Nell and her husband Steven move to LA and the city's Lusman Building. Run-down and neglected, the Lusman's corridors are dark and forbidding, its apartments home to the desperate and the dispossessed. With Steven working shifts as a doctor, Nell is often at home alone and increasingly disturbed by strange noises she hears in the dead of night. Then, one by one, the Lusman's residents begin to disappear. Convinced there is something malevolent in the very fabric of the building, Nell sets out to uncover the truth – a quest that brings her face to face with pure evil…
Daisy has come to Hollywood to pursue her dreams. The apartment and surrounding areas where she lives are less than salubrious so she is confident her personal taser will halt any unwanted advances. With that kind of forethought, it is only ever a matter of time before she’s beaten to death. It happens with a hammer in the – currently under renovation – ‘luxury’ hotel, The Lusman Arms where she was staying. This place is populated by OTT stereotypes who are mainly played as caricatures. This gives The Lusman Arms a heightened sense of reality in which new arrivals Nell and Steven, refreshingly normal, seem instantly out of place.
Nell meets Chas Rooker, an elderly resident, whose job it is to provide (a) a sympathetic voice of reason, and (b) a lot of the backstory concerning how Jack Lusman, an occultist who built the place, mysteriously disappeared many years ago.
When the (implausibly and awkwardly framed) attacks come from the black-clad killer – utilising hammers, drills etc – the victims have proven to be so ridiculously excessive in character, the murders take on a cartoonish aspect, which I find neither terrifying or particularly amusing. Only towards the end, when the killer’s face is revealed in a long shot as he shrieks and howls like an animal in torment, does any sense of fear emerge. The stings and whirls of the incidental music that have been trying to convince us to be scared since the beginning, finally have some horror to embrace.
The idea of the building being cursed, and the killer being a ‘coffin birth, born of death’ is fascinating but is only briefly touched on. His possible spectral existence seems to have been eschewed in favour of whacky characterisations of the residents. This is a shame. The final ‘he’s dead – no he’s not – yes he is – no he’s not’ is inevitable before the thrash metal screams of the closing music roll over the credits.
The performances verge from the capable to the unconvincing (an abusive punk rocker is less than threatening). Only Angela Bettis as Nell really impresses, making the most of her character. She had proven excellent in the 2002 film ‘May’, in which she played a sympathetic outcast.
An excellent remake of the 70's original
- The Toolbox Murders review by Shatner's Bassoon
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Nell and Steven Burrows move to Los Angeles to start a new life together. When they move into the Lusman Building, a historic run down Hollywood apartment complex, they soon find themselves caught into a web of terrifying evil as a ruthless killer lurks inside. Somehow moving unseen from apartment to apartment the killer uses drills, claw hammers and saws to murder his victims. 'Toolbox Murders' is Tobe Hooper's remake of his own 1979 original, and while the original was an out and out slasher flick, this remake is slightly tamer, with more suspense and a supernatural twist replacing the gore and violence of the original. Hooper also has cleverly added several red herrings throughout the film which keeps you guessing to the killer's identity. Overall 'The Toolbox Murders' is pretty impressive with good some scares, gory deaths and a suspenseful plot.