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Home | Film Review: The ToolBox Murders (1978)

Film Review: The ToolBox Murders (1978)


Bit by bit, he carved a nightmare! In a quiet Los Angeles apartment complex, a deranged handyman savagely murders “immoral” women with the tools of his trade: clawhammers, screwdrivers, power drills and even a deadly nail gun. But these gruesome murders are just the beginning of this landmark epic of violence and depravity that was vilified by critics, banned by censors … and treasured by splatter fans worldwide.


It’s door to door gore and nudity as we watch an apartment complex get terrorized by a ski masked voyeuristic maniac who uses his handy toolbox to build this graphic cult classic. It’s one of those movies that always looks better when viewed after midnight. I think the alore of the film is the mindless killings that happen in the first half. It’s only when they try to introduce a storyline that the movie has some problems. That being said, I still feel it’s better than it’s loosely based 2003 remake titled Toolbox Murders.

After a drive thru the opening credits our toolman arrives to claim the first victim, a drunk female tenant. Our faceless murderer uses a drill as his weapon of choice here. He drills her arm leaving her trail blood as she attempted to escape, but after he drills thru a door it’s apparent that there is no escape. She meets her maker after getting a hole drilled thru her back. There is no time wasted in moving over to the next apartment and our second victim. This time it’s a hot younger woman and there’s just enough time for a topless scene before she gets her brains bashed in with a hammer. Keeping things rolling along, enter third victim who finds her friend’s dead body and gets a screwdriver in the stomach for her troubles.

It’s not until the next day that we get the 4th and most dramatic victim. This scene is the exploitation soul of the film and is also featured on the cover art. Tooltime holds off a few steamy seconds which is just enough time for our scream queen to masturbate in the bath tub. When she notices the Toolbox Murderer standing in the doorway, she gets out of the tub and runs for her life. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said there is extended full frontal nudity here. He chases the nude tenant around the apartment shooting his nail gun and barely missing each time. Finally, she ends up in her bed pleading for her life where she gets finished off with a nail the ribs followed by a nail in the head.

Now, I’m not going to go into as much details about the rest of the movie as from here on the classic toolbox murders are over, not to say there aren’t more killings later but I don’t want to give everything away.

Vance Kingsley (Cameron Mitchell) owner of the apartment complex kidnaps one of his younger tenants, Laurie (Pam Ferdin) where he goes from blaming society for his daughters death (there are flashbacks splattered about the film of his daughter’s car accident) to believing that Laurie actually is his daughter. He gives a morbid confession to the bound & gagged girl telling her he’s been getting rid of all the evil people so all that is left is the good people. There is an interesting monkey wrench twist at the end that reveals Vance isn’t the only Kingsley who has a screw loose.

I would definitely recommend this movie. Sure, there’s poor acting and the special effects are weak by today’s standards but if you’re reading this, you’re a horror fan and you know that comes with the territory especially when watching some of these dirty little treasures from the 1970’s.

The ToolBox Murders (1978)

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