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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Toolbox Murders (1 Viewer)

Michael Elliott

Senior HTF Member
Jul 11, 2003
Real Name
Michael Elliott

Toolbox Murders


Studio: Lions Gate
Year: 2004
Rated: R
Film Length: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo Surround
Subtitles: English
Retail Price: $26.95

Some say no one person is bigger than an actual movie but that’s probably not the case with Tobe Hooper’s Toolbox Murders, which is a remake of the 1978 cult classic. Hooper broke into the horror genre with a major bang in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but since then the director has had a series of lows including a needless sequel to that shocker as well as other duds including Eaten Alive, Invaders from Mars and The Mangler. One of Hooper’s most recent outings was Crocodile, which was a cheap spin off of Lake Placid. When you’re ripping a film like Lake Placid you just know your career is in trouble. However, with the announcement of Toolbox Murders fans hoped this would take Hooper back to his glory day (not days).

A young couple, down on their luck, moves into a historic Hollywood hotel, which is full of rats, bad plumbing and annoying neighbors. Everything in this couple’s life seems to be taking a turn for the worse and that’s even further proven when a strange, supernatural killer, armed with a box full of tool, winds up stalking the tenants, killing them one by one.

The anticipation of Hooper’s return will have to wait another picture because Toolbox Murders is a very poor film. Rumor has it that the production ran out of money and several key scenes were never filmed. I’m not sure if this is true or not but it’s quite clear that the film suffers from some very weak moments, which mainly fall on the poor screenplay and not so much on Hooper. The director, with little to work with, does pour on the gore, which could have some gorehounds enjoying this on that level but all others will be best advised to stay away from this turkey.

When dealing with remakes, there are several ways too look at them. Some people are disappointed that a remake changes so much from the original while others are disappointed that a remake stayed too closely to the original. Many are totally sick of the ideas of remakes but I never was a fan of the original so I was really looking forward to this thing. Hooper and the screenplay add a supernatural aspect, which wasn’t part of the original and this here should have been cut. The one aspect taken from the original was the key to that first film and that’s the killer in black who has a wide range of items to kill people.

The first film was an overly talky movie that’s most notable for some key death scenes including the infamous masturbation death. Hooper and company made the right decision to carry over the best elements from the original but they really don’t do anything good. This film should have centered on the human killer and his various tools but sadly we’ve got an incredibly stupid supernatural tale that goes no where and when the killer is explained, I couldn’t help but feel cheated. You can tell Hooper is trying for something more than your standard slasher but he should have realized that slasher films don’t need much originality as long as the gore and nudity is there. The film certainly contains the gore but none of the death scenes improve on the originals.

Speaking of the gore, as mentioned, the film is soaked full of the red stuff even in this R-rated cut. Heads are lopped off, bodies ripped in half and there’s even the classic nailgun that pays a visit. Hooper’s one good film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre worked because it went for scares instead of gore. If you added a single bit of gore to that film then it would have lost most of its impact and that’s certainly the case here. With the weak screenplay I can’t help but think Hooper added up the gore to hide the fact that not much else was going on. Some die-hard gorehounds might enjoy seeing this red stuff but I personally need a little bit more.

The most annoying thing about the film is the heroin played by Angela Bettis who couldn’t act to save her life. Again, bad acting is a staple in horror films but the director could always help the viewer by making the character at least not annoying. Bettis is annoying in every move she makes and the scenes where we’re suppose to feel something for her (sympathy) are totally laughable. The supporting cast doesn’t offer much, although Juliet Landau has a few nice moments.

While watching the film and fighting off sleep, I kept asking myself what happened to Hooper and when are genre fans going to finally accept the fact that the man will probably never made another good film. To me, I’ll never give up that hope and will continue to view his films and in time, perhaps we’ll get another worthy effort from the man. Hooper really isn’t to blame for this mess as a director and thinking about it, perhaps Hooper’s entire career should be faulted for the poor scripts he’s done. Hooper has proven himself to have some talent so perhaps a better manager should be viewing what scripts he does. There are some nicely directed scenes here but in the end, Toolbox Murders is another mindless horror film that doesn’t work on any level.

VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. There are a few other DVD releases of this film but unfortunately I haven’t seen them so I can’t compare this release to anything. With that in mind, the transfer for the most part is nice, although there are a few problems worth noting. The biggest problem is some minor speckles that pop up throughout the transfer. Normally this wouldn’t be that big of an issue but considering this is a newer film you’d expect to see a clean print in that area. Several of the darker scenes contain a large amount of grain but this is suppose to be part of the look and doesn’t reflect a poor transfer. Outside those speckles the rest of the transfer is good. Colors are very strong and balanced throughout. A few of the scenes appear a bit faded and soft but to my eyes this seemed like the intent of the director. Black levels are strong throughout.

AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround track. This is a rare instance where I’m going to learn towards the Stereo track over the 5.1. The 5.1 track is very poorly mixed and you can tell this from the opening sequence when the track attempts to be ‘active’ during a rainstorm but the sounds comes off quite murky. Even worse is the first murder sequence where we’ve got sound effects going full blast along with the music score. The music score is so overpowering that the sound effects are pretty much drained from the track. The Surrounds are basically used for the music score, although a few brief sound effects also come into play. The bass never really kicks in and the rears are only used for a few brief seconds. The 2.0 Stereo track isn’t as loud but it’s more clear in its presentation. Just compare the opening murder sequence and you’ll hear how much better this track is. In the 2.0 track we get a perfect mix of the effects and the score. Dialogue is clear in both tracks but again, in the 5.1 the music score can cut into the dialogue.

EXTRAS---Lions Gate didn’t give this film much of a chance in theaters but they’ve loaded the DVD with some nice extras. Up first is an audio commentary with director Hooper who is joined by screenwriters Kace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. This is a rare case where the commentary is a lot more interesting than the actual movie. The three members are constantly chatting and seem to be having a very good time talking about the film, the screenplay and plans for future films. There are some really great facts told as well as comments on the original film. The most interesting thing happens towards the end of the film when the writers say the opening sequence in the rain was meant as a homage to Suspiria. I guess they forgot to tell Hooper that and he admits on the track that he didn’t know that was the plan. Perhaps that’s a clue to why the movie didn’t turn out so hot.

A second commentary track is included and features producer’s Jascqueline Quella and Terence Potter and Journalist Calum Waddell. This track isn’t nearly as good because it appears the two producer’s seem to think they’ve made Citizen Kane. They start off talking about the original film when Quella comments on how horrid the original is. From there on we pretty much hear the two patting one another on the back and telling us how wonderful they are and how wonderful their movie is. Waddell does a wonderful job at asking the right questions but sadly his mates aren’t very interesting.

Up next we have the theatrical trailer, which is shown widescreen and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Up next are five deleted scenes, all shown widescreen but not enhanced for widescreen sets. These are from a workprint and contain the time codes as well. There’s one brief scene with the killer sitting on the roof and another one that appears to be an alternate ending. The three scenes in the middle are extended death scenes from the European prints. I thought the R-rated cut was graphic but these here go even further in the gore department. I won’t ruin the scenes but if you’ve seen any of the import DVDs then these will be nothing new to you. There’s also a small (not so hidden) easter egg in the extras section that is a brief clip of Hooper and the writers from a horror convention. Talk about a sequel is in this clip.

OVERALL---Once again I went into a Tobe Hooper film hoping for a return to form but instead I was left with a stupid and mindless slasher. While there’s some good gore, everything else pretty much falls flat making this unwatchable. The Lions Gate disc features some nice extras with a good video presentation but it is the R-rated version and I’m pretty sure that everywhere else got the complete, un-edited cut. The cut scenes are included as extras so it’s up to you on which version to get. Either way, I’d rent the disc first.

Release Date: March 15th, 2005

Will K

Feb 6, 2001
Although I didn't care much for the ending, I loved this movie and I thought it was Tobe's best in quite a while. The thing I liked most about it is the atmoshere it set up. The apartment building is so creepy and unpleasant, I could feel this choking sense of doom seeping into the preceedings. Add a vicious psycho to the mix...well, the movie just worked for me and I found the unapologetic nastiness refreshing in this era of PG-13 fast food horror.

Why Lion's Gate chose to release only an R-rated cut is beyond me. The movie likely isn't popular enough to warrant an unrated douple-dip down the line, so they've lost a sale from me.

Fortunately, for those of us with Multi-Region equipment, Anchor Bay UK comes to the rescue with a 2-disc SE. Details:


Ralph Jenkins

Stunt Coordinator
Oct 14, 2003
I wouldn't say Texas Chain Saw Massacre is Hooper's one good film, as I liked Poltergeist (which scared the hell out of me when I was a kid). Salem's Lot and Lifeforce have their fans.

I can't say I enjoyed Toolbox Murders, though. Angela Bettis gave a good performance in May, but in this film she didn't make much of an impact. This film was too by-the-numbers amd cheap-looking for me.

Michael Elliott

Senior HTF Member
Jul 11, 2003
Real Name
Michael Elliott
Ralph, I too enjoy POLTERGEIST but I personally feel Spielberg directed most of it so that's why I didn't mention it. I've actually enjoyed most of Hooper's films (Eaten Alive, TCM2, Funhouse) but I really don't think those films are really "good" but a little entertaining.

I didn't care for the original TOOLBOX MURDERS either though.

Chris Tedesco

Second Unit
Aug 26, 2002
Real Name
After watching this garbage I have to say that Michael was too nice. This movie deserves no stars whatsoever. I am stunned at how bad this movie actually is. Is this the same director that did Chainsaw Massacre? Poltergeist? Some episodes of Taken? Holy crap, I have to rate this as an all time worst movie.

My god the acting! Was this a joke? I really think it had to be. Porn movies have better acting. The story was horrible.

I am upset that I wasted almost 2 hours of my life on this. :angry: :thumbsdown: :thumbsdown:

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