The Toolbox Murders (1978)

Yeah, that’s an exploitative movie poster all right, but my favorite part is the pun in the tagline. It’s one of the reasons why I occasionally mix this one up with The Driller Killer in my mind. That and that he’s holding a drill too.

The Toolbox Murders starts as a slasher film, but after about half an hour it turns into a thriller as the killer kidnaps a 15-year-old girl and her family and the police begin to investigate. What follows is a gruesome story of murder, incest, and family honor, before finally falling back into a slasher film at the end with a serious final girl having just been through Hell. The transition between the two parts is pretty sudden, so if you go in expecting a gore fest, you’re pretty much done after 30 minutes. It’s a shocking film, both in its brutality and in the mental states of its characters, and I’m pleased to say that this movie has held up. It is still disturbing, horrific, and exploitative, with moments that will make you cringe. It does drag in the middle but eventually picks up to a rapid and horrifying close.

So, how to begin? You ever wonder where the complaints of misogyny in ’80s slashers films come from? Well, it comes from the misogyny of ’70s proto-slashers! Here’s a prime example too, with the main serial killer intentionally targeting “sinners” who happen to all be women. Then later you get a rape scene after having gotten to watch the perceived hero get torched to death. By comparison, Visiting Hours looks always nice to women, and that movie was specifically about a misogynist mass murderer.

If you’re curious about where this particular piece of exploitation sleaze came from, it was conceived by a producer as a sort of rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even down to a fake postscript about the movie having been based on real life events. That claim to reality isn’t even remotely true, but The Toolbox Murders has a bigger claim to fame in that it managed to get absolutely no positive critical reviews and banned in England as well as a remake in the mid-2000s by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, so hey…good job?

There’s a trash metal band called F.K.U. that has a song dedicated to this movie. “He Knows the Drill”. Check it out sometime.

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