An apartment block is terrorised by a masked killer with a penchant for using handy implements to murder his young female victims. Until one goes missing… Blu-ray No.30 in 88 Films Slasher Classics Collection.
The most interesting thing about this movie is that to some extent it’s like Psycho (1960), but in reverse. It starts out with this gruesome string of murders, but the entire tone of the movie changes when he kidnaps and keeps his final victim and the killing stops. The identity of our killer is suddenly revealed to us as we get to see into his world.
It is here that we learn his tragic backstory; the motivation behind all the murders. And despite the cruel nature in which he dispatches the girls, his broken-hearted demeanor somehow manages to inspire great sympathy for his character.
This formula, while different, doesn’t always work, as is evident by the original When A Stranger Calls (1979), which begins with its iconic terrifying opening sequence but then descends into one peculiar and depressing hour of the killer trying helplessly to re-enter society. Fortunately this is where Toolbox succeeds.
The depiction of the female victims when under attack is extremely frustrating and frankly quite insulting. They’re not very smart. They don’t move fast at all. And they are all considerably weak. It’s an unfavourable comparison but for the most part they really do act like cattle waiting for the slaughter. You can probably guess from all that just how horrid the acting is here.
It’s easy to pull out the ‘sexist’ label here, but in similar fashion there is also a male character who does little to nothing to stop his supposed buddy from continuously throwing lit matches at his accelerant-soaked clothes. And I’m pretty sure that this scene takes place in a room with at least one unlocked door…
If you can forgive some appalling performances, there is still the violence that follows. The second half of the movie has many redeeming qualities. Some favour The Funhouse (1981) director Tobe Hooper’s 2004 remake, but I find this original to be more intriguing.
Collectors will be happy to know that for now anyways, the slipcase edition is still available on 88 Film’s website. And much like their Intruder release, the design is the same as the chosen cover art. The Special Features on this one is packed with interviews, Audio Commentary, the usual booklet and reversible cover. But most notably we have Toolbox uncut here in the UK for the first time, and in 4K Transfer to boot!