Mrs. Andrews (Faith McSwain), Debbie (Marciee Drake) and Maria (Evelyn Guerrero) are minding their own business when a psycho with a toolbox comes into their apartment and slays them. The police, represented by Detective Jamison (Tim Donnelly), are baffled because the manager, Vance Kingsley (Cameron Mitchell), assures them that the building is secure and the tenants are decent. The only connection between the killings, and most of those that follow, is the fact that nubile young women are executed with tools, and not the fun kind…
The Kingsleys are represented by crazy Vance and his equally weird nephew Kent Kingsley (Wesley Eure). The horror of having his daughter killed by a car accident apparently leads Vance to start murdering women of the same age as his beloved. This makes little sense since each time the killing reminds him of the death of his daughter, something that most people would prefer not to relive over and over again. When he grabs Laurie as some sort of replacement for his daughter, it shows us that he must be killing the other girls for some other strange reason which he finally tells us is because they are dirty and unnatural because they have a healthy sex drive—at this point let me make it clear that any female who is dirty and unnatural can always come to me for therapy if she is so inclined. Why women having a healthy sex drive is evil is not explored, unless Vance had a ‘special’ relationship with his daughter—Kent reveals that he had a ‘special’ relationship with his cousin, something generally frowned upon north of the Mason-Dixon line. Kent follows in his uncle’s bloody footprints when he kills off Joey (Nicolas Beauvy) before he can go to the police with evidence of Vance’s DIY hobby, but then turns on his uncle and kills him for some reason.
The Ballards are represented by mother Jo Ann Ballard (Aneta Corsaut), daughter Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin) and son Joey. The mother is your typical horror movie mother who seems to exist to be annoying but totally useless in keeping her children safe, actually, that is a lot like mothers who try to get movies banned as well, I wonder if there is a connection? Joey is in the film to be the erstwhile hero after his sister is taken by the psycho killer bad man. Just as Joey figures out what is going on his buddy Kent sets him on fire in a garage filled with fuels, paints, paint thinners, thermonuclear devices and exceedingly ugly vinyl furniture, thus showing that Kent is about as bright as a graduate from .American Freedom University. Laurie gets to spend most of the movie being kidnapped by Vance and tormented by Barbie Dolls until Kent comes along to rescue her by raping her a bit. Things do not go very well for this family in this film. Nor, for that matter, do things go very well for the Kingsley family either.
The first victim is a woman who drinks or something. The second is a pair of woman who like to go out and have a good time. The fourth is a woman masturbating in her bathtub. Then he kidnaps Laurie, but does not kill her. Each of the women that Vance kills dies because he sees them as dirty or unclean or something, so why does he kill two of them right out of the bath? A man who sees women in absolute terms as whores or innocent little girls is popular in this sort of film, but falls outside of reality. The trigger for something like this is not likely to be the death of a daughter in an accident, maybe if his daughter had been killed by a forbidden boyfriend or something, but not a simple car crash. I gather that the girl had been hanging around with undesirables, but little is made of this. The kidnapping part does make sense as the distraught man seeks to replace his dead child, but not in light of the killings. Kent’s behavior makes even less sense in the film, he covers for his uncle by burning another kid up, but then kills his uncle after admitting to incest for no particular reason. It is almost like the plot was just an excuse to do horrible things to a few women! The very idea!
The effects in this film are pretty good for the time, but the killings are strange. The first woman is killed with a drill, after she steps away from the door she was blocking to keep the killer out, why would she do this? The second woman is killed with the claw end of a hammer, but, for some reason, the killer drags her into the stairwell first, why would he do this? I suppose it was so the plot could advance when the victims would be discovered because of the huge pool of blood that he left for neighbors to stumble upon. The other girl in the same apartment as the hammer girl gets stabbed with a screwdriver, but she barely struggles while her killer goes to his toolbox to get it, why would she do this? Vance’s final victim, the naked girl in the bathtub (Kelly Nichols) is hunted down with an old-fashioned powder-actuated nail gun. That sort of nail gun is a nasty little tool designed for pounding spikes into concrete or other hard materials, so a woman’s body would not put up much resistance. However, nail guns are about as accurate as a drunken man urinating. Regardless, she uses clean pillows to protect her dirty pillows from her killer (pillows?!) until she runs into the bedroom and sits on the bed like a woman awaiting her lover—though, to be fair, he does nail her—but why would she do this? All of the women do little to defend themselves from a middle-aged actor armed only with tools, sometimes waiting for him to come get them, as none of the neighbors hear a thing, but who cares about common sense or reality, right?
The only other thing that really needs to be mentioned besides the stupid acting, nonsensical plot, ample violence (in the first 30 minutes, the rest is slow) some decent nudity (also in the first 30 minutes) is the truly awful music. This unholy crap is late 70s country-western garbage that sounds like something that the Osmond family would have considered too dreadful to record. The composer of this auditory atrocity is one George Deaton who, mercifully, has not composed music for any other film. So I guess the film has a happy ending after all.
This flick was cut a bit by the MPAA, but was mercilessly butchered by the BBFC as part of the whole video nasty overreaction. Eventually of course the BBFC decided that The Toolbox Murders was too dangerous for video because it, presumably, definitely would encourage other men whose daughters have died in car accidents to seek out and, with tools, kill as many young women living in their building as possible, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus it became a video nasty, now and forever banned in the UK; it was released cut by less than two minutes in 2000.