The Toolbox Murders (1978) Poster

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Are you too much of a Gorehound to enjoy the slow segments?
brokenlovesongs4 January 2005
The Toolbox Murders starts out with 20 minutes or so of grisly and very well done kill scenes, all of which involve tools. If you like violence, then you'll love the introduction of this film. I personally don't have a preference when it comes to nudity in horror films (since it's overdone and pointless 90% of the time), but if you're a sucker for that sort of thing, then you'll appreciate the introduction to this film for that as well. After the kills are complete, however, many people will be bored by the lack of action that takes place on screen until the final moments of the movie. The middle portion of this movie is a lot of talk with little or no gore. I didn't mind this, because I found the dialog between the killer and the kidnapped girl to be very interesting. "What's it like?" the killer asks, referring to dying. The girl responds that "everything is purple, like a lollipop, and you can't see God, and there are people flying around, and you can see all of their thoughts, and you know the answers to all of their questions, but you can't answer them because nobody can talk." I enjoyed listening to this conversation, and although I'm sure I didn't get it word for word, there is something creative and maybe even worthy in here. Lots of people complain that the acting in this movie is terrible. These people cannot be horror buffs, as I have seen countless other films in which the acting is much MUCH worse. I would go as far to say that the acting in this film is very decent. If you have the attention span to sit through 'slower' moments of this film, then you'll find something to enjoy in it. I give The Toolbox Murders an 8/10.
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Pretty good for misogynistic trash
squeezebox5 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is one of the nastier grindhouse horror movies to achieve commercial success and attain an enthusiastic cult following.

A series of bizarre murders begins taking place in a Hollywood apartment complex, and the victims are exclusively independent young women. Eventually (SPOILER ALERT), we come to realize that the murders are being committed by the hotel's manager (Cameron Mitchell), who is targeting "immoral" young women as his victims.

It seems that his daughter was killed in a car crash after having gotten involved in sex and drug related activities. He is now on a crusade to rid the world of women who have gone down a similar path. In a genuinely twisted subplot, he has become obsessed with a virginal girl in one of the apartments, whom he fantasizes as replacing his daughter. He kidnaps her and keeps her tied to his bed while he goes out and hammers and nail guns his victims.

It leads up to one of the most harrowing and unsettling finales I've ever seen in this type of movie. As you can tell, the plot itself is as sordid as one could have thought up. Although it isn't nearly as vile as, say CANNIBAL FEROX or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, TOOLBOX MURDERS is the kind of slasher movie that makes me reluctantly understand women's groups denouncing the entire subgenre. I don't agree with them, but I can see their point when I watch the movie.

While there's no question that the movie is sexist, it never crosses the line into rampant misogyny. Even the movie's now infamous highlight, in which a nude woman is chased throughout her apartment by the nail-gun wielding killer, the victim manages to keep her cool and even tries to reason with the killer (albeit unsuccessfully) despite being in a most vulnerable position.

There is enough style to make things interesting and it moves along at a decent pace, so it never gets boring. It's no Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but it delivers what it promises, something that too many horror movies fail to do.
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Truly awful - yet strangely watchable.
Martin Pollard30 May 2000
This was a film that my girlfriend and I rented because it said on the box that it had been "banned for 14 years", or somesuch sensationalist tag. We expected, rather naively, a powerful, shocking attack on society a la Texas Chain Saw Massacre. What we had was some bloke in an unfrightening woolly hat going around and, yep, you guessed it, killing people with a variety of tools. Of these, the initial murder with a drill is the most unpleasant. As the film goes on, however, it clutches at straws, ultimately having to resort to that oh-so-scary object of carpentry, the chisel.

Unfortunately, entirely pointless deaths only account for about half the film. Where it really goes wrong is when it begins to justify these with some bizarre "taking revenge on the evils of society" explanation delivered by the one character we were really certain WASN'T the killer, by virtue of his being such an obvious candidate.

But for all its faults (and there are many), The Toolbox Murders remains compulsively watchable. This is because its hack dialogue and direction are so unbelievably bad that the viewer is left wondering just what god-awful impersonation of dialogue or technique is going to crop up next. Whole chunks of background information go effectively unexplained, phrases are repeated by characters unnecessarily, and one scene goes on so damn long you can't help thinking it might be a deliberate Chain Saw Massacre-style experiment on the viewer's nerves. But no, it just goes on too long.

