[Blu-ray/DVD Review] THE TOOLBOX MURDERS
Courtesy Blue Underground
Blue Underground has successfully made its name in the game when it comes to creating a specialty label focusing on home video releases. While some labels were a bit slow to get into 4K, they have been upgrading all their high-profile releases while also providing collectible slipcovers as an added bonus. The most impressive aspect of this as Blue Underground isn’t just providing upscaled releases, they are actually putting the work in. Their catalog may not all be the most prominent in horror, but their 4K sets have been given the Hollywood treatment. My favorite release of theirs so far is Daughters of Darkness, a lesbian vampire gothic drama that I only knew about due to their original DVD release. Its seductive, soap opera look is enhanced by Underground’s home video set and is a must for physical media collectors.

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is one of those movies that every horror fan is aware of even if they haven’t seen it. It is notable as a Video Nasty release in the early 80s, but that kind of branding only elevates interest. Millennials like myself became more aware when Tobe Hooper released his remake of it in 2004, a more narrative driven film from what I can recall. This 4K set is the first time I’ve ever seen the original and I can see why I have never been recommended or pressured to watch it.

The first thirty or so minutes features an unseen man killing off female tenants with various tools, my favorite being the nail gun. Somehow, this is connected to a car accident seen in a flashback. The killer abducts a teenage girl, drawing attention from detectives and the girl’s brother. The brother takes matters into his own hands as the investigation doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously as he would like.

By today’s standards, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS will not shock or repel new viewers, but it’s easy to see why it earned the Video Nasty label. There’s a lot of misogynistic related terror here as women are tortured, tied up, and raped throughout. One is even killed after we spend quite a long time watching her masturbate. I’m sure somewhere out there is a thesis that involved TOOLBOX MURDERS as an example of women being punished for liking sex. Part of the issue here is there seems to be a lack of creative expression. We watch women die over and over to no redemption. The killer reveal also doesn’t feel thought out as there’s no mystery or humanity behind it. Without these tools, the film drags on for one of the longest 90 minutes in horror.

Luckily, Blue Underground is aware of its notoriety and has provided a stellar video presentation. Even though this is my first time watching it, I’m aware of its age and exploitation should probably never look this good. The picture is as sharp as the killer’s tools as Dolby Vision HDR was utilized here and the effort works. The sound presentation is equally as impressive as the Dolby Atmos track instantly fills out the rear speakers, notably the chimes in the score during the opening sequence. In addition to the technical upgrades, there are several new and old special features. The 4K disc holds two commentaries with Tony Didio, Gary Graver, Pamelyn Ferdin, Troy Howarth, and Nathaniel Thompson. The Blu-ray disc includes these tracks along with interviews with Dennis Donnelly, Wesley Eure, and Kelly Nichols.

While THE TOOLBOX MURDERS might not be the most highly regarded exploitation flick, Blue Underground doesn’t hold back on producing a top-notch release, most notably on the video and audio presentations.

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS on 4K is now available!

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