Remake Rumble: Don’t Call the Super

Less a Face-off, more a comparative analysis between the original and its – ugh – remake/reimagining/reboot/whatever (…delete as applicable), some I liked, some I loathed and some I somehow preferred to the original!

*

toolbox murders 1978

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS

1.5 Stars  1978/18/91m

“Bit by bit… he carved a nightmare!”

Director: Dennis Donnelly / Writers: Neva Friedman, Robert Easter, Ann Kindberg / Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, Nicolas Beauvy, Tim Donnelly, Aneta Corsaut.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Come here you dirty fornicator!”


This depressingly bleak pre-Halloween effort follows a ski-masked, humming maniac, who offs several women in a close-knit apartment block before kidnapping a 15-year-old he believes is the reincarnation of his dead daughter. As it predates the flood of low-budget slash flicks by a few years, the narrative seems a bit out of whack seeing it after so many template slashers.

The first thirty minutes or so is entirely comprised of the back-to-back murders of a series of pretty young women, some of whom have absolutely no lines, they’re present simply to look good, disrobe, in one case take a bath in full make-up, masturbate, and then become the resting place for the killer’s drill/hammer/screwdriver. The killer is soon after identified as the owner of the complex (Mitchell), while his kidnapping victim’s older brother tries to solve the mystery with the help of his friend – the killer’s nephew – who gets a clue and quickly becomes as unwound as his uncle, which provides a passable twist before the end title card informs us that the film was based on true events.

toolbox murders 1978

The main problem here is pacing; with nearly all the slaughter out of the way in the first third, the film reverses the tension effect and it wades through a thick swamp of extended tedium to the okay finale, by which point you’re likely to be lapsing into a coma or masturbating in the bath.

Renowned for its UK banning in 1982, like most of the Video Nasty culprits it’s notorious reputation isn’t warranted and the film is much more boring than it is gory.

*

TOOLBOX MURDERStoolbox murders 2003

3.5 Stars  2003/15/91m

“If you lived here, you’d be dead by now.”

Director: Tobe Hooper / Writers: Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch / Cast: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Juliet Landau, Rance Howard, Adam Gierasch, Greg Travis, Marco Rodriguez, Sara Downing, Chris Doyle.

Body Count: 8


One in a million this: A remake that far outdoes the original material. In a twist of irony, the same year that his Texas Chain Saw Massacre genre staple is remade big budget stylee by Hollywood, Tobe Hooper chooses to drag drab 70s sleazefest The Toolbox Murders into the millennium, albeit on a much less grand scale than the ‘re-imagining’ of his most famous film.

This remake is pretty much trading on its notorious title and wisely steers itself in a different direction from the trashy original. Keeping the setting of an apartment block – this time undergoing a lengthy renovation project – thus providing cheap lodgings for numerous Hollywood hopefuls and youthful victims for a ski-masked killer who leaps out of doorways and from behind objects to bludgeon and drill starlets to death.

New resident Angela Bettis becomes suspicious of the extraneous sounds and missing cohabitants so decides to investigate for herself, uncovering some hidden truths surrounding the history of the structure. She also puts herself in the path of the lunatic killer, eventually facing off with him while would-be rescuers fall by the wayside with various tools sticking out of them.

toolbox murders 2003

Toolbox Murders reasserts Hooper’s talent for cranking up the scares, gratefully negating memories of his feeble efforts in the years since Poltergeist (straight to video fodder Crocodile was also written by Anderson and Gierasch). He delivers several ejector-seat jump moments courtesy of avoiding the usual slasher pitfalls, and opting for catching the viewer in their off-guard moments between tension building. The final product also benefits from a good cast playing a variety of oddball characters from the stock creepy maintenance guy to the failing actors inhabiting several apartments via Juliet Landau’s sweet fitness freak, and Rance Howard as an ageing ex-actor who’s lived in the place since 1947 and might just know a little bit more about what’s going on than he’s letting on.

But its Bettis who turns in the most interesting performance as the not-entirely sympathetic heroine, giving her a dimension not always visible in central characters. All in all an overtly impressive improvement on a deservedly forgotten B-movie. Followed by a sequel in 2013.

Blurbs-of-interest: Cameron Mitchell was also in The DemonSilent Scream, Valley of Death, Trapped Alive and Jack-O; Angela Bettis was also in May and Scar; Juliet Landau was in Hack!; Sara Downing was in Wishcraft; Christopher Doyle was one of the cops in Scream 2; Tobe Hooper directed the first two TCM movies and The Funhouse.

Wish Upon A Bull’s Cock

wishcraft 2001WISHCRAFT

3.5 Stars  2001/18/98m

“Be careful what you wish for.”

Director: Danny Graves / Writer: Larry Katz / Cast: Michael Weston, Alexandra Holden, A.J. Buckley, Huntley Ritter, Austin Pendleton, Michael Aday, Charlie Talbert, Sara Downing, Evan Jones, Sam McMurray, Zelda Rubinstein.

Body Count: 7


The rare feel-good slasher flick. This whimsical little fantasy presents high school geek Brett Bumpers (Weston) with an enchanted bull’s dick that promises to grant the recipient three wishes, courtesy of an anonymous sender.

Naturally, as any straight teenage boy would, Brett wishes for popular cheerleader Samantha to go to an upcoming school dance with him. Bing! It happens. However, in a world of equals and opposites, classmates of his begin falling victim to a cloaked, skull-masked psycho. Jerk jocks and babes with ‘tude are showing up decapitated, bowled-to-death, and hanged while Meat Loaf’s homicide detective – yes, really – tries to work out who’s doing it.

wishcraft 2001 michael weston

Brett, meanwhile, ups the ante and wishes Samantha to fall in love with him. Bing! It happens. Although this time, it angers her quarterback boyfriend Cody, and drives a wedge between Brett and his best bud Howie, who informs him that the love isn’t real if Samantha is just under a mystical spell. As Brett tries to ignore all the “she’s with him!?” stares in school, the killings continue.

