Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

Fear 2/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5
T&A Factor 5/5

Hands down, The Toolbox Murders has to have one of the best opening sequences to any horror movie that I've ever seen. From a first person point of view, we see a man enter into a woman's apartment wearing a black jumpsuit, carrying a toolbox. As the female resident bitches and moans about things not being fixed in the apartment, you understand that this is not an unwanted visitor. The guy is someone she is obviously familiar with as she has let him willingly into her home. Bad mistake. The fixer upper (i.e. a presumed superintendent) reaches into his box and takes out a cordless drill. Country music blares from a record player and it serves as a backdrop for the terror that he is about to unleash. Advancing on the woman, he pins her up against a sidewall of her apartment and starts in on drilling into her arm. As he extracts the drill from her punctured arm, small pieces of flesh fly off as he continues to pull the trigger, the drill bit spinning at a frenzied pace. As she stumbles and fumbles her way down the corridor leading to the bathroom, she smears an ample amount of blood onto the walls and unleashes multiple blood curdling screams only to have them drowned out by the loud music which continues to play. Closing the door behind her, her attacker drills through it. In a mad dash, the woman flings open the bathroom door and tries to escape. He jets across the living room and jumps on her back, pinning her to the ground where he finishes the job with one final drill to his victim's back.

Continuing his murderous rampage (now wearing a ski mask he's taken out from inside his box), he knocks on the front door of another woman's apartment and pulls her outside when she answers the door. As she struggles, he punches her, knocking her unconscious. He carries her over to the top of a stairwell and lays her down. Reaching into his dispenser box of death, he pulls out a hammer and proceeds to use the pronged end to repeatedly bash her head in. After a barrage of swipes, he picks up the girl's body and takes it back into the apartment and lays her down on living room floor. Not locking the door behind him, a female neighbor enters the apartment to see what all the commotion is about. Taking out a screwdriver, the man makes quick work, killing her and placing her body next to that of the other woman.

The police are called out to the apartment complex the next day as residents makeb the grisly discoveries. They begin to interview the superintendent, and he tells about the women in the complex, not knowing them completely but rather on a more superficial level (one was divorced, another a model, etc.). You begin to think that maybe its him but quickly dispel that notion as it would be all too obvious. A slasher flick with a suspect that's front and center? Nah, couldn't be. Or could it?

So the masked man continues his work, but instead of delving into his handy box of horror, he instead uses a nail gun. He enters the apartment of another woman who's having a finger-banging good time in her bath tub. Again, country music blares as she's having fun in the tub, caressing her no-no parts. Upon entering the bathroom, she immediately leaps out, running through the house butt nekked. He stalks the woman around the apartment, clumsily falling over himself and missing his mark time and time again with the nail gun. Finally, he's able to put one into her stomach and she slumps down on top of her air conditioning unit. He finishes her off by putting one more through her head for good measure.

This is where the plot completely diverges and after an incredible start in the first 45 minutes, the film unravels into a bit of a muddled mess. A girl in the apartment complex goes missing and her kid brother sets out to try and find her. He runs into the nephew of the already suspicious superintendent as he's cleaning up the mess the killer has made of the apartments. He offers to help him out and they both head to the uncle's house to pick up some cleaning supplies. Upon entering the garage, you see a toolbox in the corner (dun, dun, dun). As the kids leave, the camera shifts to the inside of the house where the uncle has the sister tied up in a bedroom. The killer IS the uncle/superintendent! Even more telling is the rationale for doing so. All the tenants he disposed of where doing 'unnatural' things to their bodies. He spews random bible quotes and says that the sister whom he's tied up is the only left that's pure. The girl also reminds him of his own dead daughter, even going so far as to call the imprisoned girl by her name.

When the kids come back later to get more supplies, the brother who's looking for his sis sees the box, opens it and finds the blood stained tool set. Immediately blaming the uncle for the series of murders, the nephew states that 'my family can't go down like that yo!' and he throws gasoline on the kid and sets him on fire. The nephew then enters the house and finds out what his uncle has been up to. Upon entering the room of the girl, he immediately grows found of her as she too reminds him of his dead cousin. The nephew becomes jealous of the relationship between his uncle and the 'new' daughter and takes a kitchen knife to him. When the nephew gets cozy in bed with the girl (its implied that he used to have sexual relations with the deceased daughter, yucky!), the girl reaches over and grabs the knife that was left bedside on the night stand. Cut away to the girl walking bloodied through a parking lot and this explanation:

Had this been revealed at the beginning of the movie, the transition midway through may not have been as clumsy. But then again, that may have been the intention all along. Had it been revealed at the beginning that this was based on 'true events', the opening sequence may not have been as shocking. Despite the awkward shift in the middle and slow build at the end, the film is still very effective and an overall damn fine slasher film. Definitely recommended.
A crummy remake came out a few years back.

Cortez the Killer

1 comment:

Tower Farm said...

You had me at "T&A Factor 5/5"