Toolbox Murders (2004)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Jace Anderson and Adan Gierasch
Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Marco Rodriguez
IMDb 5.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 53% Metacritic NO DATA
This is a Tobe Hooper remake of the original 1978 film directed by Dennis Donnelly. In this film, a young couple rent an apartment at the Lusman Arms apartment building. This place has a dark past which includes being the home of Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia. The wife, Nell, is immediately against staying there and wants to go to a different place. Steven, her husband, points out that moving there put them in a tight spot financially and that they are just going to have to deal with it. “It” being the dumpy conditions, the weird freaky neighbors, the creepy handyman, the skeevy landlord and all the strange sounds that seem to come from inside the walls and him being gone all the time while doing his residency.
Right away odd things start happening. People start disappearing. For example, Nell has become friends with Julia, a gal a few apartments down, and she suddenly disappears. We also have some very strange tenants. The manager/landlord for starters. He is super creepy. Then there’s Ned, the quiet and emo-goth handyman. There’s Julia, a fitness nut who was once very overweight and is now almost anorexic thin. We have Austin, some jackass teenage boy who sets up cameras in some of the women’s apartments so he can perve over them later without their knowledge. There’s also an old man that lives there. He’s lived there for decades. And although creepy might not be the exact word to describe him, he definitely makes you feel uneasy. He rambles about buildings being like people and having personalities and memories. It’s eerie. That’s the word. Eerie.
Later, Nell also finds out that on every floor the fourth apartment is missing. There’s no 104, 204, 304, etc. The landlord seems to know something about it but is sketchy in his responses to her questions. Nell starts researching the building at the Los Angeles Preservation Society. She encounters a very enthusiastic employee and learns of magic symbols found in the building, black magic, cults, tons of information. This includes finding out that an entire townhouse exists within the building, hence the missing rooms.
She takes this information and starts to investigate the building. Remember, her husband is a doctor so he’s practically never home. So, she’s doing this all on her own. She locates the hatch that leads to the hidden townhouse. She eventually finds a hoard of dead bodies, her friend Julia, and tons of horrific things. She also finds the killer. Once he appears he removes his mask, showing himself to be a monster referred to (in the credits) as Coffin Baby. Apparently he was born from death, clawing his way out of his dead mother’s womb while she lay in her coffin at her burial.
Now, this is one time the creepy voyeur teen actually helps by being a pervert. He goes through his tapes and finds out that he video recorded Julia’s death. He grabs the tape and runs to Nell’s apartment to tell her but finds her husband, already panicked, instead. Austin explains everything to Steven and they go looking for Nell.
Steven finds Nell and frees her. He also has to fight Coffin Baby is they are going to make it out of there alive. He quickly succeeds in whacking Coffin Baby with a heavy object and then pulling a shelving unit down on top of him. Nell and Steven leave and the police arrive to handle the scene. They lift the debris only to find that coffin Baby isn’t there. While Steven is taken to a hospital to treat injuries he sustained during the struggle, Nell returns home to her apartment. Coffin Baby comes crashing through her window and goes to attack her. They struggle and she wraps a cord around his neck. He raises himself to kill her but is halted just long enough for the police to bust in and shoot him and he falls out the window. They all go to the window to see the hanging body and discover that there is no body, only the dangling cord.
Now, I have got to be honest. I have no idea why this movie would get a 53% from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not saying it was horrible but, I can’t see why they would give THIS film a 53% and House at the End of the Street and 11%. It just doesn’t make sense.
Then the whole thing saying he clawed his way out of his dead mother’s womb?!?!? Seriously??? That’s not even plausible. If she was already being buried a) how did the coroner miss a full term baby and b) that long without a live womb to live in, that baby would be dead. It’s just utter nonsense.
The rest of the movie was alright. It really seemed like I was asking myself what was going on a lot of the time until the end…and I hate that. It seemed a little choppy and disconnected to me. But it was still entertaining enough that I watched the whole movie and only checked the time counter once and that was near the end.
I can’t say that I would recommend this movie to anyone but, if I were asked if one should watch it, I would tell them “it’s not great but, it’s not horrible either”.
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