Two-out-of-ten stuff, then - but one way or another, you won't hit the stop button before the end.
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Nailguns, Hammers, And Drills, Oh My!
Mr_Ectoplasma29 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"The Toolbox Murders" is a cheap, gritty movie. It's nasty, gratuitous, and graphic, but it is an okay little horror film. I enjoyed the first half hour or so of "Toolbox". The film is about women in a Los Angeles apartment who are stalked and murdered by a ski-masked killer with various tools. The first thirty minutes of the movie is just basically a bunch of women in a Los Angeles, California apartment complex getting murdered with contents of a toolbox (hammers, drills, screwdrivers, nailguns), and it is pretty graphic. Some of the death scenes are clever (I liked the nailgun scene), but after the first forty minutes the film begins to kind of bore you a bit. After Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin) is kidnapped by the killer, the film starts to go down hill.

From there on it's basically detectives trying to find information on the killer, and the killer has Laurie tied up and is taunting her (this scene has a lot of useless dialog). If the filmmakers had spread the deaths out a bit, rather than having one after another in the first half hour, then the movie might have been a little less boring, because every death scene occurs within the first 30 minutes. But hey, at least they tried something new, not many horror films get the deaths over with so quickly and focus more on the solving of the crime and the killer's captive.

I saw this film on DVD, so it included some cut footage that I guess had been banned (I'm assuming it was the bathtub scene and maybe some extra gory shots of the murders - it was a pretty violent slasher film). When I heard Pamelyn Ferdin's voice in the movie, I knew I'd heard it somewhere, and then I discovered that it was from "Charlotte's Web", where she had provided the voice of Fern, so that was a bit of a surprise to me. The rest of the cast wasn't bad either, not great but they were good. Cameron Mitchell played the villain, and was fairly decent. I also read on the cover that Stephen King enjoyed this movie, which was another little surprise.

Overall, "Toolbox" is a bit unsettling and disturbing at moments. It's major downfall is the ending half of it though, because the film becomes a bit tedious and boring for the audience. It's no "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (which I think it tried to be), but all things considered, it's an okay little slasher flick. 6/10.
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Don't believe the hype! Lame "video nasty".
Infofreak27 September 2001
"Banned since 1982" screams the video box. After sitting through an hour and a half of this crud you'll be lining up to have it banned for another twenty years. Not because it's controversial, too violent, or objectionable in any way (except perhaps aesthetically), but simply to save your fellow movie watchers from having to experience this incoherent, pointless mess. And it is a MESS. Badly written, directed and acted, with no redeeming features. And I LIKE horror folks.

The first 20 minutes or so features a series of murders of young women by various items from a toolbox - drill, hammer, nail gun,etc. (why a toolbox you ask? Good question...). The victims are all attractive and seem to share a taste for MOR country music. The killer wears a ski mask and sometimes hums to himself. (Maybe he's a country purist and is offended by their lack of Hank Williams?)

Anyway, after that the movie rapidly gets duller and duller, a girl gets kidnapped, some inept cops investigate the murders and are baffled, even though you'll pick the killer as soon as you see him. B-grade legend Cameron Mitchell hams it up sucking a lollipop and singing spirituals, and the faceless supporting cast are as bad as the stinker of a script. If you haven't seen 'The Toolbox Murders' well, you haven't missed anything much. Not even bad enough to be funny.
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The Rodney Dangerfield of Horror films
movieman_kev13 October 2005
The great Cameron Mitchell is a masked maniac who kills the inhabitants with nail guns, screwdrivers & hammers, before kidnapping Laurie Ballard, a typical yet innocent 15 year old (played by Pamelyn Ferdin who is such a vegetarian that apparently she didn't even accept meaty roles). I really don't understand the general disdain for this fine grind-house film, especial by horror aficionados. The first 30 minutes are classic bloody grind-house shenanigans, while the rest is fun in a hokey, unintentionally humorous dialog type of way. And there's no doubt that Cameron played great nut cases in his career. Better than Tope Hooper's drab and lifeless 2004 re-make (or re-imagining, rather)

Eye Candy: Marciee Drake gets topless; Kelly Nichols gets fully nude; and extra nudity in the DVD menus & Extras

