TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004) Reviews and overview

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Toolbox Murders is a 2004 American supernatural horror film directed by Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce; Salem’s Lot; The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) from a screenplay by Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. It is a very loose remake of the 1978 film of the same name and was co-produced by Tony DiDio.

Daisy Rain goes to her apartment in the Lusman Arms, a former luxury hotel undergoing renovations, and is beaten to death with a hammer by a man wearing a balaclava. In another room, new tenants Nell and Steven Barrows, a teacher and a medical intern, are introduced to the amenities and a few of the residents by Byron, the building manager.

As Steven works long hours, Nell is left alone most of the time, and befriends Julia Cunningham, a neighbor down the hall, and Chas Rooker, an elderly man who reveals some of the history of the structure, mentioning it was made by Jack Lusman, who disappeared mysteriously, and that builders died while working on it.

Days pass, but the Lusman Arms are plagued by mysterious circumstance; strange noises are heard throughout it and coming from the intercoms, Nell finds a trinket containing human teeth in a wall, and Julia and another tenant vanish, having been killed (with a drill and a nail gun, respectively) by the ski masked murderer, who hides their bodies…


Toolbox Murders is not so much a remake of its 1978 ancestor as it is a complete re-imaging. Yes there’s a nail gun murder and a similar masked killer theme; but this time around we have an intriguing supernatural sheen, which makes the movie a tad more interesting. The rubbish mystery has been replaced with a good old school horror plot that works wonderfully, making this one of the best remakes of the noughties.” A Slash Above…

On the plus side, there’s the competent acting by the cast, moody murder scenes, some jump-scares and the building itself, which seems to have a life of it’s own. […] This is better than all of Tobe Hooper’s recent films, including Crocodile (2000), The Mangler (1995) and Night Terrors (1993), but nowhere near as good as his 70’s classics.” Critical Condition

“Jace Anderson and Gierasch’s notion of an apartment building that’s one vast spell owes a debt of inspiration to Fritz Leiber’s 1977 novel Our Lady of Darkness (itself an homage to the spooky tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, M.R. James et al.), but their script is mostly an excuse for a series of stalk-and-slash scenes that Hooper executes efficiently but with no particular originality.” TV Guide

“The movie is just so utterly derivative, and takes too much elements of its atmosphere from Dario Argento, and caused me to roll my eyes as it mercilessly ripped off Argento. The movie just doesn’t work as a tongue-in-cheek slasher film. It seems the first half of the film strives to be a really serious slasher film with a tense story, and then by the second half just throws it all away becoming very campy and often times really stupid.” Cinema Crazed

“Pic gleefully quotes from Psycho, The Perils of Pauline and even references Texas Chain Saw, underlining the idea that the movie is a love/hate letter to Hollywood. Toolbox may not renew the splatter genre in any significant way, but the chills and kills prove Hooper, when armed with the right script, can still tighten the fright screws.” Variety

“Only about half of Toolbox Murders’ weaknesses stem from it being exactly the movie that an attentive student of the slasher subgenre would expect in a well-funded direct-to-video production from 2003. The other half are the result of Toolbox Murders being not quite well-funded enough. Apparently a significant portion of the financing fell through when the movie was already well underway…” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

Cast and  characters:

  • Angela Bettis as Nell Barrows
  • Brent Roam as Steven Barrows
  • Marco Rodríguez as Luis Saucedo
  • Rance Howard as Charles “Chas” Rooker (Ticks)
  • Juliet Landau as Julia Cunningham
  • Adam Gierasch as Ned Lundy (The Hollow; Crocodile)
  • Greg Travis as Byron McLieb
  • Christopher Doyle as Coffin Baby
  • Adam Weisman as Austin Sterling
  • Christina Venuti as Jennifer
  • Sara Downing as Saffron Kirby (The Forsaken; Rats)
  • Jamison Reeves as Hudson
  • Stephanie Silverman as Dora Sterling
  • Alan Polonsky as Philip Sterling
  • Charlie Paulson as Hans
  • Eric Ladin as Johnny Turnbull
  • Sheri Moon Zombie as Daisy Rain (House of 1000 Corpses; The Devil’s Rejects)
  • Price Carson as Officer Daniel Stone
  • Carlease Burke as Officer Melody Jacobs
  • Bob McMinn as Shadow Man
  • Ralph Morris as Nell’s Father

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