Story: The Lusman Arms was once a vibrant, glamorous location, but these days, the building is run down and falling into deeper disrepair all the time. This is a lesson learned by Nell (Angela Bettis), who moves into the Lusman and discovers that all the claims of “charm” turn out to be far from the truth. As soon as she moves in, Nell notices the abundance of odd neighbors, the walls that allow every little sound to be heard, and the nearly complete lack of maintenance going on, but she manages to stay composed until things take a much darker turn. Nell notices some strange noises, violent fights, and scary sounds, but even the police seem to dismiss her concerns, but meanwhile, a mysterious killer is stalking the hallways of the Lusman Arms…

Entertainment Value: I wanted to like Toolbox Murders, as Tobe Hooper directing a dark, nasty slasher in a run down, historic structure sounds great, but in the end, I don’t think this remake ever reaches the potential of the concept. I don’t think this one is bad per se, it just doesn’t have much creative juice and while I don’t mind horror movies that lean on well worn conventions, I think you Toolbox Murders just coasts on those established tropes. If this were tighter and the scare beats hit harder, or perhaps some mildly fresh twists were thrown in, this could have been an effective chiller, but instead it seems to go through the usual motions. The narrative is fine, but little is done to even make it seem fresh or original, while the kills are passable, but forgettable. I think even some wild, creative kills could have elevated this one, but those scenes are predictable and basic. This falls partly on the shoulders of the script for the lame killer that emerges once the reveal happens, instead of building an interesting, memorable villain that stood out from the pack. Toolbox Murders has some good, dark atmosphere, but I found it to be a middle of the road horror flick overall.

The cast is more than solid, with a colorful ensemble present, though they are sadly given little to do, so no one really stands out. Greg Travis is is humorous as the property manager, as he is so over the top as the typical landlord/manager who wants to ignore every problem, but most of the others aren’t given many chances to shine. Angela Bettis is a capable performer, especially in this genre, but the material just tasks her to turn in a pretty basic performance. Bettis isn’t given much depth of character to work with and while she does what she is asked well, it seems like a waste of her talents, as she could have done so much more with this kind of role. But she does prove to be a strong anchor for the movie, so while she isn’t allowed to show her full range of skills, she performs quite well. The cast also includes Rance Howard, Marco Rodriguez, and Juliet Landau.

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