My Grade: B-

Blue Underground DVD Extras: Commentary with producer Tony Didio, cinematographer Gary Graver and actress Pamelyn Ferdin; an interview with actress Marianne Walter (AKA Kelly Nichols); Poster & still gallery; movie poster reproduction; Cameron Mitchell biography; TV spot; 2 Radio spots; and Theatrical trailer
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Somewhat tedious and sickly (but not due to gore!!)
dung_rat5 January 2002
I heard about this film at the start of last year and instantly became deeply intrigued by it. I was overjoyed to see it finally released on the 'VIPCO' video label (here in the UK) but, alas, this all seemed to be in vain. I guess overall it was somewhat of a bathos and failed to rouse any serious interest in me whatsoever. The acting was, at the best of times, marginal and the plot...let's say it wasn't exactly ground-breaking: At the same time though I doubt that director Dennis Donnelly (who has also worked on episodes of 'Dallas' and 'Airwolf'...if I recall from my childhood) was attempting to change the world with the tale of a deranged Ski-mask wearing killer wielding, amongst other items, nail guns and chisels. The killings portrayed are rather nasty and bloody but, as I am now aware, are slightly cut here in the UK. I doubt (sincerely) that if they were shown in their entirety it would have made any valuable difference.

Perhaps what I found most disturbing about the film itself was the general visual aspect ( - vague I find you asking yourselves). The film looks very much dated now, which for some may not be a problem but it tended to make me feel decidedly 'sickly'. By this I mean that it just reminds me far too much of photos from my childhood *shudders*...with its ghastly floral interiors and fashion sense. I guess this is just a reflection of my own personal dislike towards nostalgia and is no serious reason to comment negatively on the film.

To conclude, 'The Toolbox Murders' is a tedious and poor (sorry to be harsh) horror flick at best. At times it appears to imitate Tobe Hoopers classic 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' in the sense that the film was, allegedly, based on 'real' events. It also follows a fairly congruous and typical narrative: a series of murders followed by an abduction and, inevitably, torture...only to have the attractive protagonist narrowly escape death. The fact that 'The Toolbox Murders' focuses on the notion of the 'family-gone-wrong', a la 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', or Pete Walkers 'Frightmare', for example, only seems to strengthen this argument more. The main problem: it falls flat on its face in trying to do so. I consider myself to be a die-hard horror film aficionado but this was just unfulfilling; certainly not to be mistaken as a 'cult classic'.
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Come for the grisly deaths, Stay for the deranged psychology!
leathermusic13 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Toolbox Murders is one of the top 3 American Horror films of the 1970's (along with The Hills Have Eyes, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) IMHO. Like the other films I just mentioned, 'toolbox' has a gritty low budget realism that helps the general atmosphere of the picture to no end. All of these movies deal with ordinary people besieged unexpectedly by deranged psychopaths, whose motives only become apparent as the stories unfold.

What makes 'toolbox' special is an absolutely masterful performance by Cameron Mitchell. Although the highly original death scenes are shocking and horrific, it is Cameron's portrayal of a crazed madman that is really unsettling. He really gets behind his motivation to create a flawed man living in an imperfect world. Without giving too much away, I should also note that the plot is very clever, with all kinds of unexpected turns toward the end. Sure, there are some bad scenes here and there, a lame disco lounge, plot holes, and unnecessary characters, but these are all pre requisites of low budget 70's cinema. The Toolbox Murders is recommended for anyone who likes great gore, or even fans of psychological drama.
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Naked and dead.
HumanoidOfFlesh7 October 2010
"The Toolbox Murders" opens with a string of brutal and bloody killings at a small apartment complex in Los Angeles.An unknown assailant wearing a ski mask kills various sexually active and 'lewd' women.The nude murder scene of Marianne Walter with a nail-gun is the most noteworthy and has to be seen to be believed.Unfortunately after four gory and misogynistic murders the film becomes pretty tiresome kidnap/captivity/detective psychodrama.Come on!The first half of "The Toolbox Murders" blew my mind with its sleaze and unflinching violence.The climax is also disappointing and abrupt.The acting is good with excellent central performance of Cameron Mitchell as the Toolbox Slasher.Overall,"The Toolbox Murders" is a solid exploitation sickie.A must-see for fans of "Maniac","Don't Go in the House" or "Born for Hell".8 out of 10.
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70s Sleaze
bensonmum226 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
  • A mad killer wearing a ski mask commits a series of violent murders using the contents of his toolbox as weapons. After a teenage girl is kidnapped, the police seem to think her brother is responsible. Can he find his sister and save his own neck in the process?

  • If I could use one word to describe The Toolbox Murders it would be "sleaze". It's the kind of movie that you want to take a shower after watching. That's not to say I don't enjoy the movie, because I do. The film thrives on blood, nudity, torture, and a variety of inventive kill scenes. Although the nailgun scene may be the most famous, a claw hammer makes for a nasty weapon.

