The Right Tool for Murder!
A madman is on the loose in an apartment complex and he’s going around, randomly killing women in their flats! At first it’s a flurry of killings, and then the activity slows down as the maniac kidnaps a fifteen year old girl and ties her up in a bedroom, holding her hostage while regaling her with stories about his own dead daughter. You see, it turns out that his child died in a car accident a few years before, and now he is filled with rage over the seemingly random act of death by God, so he’s taking it out on those he finds distasteful. He kills the promiscuous and the sinful. Oh, and he does so by carrying around a big steel toolbox, full of home repair weapons he can use. And oh boy does he. Meanwhile, as the inept cops are looking for the killer but bungling it, the brother of the kidnapped girl conducts his own, amateur investigation, and soon discovers not only who is behind the murders and who is holding his sister, but the nefarious person helping to cover it all up. Can he stop The Toolbox Murders before his sister becomes the next victim?
How have I never seen this? I know I scanned the box at the local video store many, many times. For some reason, I never went home with it and the movie sort of faded from my memory, except for that gorgeous box art. I did see the remake and enjoyed it, but even that didn’t tempt me to seek out the original. Don’t make my mistake, watch it if you can. This is a movie that is about as slimy as it gets without dipping into that Last House on the Left territory. Within the first fifteen minutes, we have three bloody, gory, and unsettling murders. The killer simply tears through their bodies, using a nail gun and other implements like the clawed end of a hammer. He shows no mercy and deals death with a desperate sort of aplomb (think Maniac and you’ll get what I mean). The movie slows down once he commits the kidnapping and his identity is revealed and plays like a made-for-TV detective movie for a while. And then it slides into the final act, reclaiming the blood and baseness for a rousing, if very downbeat, finale. The gore is pretty good for a movie this old and the acting ranges from doable to pretty good. It does drag just a little bit in the middle, when the boy sleuth is on the case, but not in a bad way. The movie is simply downshifting for a bit, allowing the audience to catch its breath.
The Toolbox Murders lines up very well with those late-70s/early-80s sleazeball low-budget films like Driller Killer and Maniac. It matches their tone and is an ugly dip into the end of an ugly decade. This isn’t a slasher where you’re rooting for the villain to dispatch dumb teens in innovative ways, but it is a movie that exploits the set-piece death idea and exploits it pretty well. While it doesn’t go all the way into utter sleaze, it does toe the line effectively. Very recommended and streaming right now on Tubi.