The Toolbox Murders/Review

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< The Toolbox Murders
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The Toolbox murders is a movie that has quite a reputation among horror fans. It is something of a Halloween staple and it's hard to manage expectations as you heard too much of it. From this comes a movie that is something that you didn't imagine it to be. It is like you are half expecting to see a Jason / Freddy hybrid slasher movie. Or a Giallo style suspense piece but it ends up being neither. Is that disappointing? It could be, but it is only because it was not what you expect.

While discussing a movie, its always better to start with the beginning. Here it takes an all too different meaning. The movie is divided into two phases, though not the first half and the second half. Not that simple. It's the first 15 minutes and the rest of the movie. Like someone took the first 15 minutes of a slasher movie and cut it into a moody introspective art piece. Or also like the makers decided that the movie they made was not dark enough, so they decided to add the 15 minutes prologue as an afterthought.

The movie begins in an apartment complex where the tenants include a few girls living alone. A killer enters the place and kills all but one of them. As he chops/cleaves and drills his way through, he uses a variety of weapons. Claw-hammers, screwdrivers, power drills. Even a nail gun (ESPECIALLY the nail gun) becomes the weapon of choice for the killer hunting in the complex.

The opening scene includes a murder which caused a stir when the movie released. When he gets to the final room, he catches a young woman masturbating in the bathtub. After chasing her around the room, he finally manages to nail her head to the wall with the deadly gun.

This murder does shock and is gruesome, to say the least. Some movies deemed controversial might be tamer by today's standard. The nail gun scene was a bone of contention and controversy which makes sense why. There is something odd about the way the scene plays out. Right from the moment, she pleasures herself in the bathtub. To her long run trying to escape from her would-be killer all over the room. All the way to the final shot of her lifeless body hanging with her head nailed to the wall. Another thing that might be off-putting is the rape at the end which came out of nowhere. Scenes like these are what earned this movie its reputation.

Either out of sympathy or lust for the last surviving girl, he decides to keep her for himself. As he ties up the girl at his place, you feel its a completely different movie which is weird. Now we come to meet his relatives who also take the bulk of the rest of the movie. This part of the movie is also lead by the brother of the missing girl who is not able to get any help to find her. He goes on his private investigation leading him to Vance, the landlord of the house, who might know more about the murder than he lets on. He also meets Valerie's nephew who might also be hiding a few secrets of his own.

Cameron Mitchell, who played Vance, has had an interesting career. From acting in the original cast of Death of the Salesman, to end up in a series of exploitation movies including toolbox murders. He sure had an interesting career and this has to be one of the hammiest performances in it. Playing a grieving father who is trying to forget his child, he hams it up to the hilt. Must take a lot for a guy who started his career in broadway to talk like a child with a raggedy doll in front of the girl he kidnapped and tied up.

Wesley Eure, who plays his nephew was a popular TV actor back then (Day of our lives, Land of the lost). He is adequate in the role of the nephew, coming off better than Cameron Mitchell anyways.

If Toolbox Murders was an expansion of the first 15 minutes, it would have a far better movie. It is worrying when a movie can't live up to the beginning. Especially if it as entertaining and shocking as the beginning of this one is. Imagine, a deranged killer terrorizes complex full of nubile girls for no reason. That would have been sick. Both the situation as well as the movie. Almost like Richard Speck, a serial killer recently portrayed in Mind hunters. Who also inspired Violated Angels, a pinky movie by Kōji Wakamatsu. In fact, Violated Angels actually feel like an expanded version of Toolbox Murders' opening. Instead, they grope and meander towards its ending. Sad as the movie could have been so much more.

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