THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (Dennis Donnelly, 1978)

Masked killer with a drill in The Toolbox Murders

The Toolbox Murders / Lo squartatore di Los Angeles (1978)
Running time: 93 mins Directed by: Dennis Donnelly Produced by: Tony DiDio
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure

A barely adequate attempt at a gory horror film, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is best enjoyed as a period piece. While the story is weak and dialogues moronic, Gary Graver’s lens captures 1970’s fashions and interiors in all their glory. Shaggy carpets and wood panelling indoors, soft fluffy toilet seat covers, earthenware flower pots and so on. Girls who do their hair and put on full makeup before taking a bubbly bath, boys in tight jeans and San Fernando Valley’s lush vegetation almost make up for the film’s lack of tension and leaden pacing. The final act piles on improbable twists to bring this muddled mess of a film to a close.

Dennis Donnelly’s THE TOOLBOX MURDERS doesn’t work as either slasher film or psycho thriller. It’s plodding and tiresome, despite the relative high bodycount (mostly women, portrayed as weak and not too bright) and the story makes less and less sense as it goes along. The film’s opening act (tools applied in gruesome ways!), low-rent vibe and artisanal gore effects warrant a viewing, but the 1970s have plenty of way better films to offer than this misogynistic clunker. For example, Abel Ferrara’s THE DRILLER KILLER is equally shoddy and slow-paced, features a similarly power tool-obsessed killer, but has way more personality.

Tobe Hooper’s TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004) strikes a different tone altogether and has its own share of flaws.

Reviewed in December 2020