  • But the main reason to watch is Cameron Mitchell. Here's a little tip for those unfamiliar with Mitchell - if you're watching a horror movie from the 60s or 70s and Cameron Mitchell shows up, expect him to go nuts and start killing people. Mitchell plays a crazy nut-job as good as anyone I've ever seen. He's just a blast to watch.

  • The rest of the cast is an odd mix of actors. Aneta Corsaut was Helen Crump, Andy Taylor's girlfriend on "The Andy Griffith Show". Wesley Eure was in one of my Saturday morning favorites, "Land of the Lost". And Pamelyn Ferdin was the little girl in just about every television show made in the 60s and 70s. Odd cast, but it works for me.
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Starts off great then flatlines
Dr. Gore26 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers

Once again, some nut has it in for beautiful women. "Toolbox murders" are raging at an apartment complex. The cops are baffled. We get to see a couple of brutal murders involving naked, horny women. So far, so good. Then the movie wanders off into the psychology of the madman and proceeds to drop dead. What a shame. However "The Toolbox Murders" does have an outrageously sleazy murder scene that makes it worth seeing once:


The highlight of the film involves a woman taking a bubble bath. The killer waits patiently by the bathroom door as she rubs herself raw underneath the bubbles. After she's done pleasuring herself, he chases her around the apartment with a nailgun. He "nails" her a couple of times and then lovingly puts the final nail through her head. This was one of the greatest scenes in exploitation movie history. Watch this movie just for that scene. The rest of the movie will only hurt you.
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Wesley Eure proves "Land of the Lost" was a step up!
Hoohawnaynay20 August 2003
I never thought an actor from a campy Saturday morning kids show (Land of the Lost) could find a project even worse, but here we are! I saw this movie at the drive-in back in 1978. Bad acting? Yes! Bad script? Yes Bad lighting and sound? Yes. Horror? A little bit thanks to an item we all have in our homes, a toolbox. Cheap, expliotive trash like this can be enjoyed on a certain level if you check your brain at the door. I think everyone involved in this movie had a late payment on their new car pending or were dire need of some quick cash. Wesley Eure mutters the funniest line in the whole movie! After examining blood stains around an apartment in a rather inquisitive manner he finds a vibrator and picks it up and says "disgusting"! Blood and brains on the wall is okay but I guess a sex toy was just too much for his delicate psyche. Speaking of which the scene in which the victim uses her toy in the bathtub was quite erotic for a 1970's film. Cute, perky Pamelyn Ferdin was attempting to break into adult roles after years of playing kids roles but she should have held out for a better part or at least a more memorable one. Her character gets kidnapped and spends most of the movie gagged, I guess she did get an early copy of the script! After viewing this movie again the 90's I wanted to go to my toolbox and beat myself over the head with my rubber mallet.
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A splendidly scuzzy 70's slasher sleaze classic
Woodyanders29 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Cameron "I'll act in any piece of junk for the money" Mitchell's already patchy schlock picture career hits its wonderfully lurid and repugnant all-time skankiest gutter-crawling nadir here with his joltingly frantic, bug-eyed portrayal of a crazed, puritanical superintendent who gruesomely dispatches several "sinful" promiscuous harlot young women residing in a grimy Los Angeles apartment complex. This shockingly gross and disgusting scuzzball 70's grindhouse slasher gem reaches its sensationally sleazy apex in a protracted sequence showing gorgeous porn starlet Kelly Nichols joyfully masturbating in her bathtub prior to Cameron brutally butchering her with a nail gun! Tireless ace exploitation photographer Gary Graver did the sharp, polished photography. The incredible down and out cast greatly intensifies the film's singularly discomfiting slimy edge: onetime child actress Pamelyn Ferdin (most famous for doing the voice of Lucy in a few Charlie Brown cartoon TV specials), "Land of the Lost" 's Wesley Eure as Cam's equally demented nephew (!), and the original "The Blob" heroine Aneta Corseaut. To top it all off, we even got a pertinent and provocative subtext about the fragility of innocence (as represented by Ferdin's sweet, "pure" character), the impossibility of preserving said innocence on a permanent basis (Cam abducts Pam so she can serve as a surrogate for the daughter he lost in a car crash), and how innocence is inevitably corrupted and/or destroyed by the evil outside world (as personified by the "impure" women Mitchell on his self-appointed murderous moral crusade deems worthy of punishment through savage and untimely death). This vile, gritty, resolutely ugly and sordid classic wholly deserves its killer trash legend reputation.
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Dull, cheap & silly
Afracious23 May 2000
The film begins with a masked man carrying a toolbox around an apartment block. He murders four women by using a drill, a hammer, a chisel and a nail gun. Not one word is spoken during the first 15 minutes of the film. The man then kidnaps a woman who is related to him. Then the cops arrive, and as usual in films of this type, they are completely useless. So the kidnapped woman's inept boyfriend decides to investigate. All very silly. It's a wonder Cameron Mitchell managed to keep a straight face through the scenes when he's talking like a child to the kidnapped woman. Also, after the initial four murders, there is hardly any other violence in the film. It becomes dull very quickly. This is Dennis Donnelly's only theatrical feature film. I wonder why?
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Absolutely horrible!
WritnGuy-225 September 1999
I really was excited about seeing this when I finally got a hold of it. I had heard some good things about this. Who knew how bad this could be...

