of her neighbors, such as Chas (Rance Howard), a retired actor, Julia (Juliet Landau), a fellow jogger, and Saffron (Sara Downing), a very loud woman. Nell attempts to settle in, while Steven, a doctor, is always away. But, she finds it difficult to be comfortable in the Lusman Arms, as there is always some sort of screaming or fighting going on. After several false alarms, Nell begins to suspect that there are actually murders happening in the building. It seems that a masked killer is roaming the building, who may be connected to the sites bizarre past.

In case you weren't aware, TOOLBOX MURDERS is a remake (of sorts) of a 1978 film entitled THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, which starred Cameron Mitchell and Wesley Eure (of "Land of the Lost"). This was a relatively obscure film that, except for its sleazy exploitation offerings, isn't highly regarded. So, as much as we moan about remakes, you must admit that there's nothing wrong without remaking a movie that wasn't that good to begin with...except for when you make another bad movie.

Tobe Hooper's TOOLBOX MURDERS is a complete mess from beginning to end, and once has to wonder is Hooper simply has no knack for picking scripts, as the abysmal story wrecks this movie immediately. The plot concerning a masked killer roaming an apartment building is hardly original and when writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch do try to add a new twist with a supernatural angle concerning the runes which cover the building, the movie simply becomes confusing and top-heavy. The characters in the movie fall into two categories: over-the-top stereotypes, or those who we simply never get to know. It doesn't really matter, as when individuals from either of these groups are killed, the event has no impact on the viewer. And you know that a movie is either awful or not taking itself very seriously when characters are afraid of a toolbox. Not a killer wielding a tool, mind you, but merely a toolbox that someone left in an elevator or hallway.

Don't be fooled by the familiar cast in the film. Angela Bettis was good in MAY, but here she plays a nagging, bitchy woman and it's hard to sympathize with her. Juliet Landau will be familiar to fans of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL, but don't get your hopes up, as she's not in the film very much, and Sheri Moon only has a cameo. And one can't help but wonder what Rance Howard (Ron's dad) is doing in this stinker.

As with some of Hooper's other recent efforts (THE MANGLER immediately comes to mind), the editing in TOOLBOX MURDERS is quite odd and disorienting. The movie jumps from scene-to-scene and at times, intercuts between two scenes with no real cohesion. And then you have the scenes in which Nell is wandering the building checking out all of the weird symbols...and she's wandering around looking at the symbols...and she's walking around some more. There is also a murder scene near the end where the entire film grinds to a half so that the killer can spend several minutes torturing and killing a victim...before he resumes his pursuit of other prey. The film's biggest flaw is the ending, which is very confusing. I'll be honest, I'm not 100% sure who the killer was, and I can't seem to make myself care. Although it tries, TOOLBOX MURDERS can't even raise a sense of sleaze and there's certainly no suspense in the film. This is one toolbox which should remain closed.

TOOLBOX MURDERS tackles home repair and improvement on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, although there is a very light sheen of grain visible on the picture at times. This is quite a dark film, but the action is always visible in this transfer. The colors look good and there's only a hint of artifacting. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and music. The track is effective, but nothing special, as it offers surround sound and subwoofer action during the shock scenes that do add to the effectiveness of the movie somewhat.

The TOOLBOX MURDERS DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Tobe Hooper and screenwriters Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. This is an adequate commentary, as the trio discusses the production of the film at length. As all three were deeply involved with the film (with Adam doing double-duty as a writer and an actor) and they have many first-hand anecdotes about the movie. They never comment on the quality of the movie though. A second commentary contains producers Jacqueline Quella and Terence Potter, as well as journalist Calum Waddell. This commentary may be challenging for some, as Potter and Waddell both have thick accents. This group also talks at length about the film, but as they weren't always on set, their stories aren't as detailed, but Potter and Quella do give background on how the remake came about. The DVD contains 5 deleted scenes, four of which are more like extended scenes. Three of these are longer versions of murders featuring a great deal of gore. So, those of you disappointed with the fact that Lions Gate released an "R"-rated cut of TOOLBOX MURDERS will be able to see three of murders in all of their gory glory. The trailer for TOOLBOX MURDERS is included here, presented full-frame. There is something called "Fearless Tales", which is a one-minute segment in which Hooper, Anderson, and Gireasch (I think) are being interviewed on-stage and Hooper tells a weird story. There's no explanation as to where this is taking place or what the context is.





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 Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©

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