Toolbox Murders (2004)

09/07/2021 06:38

Film: Toolbox Murders

Year: 2004

Director: Tobe Hooper

Writer: Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch

Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam and Marco Rodríguez



This was a movie that I knew existed after getting into podcasts but didn’t know much about it. I heard from some different places that this is a remake of a ‘Video Nasty’ and was made by Tobe Hooper. I’m now getting to watch this thanks to Movie Club Challenge over on the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis here is a historic Hollywood hotel houses a supernatural evil. It’s been subdued for decades, but when renovations start, a series of murders take place.

We start this movie off with a line about people moving to Hollywood. Many of them return home and quite a few disappear completely. We’re then outside of the Lusman Arms’ building. The synopsis states this is a hotel, but it looks like it has been converted into apartments. It is raining out and we see Daisy (Sheri Moon Zombie) returning home from work. An ambulance is leaving as she goes in. The building is being renovated and the doorman, Luis Saucedo (Marco Rodríguez), informs her it was the foreman for the workers who was taken away. She goes up to her place. We get the idea it isn’t the best place as she has four locks on her door. She has good reason as she is murdered with a hammer that night.

Moving in that day is Nell (Angela Bettis) along with her husband Steven Barrows (Brent Roam). He is a new doctor that is working in a nearby emergency room. She is a teacher that is looking for a new job. She isn’t thrilled about the new place, but it’s about all they can afford. The manager here of Byron McLieb (Greg Travis) comes into their apartment. He relays information about the place before leaving. He doesn’t seem great at his job though. They also get to meet their neighbor of Saffron Kirby (Sara Downing).

Nell is uneasy about this place from the beginning. It doesn’t help that Steven is at work a lot. Saffron is rude along with her boyfriend of Hans (Charlie Paulson). Byron isn’t the biggest fan of her since she calls the police about a noise complaint a couple of times, with the best intentions mind you, and she doesn’t respect the history of the building. There is a creepy maintenance man of Ned Lundy (Adam Gierasch) that doesn’t help. She does befriend Chas Rooker (Rance Howard) who has lived there for 60 years as well as Julia Cunningham (Juliet Landau) since they have similar interests.

We get to see there is something not right here and Nell is the only one who seems to notice it. She gets a secret message from Chas that causes her to investigate the history of this building. What she finds is much darker and scarier than she imagined. These weird symbols around it have a darker meaning and there are things hidden within the walls.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap and what I will say is that we have some interesting aspects to this movie. Duncan stated something about it is interesting where this movie goes as it seems to be a remake in name only. At the time of writing this, I haven’t seen the original yet, but it is high up on my list. I’m intrigued even more to see this original one now.

Where I’m going to start would be I love the back-story here. Hooper is taking the ‘old dark house’ concept that was popular back in the day and doing a bit of an update here. We have a whole secret section to this place. Our killer can move around in it and that allows him to take his victims without anyone knowing. I like this idea. I also like that Nell goes to the preservation society to find more information about this while having Chas sending her down this path. Then going along with this there is a bit of a supernatural aspect. There are the symbols that are in this building. We learn in the past that there was a cult and that could play into what we get here. It is interesting where that ends up going for me.

What I did have a problem with was that this movie feels disjointed until we get to Nell investigating what is going on here. We have characters popping into Nell and Steven’s apartment. We have Nell calling the police, but we don’t actually get to see that happening. I wasn’t lost as I knew what was going on, but it just felt like the movie didn’t know what it wanted to do until it got to that point. I’m not sure if they were trying to fit too much in and didn’t know the best way to do so.

Something that I was impressed with was the effects. They looked to have gone practical for everything from what I could see. They used a lot of different weapons you would find in a toolbox which I thought was good. We get a hammer, drill, saw and a nail-gun to name some of them. There is a bit of suspending disbelief for that last one, but I’m fine with that. The cinematography was solid as well. To just re-iterate, I love the setting with this old building and the hidden section of it.

What I will also say was that the acting wasn’t bad either. Bettis is solid and I feel she is always giving a good performance. Roam disappears for a good stretch, but I thought he was good. I liked Rodríguez, Howard, Landau, Downing and Gierasch as well. Travis was okay, but he seems to overact in my opinion. I thought that Adam Weisman looked too old to play Austin who I think was supposed to be in high school. He looked 25. Aside from that I thought Christopher Doyle does well as our killer. Zombie wasn’t bad in her cameo and Jamison Reeves was solid there as well. Overall this was solid in my opinion.

So then in conclusion here, this movie has some good aspects, but it also feels like it didn’t know how to start. Once we get to the investigation, it settles into an interesting little supernatural-esque slasher. I thought the acting for the most part was good. The effects were solid and the soundtrack was fine. This isn’t the worst Hooper film that I’ve seen, but this still falls on the lower end for me. I still had fun here though. This is over average for me for the things that I liked. It isn’t a good movie though.


My Rating: 5.5 out of 10