Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Hooper Syndrome: Toolbox Murders (2003)

Tool Box Murders (2003 Remake)
rating: ***1/2
starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Marco Rodríguez

Lately, Tobe Hooper's works seems to be in an unbalanced creative streak; at the dawn of the new millennia, Hooper directed a wide array of horror flicks that seems to lack any sense of taste, style or memorability, ranging from uninspired killer animal movies (2000's Crocodile) to zombies that melt with salt ( the atrocious 2005 film Mortuary), but thankfully around 2003, we did managed to see Hooper at his finest, least for now, with this gorier redux of a 1970s cult hit, The Toolbox Murders.

In here, we set our sites to a rundown Hollywood hotel known as Lusman Arms, where initial renovations are currently being done to make sure the 1920s building still stand up through another decade or two. Two newlyweds, Steve and Nell Burrows, had recently moved in to the building, much to their dismay, when they found out that the walls are so paperthin that they can hear every ongoings around the floor, the lightning doesn't work properly and there are canisters of teeth hidden in some of the cracks. Though they initially try their best to cozy in despite the "historical" disadvantages of the creaky old building,  Nell also got in the wrong foot with the local authorities when she accidentally called in a 911 dispatch on what she thought to be a murder in process, (turns out to be two guys rehearsing a scene) so when people began to disappear within the walls for real, she has no choice but to stop whatever is killing them and learn the secrets hidden within the building itself.

Much as the original Toolbox Murders was more of a slasher-cop drama hybrid with unimaginable amount of corniness, the remake embraced the slasher format in its fullest, which is more to be said during those times when 90s teen kill flicks still had a good hold on horror cinema. TBM03 tries to live up to the infamous opening murders of four by giving its viewers a wide array of brutal and thankfully gory kills, and at the same time deliver some nostalgic cheese along the way, but all in all, the film is it's own movie and takes very little from the original.

Reviewing this movie under that mindset, TBM03 is definitely a slasher movie made for the fans of bodycount movies as it had every aspect that makes a hack movie good such as the nightmarish unusual plot, weird and colorful characters (even those with small parts), an awesome leading lady played by the one and only Angela Bettis, and, of course, the bloody stuffs.

 I'll be frank here, I never knew Hooper can do a gore movie this violent; we got brains hammered open, spines severed with bolt cutters and, a personal favorite, a head sliced in half that harks a similar scene from Scott Speigel's Intruder (1989). Better a fact that these kills are also committed by one savage looking killer, dubbed "Coffin Baby", whose obscure background has to be the first for a slasher killer. He has a bit of Leatherface in him, (when unmasked, a sorta tribute by Hooper to his own masterpiece, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and some familiarity considering black magic, something I wished they explained a bit further, but likewise hinted to be worshipping some strange symbols that grants him immortality given that he continues to murder.

I find very little major flaws here, but none the less, they can be a bit distracting; I find the scripting in this movie to be quipped with quirkiness, though I can easily disregard that since Hooper is known to create weird and unusual characters that sometimes defies stereotyping. Though, there are moments where the film tends to slow down, but thankfully there's a bit of balanced flow given to it thanks to some momentary murders. There's also some parts of the movie where logic is disregarded a little too much, even for a slasher movie, such as the killer's surprising ability to successfully nail gun a victim to the ceiling without breaking much of a sweat, but I like to see it as a way to bring back some retro feel into this movie, much like those late 80s titles where everything seems to defy logic, which is always a plus point for any slasher film.

While far from a perfect slasher, Tool Box Murders (2003) is undoubtedly one of the finer releases at its time. Funny enough that it seems to be released during the same year SAW was, hence making it one of the few movies to welcome back detailed viscera into the screen, see it as a sign that this film was destined for horror fans and gorehounds alike.

1 female brained to death with hammer claw
1 female shot to death with nailgun
1 female gets powerdrilled through the head
1 male killed offscreen
1 male head sawed in half with circular saw
1 male face eaten off with powdered lye
1 male stabbed on the back with bolt cutters, spine cut
1 elderly male dies from shock
total: 8


  1. I've heard of a deleted scene that revealed the old guy was a ghost all along.

    Classic case of "Answers Some Questions, Raises a Ton of Others".

    And Angela Bettis should wear glasses more often.

    1. they actually worked on that ghost crap on the sequel. So, if that's gonna be the case, then I'm beginning to suspect that them weird symbol thingies makes them see ghosts...

      either that or these guys just wanna fuck with our heads...

      and yes, Ms. Bettis should wear glasses more often.