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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, gory and smart Tobe Hooper is back.
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...
Published on March 1, 2005 by Phantasmagoria

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tobe Hooper's Come Back, Sort Of. Old-Fashioned and Spooky
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...
Published on April 30, 2005 by Tsuyoshi


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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, gory and smart Tobe Hooper is back., March 1, 2005
By 
Phantasmagoria (the folds time and space) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tobe Hooper's Come Back, Sort Of. Old-Fashioned and Spooky, April 30, 2005
By 
Tsuyoshi (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A surprising creep-out, October 13, 2005
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tobe Hooper returns in style, May 13, 2007
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
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!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Director Tobe Hooper makes the most of the location in this splatter flick, November 26, 2005
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
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).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Location location location, March 16, 2005
By 
Elaine "Horror Journalist" (The Deep, Dark, Gothic South, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
Beware of renting in an old building that's being renovated - you never know what all that dust and noise might "wake up". Tobe Hooper is BAAAACK and he is NOT messing around in this scary, gory movie. Set in the Lusman Arms (but filmed at the creepy old Ambassador Hotel - site of many tragedies of its own), a young couple, Nell and Steven (the great Angela Bettis of "May" fame and Brent Roam), move in on the typical "dark and stormy night", unaware that a murder has already occurred in the building. As Steven is a med school intern, he is away a lot, leaving Nell to her own devices in this creepy building with it's MORE than fair share of strange tenants. She hears things, calls the police (who, of course, don't find anything) who think she is crazy, a friend down the hall disappears, she starts doing a little investigating into the Lusman's past and that's where the REAL fun starts. There are several power tool-related murders but Hooper has them lit in such a way that you can't quite make out what exactly is being done but the outcome is obvious (and quite grisly in a few cases). The building itself is a principal character and a very scary one at that - with all the dark hallways, boarded-up areas, the eerie back stairways, plastic sheeted areas for the renovation - LOTS of shadows and plays of light to startle and mislead. The supporting cast is quite good: Rance Howard (father of Ron and Clint) as a long-time denizen of the Lusman, Juliet Landau as Nell's friend, Julia, co-writer Adam Gierasch as Ned the creepy handyman, Sheri Moon ("House of 1000 Corpses") as Daisy, Adam Weisman as the voyeuristic young neighbor Austin who finally believes Nell. Very suspenseful movie with a great "chase" sequence through the uninhabited parts of the building - Tobe DOES love to have his female leads chased by psychos - with some horrifying discoveries along the way all make for a really fun, frightening horror film. Welcome back, Tobe!!!! We missed the hard core fellow from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hammered, chiseled, and chopped away from being an essential slasher, January 7, 2011
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This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
This coulda been one of the greats.

Director Tobe Hooper's Toolbox Murders had a top-notch brutal slasher in the making, possibly destined for the Horror Hall of Fame. But, like a pick-axe getting buried deep in your kneecap, the out-of-control evil censorship wackos severely handicapped this gem for life. Seriously, you don't have to be smarter than a fifth-grader to understand that censorship just doesn't belong in a horror flick.

Okay this may never have reached total elite slasher status, but the heinous cuts made to avoid the NC-17 rating are a little frustrating. Luckily the extended brutality is still available for your sick viewing pleasure in the deleted scenes here. Great gruesome fun.

The basic setup--we have a dilapidated old apartment complex, you know the kind that the landlord refers to as quirky and rich in history while the residents suffer through their lease period. The beautiful Nell (Angela Bettis) moves in with her husband Steven and tries to adjust to the ramshackle lifestyle.

So cue the weird noises. Clueless cops. Missing neighbors. We soon find out that there is something evil lurking within the walls. The murders quickly commence, as somebody is using household tools as deadly weapons.

We've got the hammer, nail guns, circular saw....oh this movie has the greatest scalping scene EVER! Totally gorerific! It makes you forget about the illogical plot missteps and just enjoy the mayhem.

Plus of course we have Angella Bettis. It's a safe bet that she's attracted her share of stalkers in real life. Something about her, I'm not sure what but she's totally stalkable.

This movie starts a little slow and the story veers away from reality a bit. Plus after so many dead bodies begin to pile up you'd think the stench would start to permeate the minds of the doubters? Oh well.

Toolbox Murders ends up being a solid slasher despite its minor drawbacks. Not worth killing yourself over, but well worth the price of admission.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good., December 20, 2007
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
Toolbox Murders (Tobe Hooper, 2004)

One of the recent rules of thumb I've been using to decide which movies I want to watch is that if it contains Angela Bettis, it can't be completely irredeemable. (We'll put aside the monstrosity that was Girl, Interrupted for the time being.) So when I saw Bettis' name attached to a Tobe Hooper joint, I figured it was worth a look. And while it wasn't as brilliant as I was hoping it would be, it was certainly a good deal of fun.

