The Toolbox Murders is a 1978 mystery/thriller/horror, directed by Dennis Donnelley (later remade in 2004 by Tobe Hooper). The film, well known for its gore and exploitation, was marketed as being based on a true story. It was also briefly banned in the UK during the early 80s, landing itself on the infamous video nasty list as a result of its portrayal of violence against women.
But does the movie live up to its controversial reputation?
This “ true story” follows a crazed madman who stabs, bashes, and kidnaps women in an apartment complex. Before we go any deeper, let us remember that we do not have any set rules for slasher movies, nor will that matter for long. For the first 20-30 min of the film, this definitely feels like slasher. And we’re treated to some pretty gruesome kills.
Don’t get me wrong. I love gore as much as the next guy. For a while, however, it seems as though the killings are rather meaningless and hold no bearing.
It’s not long though before the tone changes, and this becomes a mystery movie. Sadly, it’s not a very good one at that. The slowest part of the movie for me is when the brother and his friend are trying to put the pieces together and figure out what’s happening. Not long after that, the movie changes direction yet again and turns into a thriller. At this point, it becomes a conversation between the killer and the kidnapped women, which does lead to some interesting dialogue in my opinion.
The movie flip flops a lot, and this can make it confusing to figure out the tone. That doesn’t mean I hated this film. I generally cared for the kidnapped women, probably because I have a place in my heart for the innocent women of the 70s. There are also some tense moments, mostly towards the end of the movie.
The acting was decent throughout, although some of the actors were definitely better than others. I did, however, think the actor that played the brother was downright awful. The kill scenes in this movie were also quite well done. In spite of this, the main problem with The Toolbox Murders is that it’s never very clear what type of film this is trying to be.
The final verdict? This is a fun but strange movie, and the tone is all over the place.