Toolbox Murders
2005
New to Los Angeles, Nell and Steven Barrow (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) rent an apartment in the run-down Lusman Arms building in this gruesome slasher flick from Tobe Hooper. Soon, Nell begins to notice that young women in the building are meeting violent deaths. With the help of nice-guy actor "Jazz" Rooker (Rance Howard), Nell starts investigating -- and makes some disturbing discoveries.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

[Spoilers ahead.] It's a gory slasher-film remake from Tobe Hooper: If that information makes it sound appealing, you'll probably like it more than I did. It's not the killings that I minded, it's that they seemed disconnected from the rest of the movie. As the mystery centered on the building itself, I came to suspect the man who built it, which alas, that was just a red herring. Too bad, since it would have made a lot more sense than the villain who arrives out of left field with no explanation as to his identity or how he got there. Maybe they're saving that information for a sequel, but who cares enough to wait and find out? It's fairly obvious that Hooper and his creative team are trying to fashion a new horror villain for the pop-cultural pantheon, stealing elements of his character from the greats who came before him, but I've seen scarier monsters on boxes of children's cereal.

The movie didn't miss every mark. I loved how the camera was frequently off-center in a shot, maintaining constant tension because of the expectation that something is going to jump into the empty space in the frame. And whatever location they found was a great one; this rathole is even dingier and more depressing than the much-vaunted set of "Dark Water." But the movie has a low-budget feel in a bad way (cartoonishly squishy sound effects during the kill scenes) and the killer defies all reason, especially with a body count that high over that long a period of time and never being suspected let alone caught. I appreciated the film's attempts at being something better than it was, such as thematically tying the young women's deaths to the way Hollywood chews up and spits out so many young actresses, but ultimately it was just another ho-hum slasher flick with a lousy script and an uninteresting villain.

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