The beginning of the movie for--I don't know how long, has a guy killing four women. The scenes are weak and slow and suspenseless and literally terrible. Then this guy kidnaps some girl (who isn't the worst actress ever, but at points she acted like a mannican) and her mother and brother go on the search for her, with the help of a detective and the girl's boyfriend. (Who actually turns out to'll see. The killer also has a "surprise" identity, I think, that was delivered horribly.)

Basically, this movie is terrible. It really is. The only semi-redeemable part was the last minute, I'd say, which was okay. Sort of twisted. This whole film really stinks. It's way too chatty, and any scene that could be made tense is just flubbed up. And on the Blockbuster box that this movie came in, it said on the back, "Stephen King has said this is 'One of the ten best horror movies on video.' I don't know what he was on when he made that comment. But then again, he had movies such as Graveyard Shift out that were just as bad.

Anyhoo, pass on this. It really is no good.
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Underrated and Misunderstood '70's Horror Classic
shoddyworksucks29 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Some reviews call this movie sleazy; to some degree it is. Some might say it lacks action in the last two acts; that's partially true as well. But this film is something different entirely. In the genre of serial killer-exploitation, female characters are routinely objectified. But "The Toolbox Murders" is a rare feminist exploitation film. It twists the genre on it's head and gives it an entirely different angle on female roles in horror.

The film starts with some suitably gory murders, seemingly setting the stage for a by-the-books slasher movie. But after these first murders (SPOILERS) the killer kidnaps a young girl and keeps her in his home as his surrogate daughter (his own died in a car accident). The killer reveals that he chose his female victims because of supposed moral transgressions. These transgressions are sins of the "modern woman" (sexual freedom, freedom of choice, etc.) and he wants to keep his new "daughter" as a pure, virginal woman.

The movie twists and turns, but it's mostly psychological. It plays with genre conventions, such as a woman's savior almost always being a male figure, and changes them. In the end, she is seen by her attackers as a porcelain doll to be manipulated, not a real human being. (SPOILERS) She eventually is capable of saving herself; no man is needed.

The direction is fine, the acting is okay for a low-budget '70's horror movie, but the uniqueness of this film is its greatest quality. Many viewers came to this movie expecting a cookie-cutter serial killer movie, and that's not what "The Toolbox Murders" gives you.
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Nasty little horror film
Maciste_Brother1 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is one nasty little horror film. Very misogynistic and exploitive. The first half of the movie just shows a masked killer slashing, impaling, drilling women with various working tools. But then after the gruesome start, the film eventually concentrates on the killer's obsession with a girl he doesn't kill but kidnaps. The kidnapped girl's brother searches for his sister, which leads to his eventual murder (which is sorta sick as well). In fact, everyone pretty much dies by the end of the movie except for one survivor. Guess who it is?

