(A.k.a. COFFIN BABY; TBK; THE TOOLBOX MURDERS 2)
Originally entitled COFFIN BABY, this 2013 film has been retitled THE TOOLBOX MURDERS 2 -designed as a sequel to Tobe Hooper's lacklustre 2004 remake, rather than the original cult film from 1978.
It opens with a quick-edited nightmare sequence that would give THE NEW YORK RIPPER a run for its money in terms of gory eyeball-slicing violence. And then we move into oh-so-familiar territory: a shaky montage of grotesque images set to a pounding industrial score - hugely reminiscent of the titles sequence to SE7EN.
Then we meet Samantha (Chauntal Lewis), who from the start is incarcerated in a custom-made prison which appears to be based inside a derelict multi-storey building. There are bars jailing her, while her surroundings beyond them resemble those of a disused warehouse. Her flashbacks clue us in to the fact that she visited her sister's home a short while earlier only to discover police removing her sibling from the premises in a body bag. While waiting outside in an empty police car and agonising over why someone would murder her sister, Samantha was violently snatched by the masked TBK (Chris Doyle).
Her ordeal from that moment forward is punctuated by onscreen text keeping us up to speed with how many days have passed. On day 6, TBK scrubs Samantha's arm bloodily clean of the cryptic message she'd transposed onto there from her sister's mirrors. On day 7, he presents a big-titted blonde victim that he's dragged off the street and dismembers her leg in front of a screaming Samantha. This day also affords our first glimpse of another prisoner being held by TBK: elderly sage Vance (Bruce Dern).
By day 8, Samantha is starving enough to enjoy a strip of the aforementioned blonde's cooked flesh, as proffered to her by her constantly masked captor. He doesn't want her to get too comfortable though: he keeps playing the same footage of high-pitched violent imagery on the TV screen inside her cell as a form of mental torture. He even blasts her with a hose for good measure. She doesn't like that.
But the torture continues. Her boyfriend is slain in front of her a few days later while she's suspended crucifixion-style watching. You could argue that such a moment echoes Argento's OPERA ... but that's being far too kind.
In truth, this formless succession of torture, murder and mutilation is as vacuous as modern horror films come. It's very stylishly shot, adeptly edited and boasts excellent sound design - the largely practical effects work impresses too - but it's boring as hell.
The plot is wafer-thin, with Dern wasted in a role which requires little more than occasional ramblings from him as he and Samantha finally meet and conspire to get the better of TBK. There are the obligatory cops on the outside, witlessly poking around in a bid to pick up clues as to Samantha's whereabouts. But these sequences just deaden the pace even further.
The film marks the feature directorial debut of Dean Jones, whose prolific career as a special make-up effects artist comes as little surprise. This movie is filled with gory set-pieces. The FX work, mostly practical, is also very good - albeit each scene is edited together with jumpy shock-cuts that prevent anything from ever looking nasty. So, while this may be far gorier than the aforementioned THE NEW YORK RIPPER, it all feels decidedly tame in comparison - like an episode of CSI.
The disc we were sent to review was an early test one, professing to contain the "completed version" - whatever that means. I couldn't find mention of it on the BBFC's website at the time of writing, despite Tricoast's DVD being scheduled for a mere two weeks from now (19th October), so perhaps this is yet to be granted a certificate? I don't know, but that's cutting things awfully fine if that's the case...
Anyhow, what we get is a very good presentation of the film - 16x9 (1.78:1) widescreen and, I would assume, uncut. It looks great, with bold colours and deep blacks throughout. Detail is intricate: it's as good as you can expect from a modern standard definition prospect.
English audio sounds excellent in both 2.0 and (especially) 5.1 mixes.
The disc here proffered a static main menu and a sole 97-second trailer as an extra. There was no scene selection option.
Speaking of the trailer, it did a good job of accentuating gore, Bruce Dern, the exciting score and decent production values.
THE TOOLBOX MURDERS 2 is gory, well-shot and wastes no time in getting down to its visceral reason-for-being. But it's also aimless and tedious fare.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Tricoast|
|see main review|