Bettis plays Nell Barrows. She, along with her husband Stephen (Brent Roam, perhaps best-known for now as a recurring character in the early days of The Shield), movie into an old building in Hollywood while Stephen does his medical residency in a nearby hospital. From the start, we know there's something weird about the building; in the opening scene, before we ever meet Stephen and Nell, one of the building's residents (Sheri Moon in one of her few non-Rob-Zombie-film appearances) is murdered by the building serial killer in an inventive, and rather grotesque, way. In addition, the building is undergoing extensive renovation, which leads to the set designers being able to play around with bare concrete, plastic, and the like. But I digress. Nell, currently unemployed, makes an attempt to meet some of her new neighbors, but oddly enough, they start disappearing pretty much as soon as she meets them. First next-door neighbor Saffron (Never Been Kissed's Sara Downing) disappears; her boyfriend Hans (Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson) assumes she's taken off with another beau. Then Nell's new running partner Julia (Ed Wood's Juliet Landau) misses a running date. And Stephen is off at the hospital, so what's an overimaginative, unemployed young woman to do? Solve the mystery, of course, with the help of Chas (Georgia Rule's Rance Howard), who's lived in the building almost as long as it's existed.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie was that it uses its low budget wisely, as so few horror films do these days. Hooper, who is of course best known for directing a low-budget horror picture (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), seems to have recaptured the spirit of low-budget filmmaking; savage, but very low-lit, special effects. I'm not sure why, but some of the death scenes on this movie were quite disturbing to me (in a "my God, I can't believe he tried to get away with that in an R-rated movie!" sense). For example, in the opening sequence, in which our damsel in distress is done in with a claw hammer, we get the usual cut-away shots you find in low-budget slasher films-- blood splashing onto the wall, the window, etc.-- but we also see the killer wielding the hammer, and there's a clump of skin/hair/etc. stuck in the claw. Which is logical, given the situation, but it's the kind of thing you rarely, if ever, see in this sort of scene. Not quite as surprising, but just as pleasant, is the caliber of the acting from the principals here. Yeah, there's overacting, as there's bound to be in any Tobe Hooper flick, but that just makes Bettis' rather quiet slide into nervous breakdown all the more appealing. Co-scriptwriter Adam Gierasch, who plays the building's maintenance man Ned, is also quite wonderful. (In fact, to me the film's biggest failing is that more wasn't done with Ned's character.) Most of the rest of the cast are at least competent, if not stellar.

Tobe Hooper's best film in the past two decades. *** ˝
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If these walls could talk......, May 10, 2005
By 
Boggman! (Laguna Hills, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
When Nell (Angela Bettis) and Steven (Brent Roam) Barrows move into the historic Lusman building, things start going terribly wrong in Tobe Hoopers remake of "Toolbox Murders". Nell finds a box in her apartment with some human teeth in it, her noisy neighbor Saffron (Sara Downing) gets suddenly very quiet, and her new friend and fellow tenant Julia (Juliet Landau) suddenly disappears.

Nell, who spends her days all alone while her husband works as a resident doctor at the local hospital, is plagued with these and all sorts of mysteries throughout the movie. As things get weirder, and the tenants of the Lusman began vanishing, Nell goes on a quest to learn the history of the Lusman in an attempt to sort out the odd occurrences surrounding her. Of course, she ends up with way more than she bargained for.

Bettis (as usual) is great in her role. She holds the film together, but she can't save it.
Too many plot twists, not enough explanation, and a confusing third act make the whole movie tough to follow. However, "Toolbox Murders" has a lot going for it as well.

It's stylish, it's creepy, and at times it's just downright fun. I jumped through a couple scenes, and was on edge for several other. The principle photography and atmosphere of the film are very pleasing. There is also some pretty good death sequences, which really do take you back to the classic slasher films of the 70's and 80's.

I enjoyed "Toolbox Murders". Not Tobe's best work, but I can see what he was going for and I believe he achieved it. Horror movies rarely come full circle (in one film), and usually leave us wanting and needing more. "Toolbox Murders" is certainly no exception, but it does deliver a solid performance (Bettis), reasonable and sufficient gore, and a few good screams & laughs for the genuine horror fans out there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty darn good, January 22, 2008
By 
James Seger (The Woodlands, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Toolbox Murders (DVD)
I'm not much a Tobe Hooper fan. Aside from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Salem's Lot I haven't liked any of his movies (unless you want to give him credit for Poltergeist). I therefore wasn't expecting much when I picked up his remake of The Toolbox Murders.

I haven't seen the original, so I can't say how this remake compares, but on its own, this movie is a winner. A young couple moves into a rat trap old building in Hollywood. He's an intern and is gone most of the time leaving Nell Barrows with too much time on her hands. She finds out some strange things about the building's history and unbeknownst to all, somebody is murdering the tenants.

Right from the beginning when the camera is filming through a sheet of plastic in the rain, it manages to give off a downright unsettling atmosphere. A fantastic job was done lighting the creepy old building, making every shadow seem threatening. Everything feels old, grimy and unpleasant. The music is surprisingly good. There is the usual 'string swell' to make you jump, but otherwise it works well to ratchet up your nerves. The whole movie is an exercise in tension.

Really the only bad part about this movie is the whole 'toolbox murders' gimmick. The story really stands on its own and is good enough without the different tool for each murder shtick. If the killer just used a knife or something, that would have worked just as well. It felt like they needed to throw in the unusual murder weapons to keep the name.

Still, this was a pretty good movie. I'd recommend it to fans of old fashioned '70's and '80's horror movies. They don't make many like this any more.
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Toolbox Murders
Toolbox Murders by Tobe Hooper (DVD - 2005)
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