Even with its uber sleazy aspect (there's a scene where a woman pleasures herself which is startling), I still recommend this low budget movie, to fans of exploitation flicks and to movie fans in general who want to see how cinema from the 1970s was really out there, in terms of violence and sex. Even Stephen King liked it.
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The Opening Cascade of Misogynistic Gore is All Anyone Remembers
Bonehead-XL11 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Toolbox Murders" is, in many ways, the definitive seventies exploitation movie. (Or "grindhouse movie," if you prefer.) It is sleazy, gory, uncomfortable, campy, boring, melodramatic, effortless, completely unpolished, tonally uneven, and only could have been made in the seventies. It is clear that the film's origins rose out of some skid row producer somewhere looking at the numbers "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" made and thinking, "If that's what you can do with just a chainsaw, let's throw the whole toolbox at them!" It even claims to be based on a true story! The movie's opening twenty minutes is the stuff of slasher/gorefest legend and, rightfully, earned the movie a spot on the UK's Video Nasty list. A man enters an apartment complex, at first appearing to be a normal repairman. Soon, he brandishes an electric drill, with a truly scary looking drill bit, and chases the girl around the room. At one point, the killer dons a ski mask, but at an askew angle, distorting the human face even further. A large chested girl in a thin white t-shirt, clearly not wearing a bra, steps into the shower accidentally, wetting her chest, before disrobing further. She gets murdered with a claw hammer. (With the claw end. Because no slasher movie killer ever uses the blunt side of a hammer.) Another girl wanders in, sees the massive rings of blood on the linoleum floor, and is quickly killed with a screwdriver. The film pauses briefly introduces its main heroine, played by kid-star cutie Pamelyn Ferdin, and kidnaps her before launching into its most memorable moment. A sultry redhead, with earrings in and in full make-up, played by future porn starlet Kelly Nichols, slips into the bath, a painfully sappy pop-duet playing on the radio. Her hands slowly sneak under the bubbles, an enthusiastic masturbation session beginning. (This sequence prompted my viewing partner to say, quote: "Grindhouse movies are great.") Completely preoccupied by her self-administration, the radio playing loudly, the killer sneaks into her apartment unencumbered. As she reaches screaming orgasm, the man in the mask enters the bathroom, humming along to the music, aiming an old fashion nail gun at her. In what Stephen King called his favorite death scene in a horror movie, the girl runs around the apartment completely nude, barely avoiding the flying nails. After, unsuccessfully, attempting to bribe the man with sexual favors (Obviously), she is finally nailed. It's not enough to kill her though. The injured woman stumbles against a poster of herself hanging on the wall. The super-cheesy love song crescendos on the radio. The man shoots her in the head with the nail gun. Blood and brain matter splatter over the narcissistic poster. The scenes cuts away as blood drips down into her pubes. This is slasher movie pop-art.

Similar to how the only thing people talk, or remember, about "Trilogy of Terror" is the Zuni Fetish Doll, the opening cascade of misogynistic gore is all anyone remembers about "The Toolbox Murder." It's far to say the fame peaks early. The rest of the movie is devoted to Ferdin's brother and the landlord's son investigating the kid sister's kidnapping. The Scooby-Doo teen sleuthing stuff is dull. The movie reveals fairly early that the landlord, B-movie stalwart Cameron Mitchell, is the killer, in a great reveal of the toolbox. He has the girl tied up in his bedroom. While there's not much to the scenes of Mitchell going on about his dead daughter and how corrupt and impure the world is, it is a joy to see him ham it up. Mitchell goes full-crazy, jumping around, lips quivering, very convincingly playing the kind of traumatized, delusional moralizer that you'd expect to go on a power tools themed murder spree. The plot twist at the start of the third act comes out of nowhere but it also revitalizes the movie. Because you can't have a true sleaze-murder flick without a little rape, a hugely uncomfortable sexual assault happens. (Thankfully, it's mostly off-screen.) The story wraps up kind of unsatisfactory while the film tries to convince us it really is based on a true story, no really, seriously guys, we swear.

I could probably go into a long diatribe about why we enjoy films like this, what that says about our culture, my specific generation of young people, etc. I won't do that for brevity's sake. If you're looking for an introduction into the sleazy, sometimes disturbing world of grindhouse cinema, I don't think I could find a better one then "The Toolbox Murders." Buy it on Blu-Ray! It features one of my all time favorite taglines: "Bit by bit… He carved a nightmare!" Someday, I'm going to start a horror-themed metal band and make a song based around that one.
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Entertainingly nasty slasher trash.
Scott LeBrun10 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A warning to the unaware: the "toolbox murders" of the title don't take up very much of the screen time. They're merely a prelude to some sordid, twisted melodrama that some viewers merely find boring. But if you don't mind this shift in focus, you should find sticking with this movie to be worth it. Certainly the acting is bravura stuff; some of the performers take a great delight in their roles.

A maniacal handyman uses the implements to be found in his trusty toolbox to slaughter the female tenants in an apartment complex. The incredibly stupid detective on the case doesn't once think of an obvious course of action. (So the movie may lose some viewers on that basis as well.) And before long young Laurie Ballard (cute and perky former child actress Pamelyn Ferdin ("The Beguiled") is abducted by the killer and held captive.

