The Toolbox Murders (Tobe Hooper remake)

By Adam Lippe

imageIf there was ever a bit of trivia hanging over a movie:

“2/3 of the way through filming, the production ran out of money. The movie was put together from what footage was already filmed, resulting in 1/3 of the script never being made.”

Watching The Toolbox Murders, this issue is pretty evident throughout, whole scenes of exposition and transition are simply not there, explaining how someone would know information, inserts missing, etc. They give us half of why the killer does what he does, but not enough and no particular reason he’s using tools. There’s a lot of padding, Angela Bettis walking around with a flashlight in the dark for 6-7 straight minutes, when 1 minute would have got the point across.

There is one good kill and a decent set-up for the first twenty minutes with regards to the claustrophobia of that building, but the story is never fully developed, especially with regards to the black magic stuff which seems about to become relevant (avoiding spoilers here) tying into the killer’s motive and giving it some immediacy to show why he’s doing what he’s doing right now, but it ends up being a loose end. While a slasher movie needn’t have a reason for being, it is important to understand why the events we are seeing have to occur as the characters experience them and aren’t just randomly thrown together. In other words, why is this all happening right now? But the movie never answers that question, even if it seems it’s about to. There’s an older character who has one laughable scene after another (including one where he is talking to Bettis in the laundry room about the creepy history of the building, and when she asks what he means by that, he looks at her knowingly, and then runs away without answering), and at one point he says that he knew he had to give Bettis some important information because she was “the one,” though no reason is ever given what makes her special. There are pieces of a good film here and there, but you simply can’t make a movie out of 65% of a script unless you knew in advance you would be shut down, and covered for it. The fact that something resembling coherence showed up on screen is a miracle. I guess for someone who loves Bettis and her Helen-Hunt-like-12head, this is worth sitting through once.


Isn’t it more than a bit shameless to have the killer look just like Leatherface in the minimal footage we see of him (which was slowed down awkwardly, obviously to elongate the lack of coverage)?

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.