I think it’s safe to say that we all have a list of horror flicks that we just haven’t gotten around to checking out but have always meant to. For me, The Toolbox Murders was definitely on that list and when it was announced that we’d be doing this Video Nasties retrospective series, I jumped at the chance to peep this flick for the first time.
1978’s The Toolbox Murders has a pretty basic setup: (ski) masked killer stalks beautiful young women in an apartment complex and dispatches them in grisly fashion with, you guessed, toolbox implements. The thing that separates this flick from other slasher entries is an unbearably boring first half and a descent into a pretty dark psychological thriller in the second half. The last 20 minutes of the film make it abundantly clear as to why it was made a Video Nasty.
Beginning with an excruciatingly slow opening sequence of a drive along with the films killer, we are treated to small glimpses into his past in flashback sequences of a young girl, dead, at the scene of an accident. From here and in rather rapid succession the killer begins to pick off buxom beauties with anything in his toolbox arsenal. Drill, hammer, screwdriver and most memorably a nail gun, all used to carry out rather tame kills. Victims are smeared with copious amount of corn syrup blood to indicate the carnage the killer has left in his wake.
In between the kills the police bumble from crime scene to crime scene trying to root out our killer. The officers interview other residents, friends and the complex’s superintendent (Cameron Mitchell) who seems to have a very detailed knowledge of the victims personal lives and is immediately a red herring…but that would be too easy. Right?
We are also introduced to brother and sister characters, Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin) and Joey (Nicolas Beauvy). The two characters bicker back and forth and once Joey has gone out, the killer enters. In a twist Laurie is spared and kidnapped instead. Joey returns and seeing that a can of soda has been spilled in his absence, immediately knows that Laurie has been abducted (this kid is good).
After getting nowhere with the police Joey enlists the help of handy man and nephew of the super, Kent (Wesley Eure). The two “Hardy Boys” it up for a bit before going to the super’s house for supplies. Once there, the two have an awkward standoff with Uncle super (who has a suspicious toolbox on a nearby bench) before moving on. Focus is then put on the super who moves to the bedroom to reveal that he has sister Laurie gagged and bound to a bed. So the super WAS the killer! (shocked face).
From here creepy candy sucking ensues while he tells Laurie that the other girls were dirty birds and that she reminds him of his dead daughter and that he’ll keep her pure. Forever. Lots of crazy babble and over the top behavior follows before Joey and Kent return to the garage. Joey notices the toolbox and examines it. Inside he finds the bloody implements used to carry out the toolbox murders (always clean and put away your tools, kids). He immediately accuses the uncle to which nephew Kent responds to rather harshly. In the one scene I am almost certain earned the film its Video Nasties classification, Kent stalks Joey around the garage after dousing him in paint thinner, chanting while he does so and throwing lit matches at him. After several very tense minutes, Joey loses his footing and falls to the floor where Kent tosses one last match setting Joey ablaze.
Kent goes to the bedroom where uncle and Laurie are and after becoming very jealous of his uncles relationship with his “new daughter”, Kent reveals that “old daughter” wasn’t the symbol of purity she appeared and that he had been sleeping with her before she died…yeah, go ahead and marinate on that for a minute.
Kent attacks his uncle in the kitchen and after some creepy doll washing Kent returns to the bedroom to rescue Laurie…and rape her. See, Kent’s a little loopy too and also sees his dead cousin in her. In the aftermath, Laurie sees the knife that Kent used to kill his uncle and apparently uses it to kill him too. The closing scene is an a bloody Laurie walking across a parking lot while a title card of little importance gives an epilogue to the film.
Truly an odd entry in the Video Nasties catalog, The Toolbox Murders is kind of a mess of a film. Part slasher, part psychological thriller it never really finds its voice. Its clear though that it gained its infamy through a liberal amount of bloodshed, implied incest, not so implied rape and human bonfires.