The Toolbox Murders

The Toolbox Murders


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

These walls don't speak, they scream. It's the old spooky house horror ride all over again, with variations on a phantom-without-opera theme that allows credulity a little wriggle room for the sake of other people's fear.

Tobe Hooper, who went to Texas three times with a chainsaw, has not lost his touch. Even if the plot creaks like a dungeon gate, the performances, especially Angela Bettis as Nell, the paranoid teacher who won't let bumps in the night go unreported, are way better than your average slasher flick death fodder job lot.

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The Lusman Arms in Los Angeles prides itself on its longevity - built in the Thirties, scared people ever since. As a low rent hotel, it has the feel of The Chelsea in New York, where Sid Vicious's girlfriend died. The cons are so not mod. They seldom work, which brings out the mentally subnormal handyman with his toolkit. Electricity on the blink? Call Luis (Marco Rodriguez) at the front desk, who will send Ned (Adam Gierasch), the verbally dysfunctional Evil Dead lookalike, to stare at you through greasy long hair, like a rapist in a rain slicked cul-de-sac.

When people start disappearing, Nell complains and gets nowhere. Even her partner Steven (Brent Roam), who works God-awful hours at the hospital as a doc slave med student, is patronising. It's not that he doesn't believe her; he's too exhausted to listen.

What places this higher than a psycho-on-the-loose log cabin massacre movie is the care and attention to detail that brings the infamous Lusman to life. Trouble is taken in every department and the script (Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch) remains loyal to its skewed logic.

Hooper is not a pastiche merchant, at least not here, which adds to the genuine sense of panic that begins to grip the house. Bettis resembles Holly Hunter in her twenties, with that same conviction and energy. She shakes off the dusty sub plots, descales the whey-faced horror toads, wakes up the cynics and tells the Texas Chainsaw aficionados to stop salivating over past murders, however gory, because what she's going through is for real and it matters whether she lives or dies.

NOTE TO THRILLERPHILES: toss the chiches into the trash; this one bleeds.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2004
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People disappear in grizzly circumstances in a low rent, old fashioned Los Angeles hotel.
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Director: Tobe Hooper

Writer: Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch

Starring: Angela Bettis, Juliet Landau, Brent Roam, Christopher Doyle, Rance Howard, Marco Rodriguez, Adam Gierasch

Year: 2004

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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