The Toolbox Murders (1978)

Directed by Dennis Donnelly [Other horror films: N/A]

Certainly a movie that’s steeped in the 1970’s, The Toolbox Murders has a pretty fun idea and I think it does an okay job with it, but it’s possibly not the type of movie that people might be expecting.

At first, much of the film follows a standard slasher route, what with a  killer dispatching multiple women in bloody ways. The killer’s wearing a ski mask, and it almost seems a mystery as to who he is. But The Toolbox Murders isn’t that type of movie, and before long, we find out who the killer is and why they do the killing, with the rest of the film being a brother investigating the disappearance of his sister.

That might not sound like a great tonal shift, but honestly, I think it works out fine. We got some pretty solid kills in the first thirty minutes or so, so when it switched over to a girl being held captive by the killer, it felt natural enough. The killer was certainly pretty well-acted, and his religious mania was nicely laid out (in fact, he has a five minute dialogue – just him rambling on – which really shows where his mind’s at).

Not all of the acting is that great, though. I thought that Nicolas Beauvy and Wesley Eure were reasonable, and Eure added something a bit unique toward the end of the film, but neither were going to win awards over this. Cameron Mitchell (who starred in many horror films, such as Blood and Black Lace, Haunts, and The Demon) was pretty solid throughout, of course, but playing the abducted woman, Pamelyn Ferdin didn’t really feel alive until the finale.

The finale itself was interesting, though, with a few story shifts added in. I wouldn’t call any of them terribly shocking, but it did give the movie a bit of a jolt following twenty or so minutes of somewhat dry drama. Certainly, being this is a 70’s film, everything here is played straight, even the sillier stuff in the end that maybe shouldn’t haven been, but you have to appreciate the decade for sticking to it’s guns.

One notable thing I really liked here was the music, much of it of the country vein, but still pretty good. “Pretty Lady”, a duet sung by George Deaton and an unidentified woman, worked beautifully during a scene in which a woman was about to be killed off. It lent the film something special, especially given how cheap much of the movie feels anyway.

I know that some people out there find The Toolbox Murders a classic, and though I wouldn’t go that far, I do think it’s a pretty good movie, and it stands up about as well as it did the first time I saw it years back. Some quality gore, an interesting conclusion (and in fact, that lengthy, final shot of someone walking was actually quite moving in a way, believe it or not), nice music – I’m definitely a fan.


This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Toolbox Murders.

Author: Jiggy's Horror Corner

Fan of the horror genre, writer of mini-reviews, and lover of slashers.

3 thoughts on “The Toolbox Murders (1978)”

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