Cameron Mitchell, seemingly an actor who could never turn down a paycheck, is the star of this junky but oh so amusing nonsense. Co-starring as his nephew is Wesley Eure of 'Land of the Lost' fame; Aneta Corsaut ('The Andy Griffith Show') and Nicolas Beauvy ("The Cowboys") play Laurie's mom and brother. And cast as the detective is Tim Donnelly (brother to director Dennis Donnelly), who appeared on the TV series 'Emergency!' and went on to be the star of "The Clonus Horror". You really have to hand it to Mitchell: he does NOT phone it in here. Marianne Walter, better known as veteran porn actress and makeup artist Kelly Nichols, has a memorable bit as a victim who pleasures herself in the bathtub (to the strains of a touching country ditty dubbed "Pretty Lady") before the Toolbox Murderer comes calling.

Basing itself on some supposedly "true story" (as text at the end indicates), this is undeniably entertaining stuff for those with a taste for the sick and seamy, and it just grows more and more grim as it goes along, accompanied by an incredibly haunting score by George Deaton. Legendary cameraman and d.p. Gary Graver handles the cinematography.

Even if it's not for everybody, one can't deny that this movie does have its moments.

Followed by a 2004 remake directed by none other than Tobe Hooper.

Seven out of 10.
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Decent slow paced slasher..
Warning: Spoilers
Having stated in other reviews I've done that I'm a big fan of slashers and a collector of horror movies, it was pretty obvious, The Toolbox Murders was on my to-review list. I finally got around to watching this movie earlier this year. It had been on my list to watch for a while, but I just didn't get around to it due to whatever reasons, and one of them was, most movies with over blown hype don't live up to expectations. The others were I was just too busy with watching other horror movies I hadn't got watching, but here I am finally after watching it. Whilst The Toolbox Murders certainly didn't live up to its UK "video nasty" status, it was none the less an enjoyable slasher for those who can give it the patience and time it requires. The story unfolds with a series of grisly but relatively not so graphic murders around an apartment block committed by a rather large man in a ski mask. This takes up the first portion of the movie which is around 25 minutes to 30 minutes. The music in the film, is pretty awesome, and that alone has earned it a few extra stars it might not have got had it not of been for the music featured in the movie. I absolutely love the first song played to the first murder scene in the film - it is awesome. Anyway, pretty much after the series of grisly murders which takes place, the movie is slowed down to a crawl in a detective based story to find out what, why and who is doing all these murders. The storyline is not, at best, that great and the movie certainly takes its toll on pace and editing - the latter I believe they didn't do too much of. The acting isn't too bad, but neither is it too good, it's just more or less standard here. As the movie progresses it becomes apparent who the serial killer is, and we get to find out some interesting dialog in the 'bedroom scene' about why he has killed all the people he did, and he tries to justify what he did. The scene itself is interesting to watch, and is probably the best bit of dialog in the whole movie. There's somewhat of a happy ending too.

The Toolbox Murders is just one of these movies where if one little thing had of been left out, it wouldn't have been really worth the watch. In this case, it most certainly goes to the music during the first 40 minutes of the movie, which seems to make the film feel more smoothly. It'll definitely take dedicated fans of the slasher/"video nasty" genre to appreciate it, and to give time to allow the movie to slowly pace along after the first 20 minutes or so. If you can bare with it, and appreciate it, The Toolbox Murders will leave you somewhat entertained. Don't believe all the hype though about how violent or shocking it is, by today's standards the movie is not that explicitly violent. It seems rather tame.

I can't say I didn't enjoy it or I did enjoy it - it falls somewhere in between and I'll probably give The Toolbox Murders a few more viewings before leaving it in the DVD rack for a while. If it had not of featured the music it does have, it'd probably get a 5 from me, but because the music tremendously makes this movie, I've given it a low-end 7.

There's two DVD releases that I know of, and they're the Blue Underground release in the US, and a VIPCO DVD release in the UK. The Blue Underground release has a lot of extra features, is remastered, and is uncut. The VIPCO 2000 UK DVD release is a bare-bones-less-then-average DVD quality release, and is cut by over 1 minute which removes the scene of the girl getting shot in the back and head with the nail gun, and the entire scene where she's in the bedroom pleading with the killer. So I think it's obvious which DVD release to go for. Though, by today's standards, the movie should pass for an '18' in the UK uncut with ease.

