According to Internet lore, this movie was once shown to a Donahue audience. The members of said audience reportedly booed and groaned through the showing. Actually, they were booing Donahue's hair, but the movie was pretty bad too. And now that we've lived through the experience ourselves, we can tell you that we prefer Donahue's hair to The Toolbox Murders. Although we might have avoided this film altogether, destiny took a hand in the form of ballpoint pen scrawl on the video label. There, someone had written "terrible movie," presumably as a warning to other clueless renters. For us, however, it was as if they had embossed "Stomp Tokyo guys -- review this film!" in gold on the video box. How could we resist?
This is one of those movies in which the title really does say it all. Some lunatic runs around a apartment complex, apparently home only to attractive flight attendants with a tendency towards exhibitionism. While there, the lunatic tries to kill every flight attendant in the place with the contents of a toolbox. Unfortunately, the flight attendants in question turn out to be the most lethargic victims possible -- they barely fight back, even though their lives are at stake. And rather than vacate the building, the remaining tenants wait blithely for their turn at the chopping block.
Somone pushes Bob Vila too far.
"What we're doing here, Norm,
is caving someones' skull in."
What makes The Toolbox Murders particularly frustrating is its total lack of main characters to hold our attention. For the first 45 minutes, the only character who reappears from scene to scene is the ski-masked murderer who bumbles into each poorly-secured apartment before playing "This Old House" with the tenants' heads, usually to a tune from the worst collection of public domain "pop-country" music ever.
Also of no help is the gaping absence of significant dialogue. There is none for the first 30 minutes, unless you count a couple of monologues that are supposed to sound like radio preachers declaring that judgement is upon us. Hmmm . . . just like the begininng of Giant Spider Invasion. Even once the plot does kick in and people (we shy from calling them "actors") actually start to talk to each other, you could recite lines from Shakespeare's greatest plays between the amazingly inappropiate pauses that the actors take between lines.
Fifteen year-old boys will want to be aware of the high nudity factor in this film; it looks like Toolbox might have begun production as a soft-core porn film -- especially if you judge by the bathtub scene. Due to the 1970's production values, however, those of us in the 20-something generation will find that it's more like watching your older sister undress.
Yep, this film and Fargo.
One constant source of interest in horror films is the way the police react to the murders. Will they be smart or dumb? Attentive or dismissing? In Toolbox Murders, the police make their obligatory appearance, and rather than doing any actual investigative work, concern themselves mainly with the victims' sex lives. This is to distract themselves from the awful flick in which they've landed.
Despite the high body count early on in Toolbox Murders, the plot (such as it is) doesn't really show up until the killer kidnaps one of the tenants, a 15 year-old named Laurie. Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin, another winner in the "b-movie actor who was also in Star Trek" award) is the only halfway watchable person in the movie -- probably because her fear is real.
Toolbox Murders marks a Stomp Tokyo first. This is the first time we've ever completed the review of a film before the end credits finished rolling. As we write this, we have seen the the real killer revealed, and we are busy trying not to laugh at the ludicrous plot twists the movie performs in the closing minutes to try to justify its existence. As a last insult to our intelligence, the movie then tries to claim that it was based on a true story.
The killer in Toolbox Murders claims that it's an "ugly world." With movies like this in it, we couldn't agree more.