Toolbox Murders is set in Hollywood and focuses on a series of brutal murders which take place in a creepy old apartment building. This is loosely based on the 70's flick of the same name but in Hooper's reworking, which is both slick and tense, we are invited to guess who the killer is.
The film opens with text telling us that thousands of people come to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune every year, many return home having failed others disappear altogether. We then join an unfortunate blonde who returns home to her apartment and is attacked and pulped with the nasty end of a claw hammer.
Cut to newlyweds Nell and Steve who have just moved into the run down apartment building called the Lusman Arms. They soon discover many murders have taken place here and a range of suspicious characters live and work in the building. Nell begins to investigate after she hears her hapless neighbour being murdered with a nail gun but the landlord is at pains to deny anything untoward is going on in his building and the police find no evidence after a cursory look. Nell remains unconvinced by their explanations but no-one else is interested including her overworked med student boyfriend, Steve.
The cast is pretty decent especially for a budget horror flick. Angela Bettis is likeable as central character Nell and without any stand out performances the supporting cast were all good enough and mercifully free of irritatingly loud or zany characters. The script works fine, maybe could have used a little work but no major complaints and the contrived plot is easy to follow.
As the killer works his way through his toolbox and the inhabitants of the apartment building disappear one by one the film sticks fairly closely to convention. The direction is effective and while there are a few cheap fake scares there are also a few decent real jumps which confound expectation. The effects are well handled with some decent make-up jobs and there's a fair bit of gore accompanying the murder scenes.
Many people hailed this film as a return to form for Tobe Hooper and while I'd agree it is the best film he has made in years it is still a derivative by the numbers horror flick. It has a few silly moments and after a gritty start it tumbles increasingly into supernatural territory but it is quite tense, the murders are great and on the whole I found it entertaining.Short Review
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