As I said, it requires patience and understanding to enjoy the movie.
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"He got her with a nail gun."
Backlash0077 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers

With the release of Tobe Hooper's remake/re-imagining, I thought it high time I seek out this drive in classic. From the get-go, this thing has style. I really dug the non-traditional flashbacks. It actually took me a few seconds to realize they were indeed flashbacks. After a few of these quick flashbacks and some eerie dialogue from a preacher on the radio, the film gets real dirty, real fast. We witness three brutal murders. The titular Toolbox murderer goes from apartment to apartment and mutilates three beautiful women. The first with a power drill, the next with a hammer, and the last with a screwdriver. Even more unsettling is the fact that the backdrop music for this mayhem is George Deaton's "Carolina in the Morning." In fact, all of the killings are juxtaposed with Deaton's warm and cozy cowboy songs. The best of these is the Marianne Walter death and Deaton's "Pretty Lady." The pairing is cinematic genius. Ms. Walter is bathing and slowly touching herself; she seems to be really enjoying her body. The next thing you know Deaton's lyrics are saying "Take me to your secret place" and Ms. Walter is masturbating (I felt this scene was quite shocking even by today's standards). After witnessing this, the killer bursts in with a nail gun and chases down the naked starlet. He eventually shoots the "pretty lady" and the nails penetrate her flesh. I'm telling you Freud would have a field day. That scene speaks volumes about the slasher sub-genre. It was my favorite scene in the movie, and I hear Stephen King loves that one as well. One big complaint from most viewers is that it slows down after the initial murders. I didn't have a big problem with this because I had always heard this was the case, and was prepared for the film to drag here. The many plot twists near the end liven things up a bit. It's pretty unpredictable for sure. Cameron Mitchell, from such acclaimed films as Space Mutiny and The Demon, is the only name star here and he gives a damn good performance; the best I've seen from him actually. He's over the top and pitch perfect. The film certainly lives up to it's sleazy exploitation status.
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This may be sleazy, gory, and gratuitous, but it's got a point in there (Spoilers may follow)
one4now412 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Just hear me out, you. Okay. Is "The Toolbox Murders" really sadistic and gory? Yes, even if many of us have seen films much more sadistic and gory. Is this film very sleazy and perverted? It sure is, but what the hell? At the same time, is it still an interesting piece of social commentary? Yes, it really is. In the film, Cameron Mitchell plays a really wacked-out killer stalking women he views as "sinful" and sadistically punishing them with murder by various types of garage tools. He kills over things from masturbation to sexual promiscuity to drinking, all because he flipped out about the ugliness of society as he sees it after the death of his beloved daughter. He kidnaps one teen girl because she seems pure to him and reminds him very much of his daughter. In fact, he believes that she IS his daughter. Her brother comes looking for her, and ends up getting offed in a fairly eerie and disturbing scene by one of his friends, who is Mitchell's equally screwed-up nephew. I believe that this film has some very important things to say of religious fanaticism. It deals with the traumas that can be born out of and spread to others through one's desperate clutching for purity and goodness. What happens with the nephew is a great example of how these fanatics can screw up their own family even generations below the original psychotic freak. The suburban setting, the bloody baby doll, the fact that Mitchell's twisted religious obsessions drove his own nephew further into the abyss... It's all part of a very important commentary, an intelligent and artistic commentary that belies all of the film's excesses. I love "The Toolbox Murders", it's a warped classic that does plenty right while discarding of all the rules.
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Who writes this stuff
shannonphoenix6 July 2006
I saw this movie some years ago and asked myself a few questions: (Considering it was the 70s) Why is it that this guy was able to kill some of these women when he was so far apart from them and could have easily eluded him without injury? Answer: Because they were women and even in the 70s, women were considered brainless. Why didn't some of them just pick up something and throw it at him and then kick the crap out of him? Answer: Because in those days women were still considered weak and damsels in distress and still needed a strong empty-headed man around to "save" them. Why is it that for absolutely no reason at all, their shirts would suddenly fly open for no apparent reason? Answer: Because it was the 70s. Why were the women described as "exhibitionist?" Answer: Because if you didn't know already, all women are that way, right ladies. God knows that's what I like to do in my spare time (sarcastic of course.) I found myself screaming at the TV for the women "throw the lamp at him!" since they just stood their screaming when he was clearly at least 10 feet from them. It is just your typical low budget B horror movie full of butts, boobs, brainless, bubble headed bimbos from the Planet Playtex. I doubt very seriously if the female actors in it really wanted to do some of the stuff in this movie, but hey, I understand, a paycheck is a paycheck and they may get noticed to do something substantial.

But for the most part, this movie was the antithesis of all the dumb low budget B horror movies of the 1970s and even some of the 1980s. Although some of the acting was actually descent, the story line itself was choppy of ridicules and down right stupid and stigmatized women as being weak and stupid.

My condolences to the female actors in this film.
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