Eventually, Brett decides to do the right thing and undo his previous wish, but is thwarted when Cody and pals turn up to beat the shit out of him, instead encountering the killer, who has come to finish up and reveal their identity to Brett – and also scold him for wasting his wishes the way he has – in a fun exposition scene. Although by this point their identity is kinda obvious.

wishcraft 2001

Wishcraft is something of an anomaly in the world of teen horror, with a slasher plot playing as the backdrop to standard teen comedy/romance, rather than the other way around. There’s a great scene where Howie appropriates the totem and wishes to become a Tommy Lee-level bad-ass, only for it to fail completely.

In spite of this direction, it stands out thanks to nicely realised characters, and a lightheartedness seldom seen in the vicinity of a bodycount. That the nasty bullies are all boys is a welcome change to the occasionally uncomfortable ‘blame girls’ perspective a significant amount of teen slashers choose.

Slasher addicts may feel shortchanged by the rather low-level horror antics, but after several hundred films, this at least has something to remember it by.

wishcraft 2001 alexandra holden michael weston

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Weston was in Cherry Falls; Meat Loaf (Aday) was later in ropey musical slasher movie Stage Fright; Sara Dorwning was in the Toolbox Murders remake; Zelda Rubinstein was in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

Overrated and over-razored

home sick 2007

HOME SICK

1 Stars  2007/89m

“Who do you hate?”

Director: Adam Wingard / Writer: E.L. Katz / Cast: Lindley Evans, Tiffany Shepis, Forrest Pitts, Matt Lero, Tom Towles, Will Akers, Brandon Carroll, Bill Moseley, Jeff Dylan Graham.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “When a psychopath can invade the sanctity of your home and bleed all over your furnishings… we’ve fallen on dark days.”


Appearances by Shepis and Rob Zombie staples Moseley and Towles seemed to push Home Sick into some odd cult following when it appeared in 2007. Gory, squelchy FX notwithstanding, the ‘great slasher film’ that was promised failed to materialise from beneath this surface of grue.

Entirely unlikeable young folks gather at a dead house party thrown by asshole Tim, which is crashed by Moseley’s admittedly creepy Mr Suitcase, who opens said case to reveal it’s full of razor blades. He then asks each of the attendees to name someone they hate, culminating with the host stating that he hates everybody in the room. Stupid dick. Those named – exes, dealers etc – are violently murdered by a masked loon.

Things sound okay but about halfway through, the majority drag the group to Tim’s survivalist dad (Towles), dance around with guns, and then fall victim to the killer, who is now revealed to be some random demon, not hugely dissimilar from the one in Jeepers Creepers.

What does this have to do with Mr Suitcase? Why is it happening? Why do characters start laughing hysterically for no reason? Forget getting any answers. Instead, we’re left with a crap final girl and some hazy ideas that perhaps some sort of Texas Chain Saw homage was attempted here. Who do I hate? This film. Bye.

Blurbs-of-interest: Tiffany Shepis can also be seen in Bloody Murder 2ScarecrowDead ScaredBasement JackDetour, and Victor Crowley; Moseley was also in Blood NightSilent Night Deadly Night IIITexas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Texas Chainsaw 3D; Jeff Dylan Graham was in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp; Adam Wingard later directed the much, much better You’re Next.

“Happy Birthday, Sucka!”

fade to black 1980

FADE TO BLACK

3 Stars  1980/18/98m

“Eric Binford lives for the movies… Sometimes he kills for them too!”

Director/Writer: Vernon Zimmerman / Cast: Dennis Christopher, Tim Thomerson, Gwynne Gilford, Linda Kerridge, Eve Brent, Norman Burton, Morgan Paull, James Luisi, Mickey Rourke, Peter Horton.

Body Count: 6


Awkward thriller-with-slasher-trim works mainly because of Dennis Christopher’s performance as Eric, an orphaned young man obsessed with the movie world and everything affiliated with it. Outside his dead end job, he takes abuse from his infirm aunt and eventually plucks up the courage to ask cute Monroe-a-like Kerridge out on a date, which she accepts, but is late for, contributing to his imminent meltdown.

He begins to dress up as various movie characters – Dracula, The Mummy, Hopalong Cassidy – and doing away with various people in his life who humiliate or embarrass him, including a young Mickey Rourke as an obnoxious co-worker. Also for the chop are a mouthy hooker, and the B-movie producer who steals Eric’s idea for a film.

A subplot concerning a criminal profiler and his relationship with a sexy cop gets in the way, but this leads to both parties eventually meeting at the Hollywood premiere finale, where things grind to a particularly abrupt halt with little resolution.

A good idea on paper, but possibly too much of a trivia-fest to register as the genre staple it aspires to be.

Blurbs-of-interest: Peter Horton was the lead in Children of the Corn; Tim Thomerson was later in Devil’s Prey.

“But ya can’t go back…”

As the 90s teen horror set turns twenty and we see the ‘teen’ actors appearing in bit-parts on TV playing parents, it’s nice to look back on how much the genre propped itself up on its brethren in terms of marketing – don’t you miss the standard aesthetic?poster-faces2“You know the drill people – line up in a triangular formation. Final girls to the front!”

Challenge yourself to a game of spot the stars: Kelly Brook, James McAvoy, Isla Fisher, and 2 x Eva Mendes.

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