Monday, February 18, 2008

The Toolbox Murders (2003)

This, is should be noted, is not the original 70s grindhouse movie that I’ve yet to see, but is the 2003 Tobe Hooper remake. I guess if anyone was going to remake an old nasty horror movie, the creator of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre might as well be the one.

The film stars a young couple (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) as they move into the worst apartment building in the country, complete with a wide array of non-functional utilities and the occasional screaming coming from the neighbors’ apartments. The screaming is generally connected with the film’s title, as the building seems to be haunted by a figure dressed all in black that pops up every ten or twenty minutes to brutally murder somebody with a handyman’s tool like a hammer, electric drill, nail gun, saw, or the like. There’s a great deal of suspicion cast upon the creepy maintenance man, Ned, so much so that we can easily wrote him off as having no chance of being the killer. The young wife quickly twigs to the fact that there’s a serious problem with the building, particularly when her friend Julia (played by Buffy’s Juliet Landau) disappears after making plans with her. Naturally nobody believes her, because why would there be anything suspicious about a series of disappearances in a creepy looking building, so she has to dig up the dark truth about the building all on her own.

If I had to point to one glaring flaw in the movie (and let’s be honest here, I do), it would be the dialogue. It starts out adequately enough, but it slowly spirals downward into complete nonsense. Sometimes it’s as simple as a character ominously informing another that the “lines are dead”, despite this being set in 2003 and every single person in the film probably having a cell phone nearby. Sometimes it’s a bit more than that, though, as when our beloved heroine has what amounts to a complete mental breakdown at the climax and begins babbling to her husband lines like “Steven, it’s a spell! It’s a spell, Steven! The building, it taps into something! It taps into something, Steven!” And on and on and on.

Let me just state that this is a good film, but the first half of it is definitely better than the second, as the silly mysticism that begins to crop up does nothing to help the story out. Isn’t it enough that there’s a killer secretly living in the building, does it have to be a magical killer that lengthens its own lifespan by putting people’s heads in vices? Still, this is a movie that looks really good and creepy, has some nice violent scenes, and some pretty good acting in it. If the story doesn’t perfectly hold up, well, were you really expecting that in a slasher movie?

Rating: ***

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