Hardware Hack ‘Em Ups!!!

The blood runs in rivers…and the drill keeps tearing though flesh and bone!

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978)

B-movie legend Cameron Mitchell stars as Vance Kingsley, an apartment building super who slips into psychosis after his daughter dies in a car accident. Vance dons a ski mask, grabs his trusty toolbox, and begins taking the lives of the filthy females in his apartment building that do “unnatural” things to their bodies. The tenants are a tasty assortment of alcoholics, porn stars, and strippers. Bit by bit, the killer carves up a nightmare with a power drill, hammer, screwdriver, and nail gun.

The masked madman then sets his sights on a sweet virginal gal named Laurie. Instead of hacking her to pieces, he kidnaps the young girl and ties her up to his bed. Vance later explains to the terrified gal that she reminds him of his daughter. In his deranged mind, Vance believes keeping Laurie prisoner is protecting her from God, who wants to claim her pure soul the same way he previously claimed his daughter’s. What he does to her nerves is almost as frightening as what he does to his victims.

Despite the fact that all the murders took place within the same apartment complex, there’s no sign of forced entry, and the murders are all committed with tools, Vance is never seen as a suspect by authorities. The dimwitted police (lead by the eternally confused Tim Donnelly of “Parts: The Clonus Horror” infamy) are baffled by the sheer brutality of the crimes and can’t seem to find a single clue. Laurie’s brother Joey and his best pal Kent finally get fed up and decide to take the law into their own hands. Their investigation eventually turns up a dildo and a deadly secret. Will Laurie survive the toolbox murders, and what will be left of her?

Director Dennis Donnelly’s “The Toolbox Murders” was one of the most controversial horror films of the pre-slasher era. It’s hard to believe such a graphic horror flick could come from a director best known for working on TV’s family favorites “Dragnet” and “Emergency.” The film was even discussed at length on the “Donahue” show. Old Phil ranted and raved about how sick the film was and even showed the nail gun murder scene in it’s entirety, much to the shock and horror of the fat housewives in his studio audience! “The Toolbox Murders” was also banned in the UK for several years as a video nasty.

It’s certainly lurid and vicious stuff, but it’s exceedingly well made and also works a deranged character study. Some people complain about the pacing of this flick, most of the complaints note the fact that most of the action takes place in the first 30 minutes or so. Despite the fact the film sometimes drags, I think Cameron Mitchell does a fantastic job in the lead role and actually makes the character somewhat sympathetic. Miles beyond the usual mute masked killers, and a lot more interesting too. I think horror fans would only be let down by this one only if they were expecting a straight slasher flick with a higher body count. This one is more of a sleazy slow burn, and it also plays out more like of a 70’s TV police procedural.

A few years ago Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground released THE TOOLBOX MURDERS on dvd. As expected from Blue Underground, the dvd features a number of fantastic supplements including a commentary track with producer Tony Didio, DP Gary Graver, and star Pamelyn Ferdin, theatrical trailers and tv spots, and a still gallery. My favorite feature is “I Got Nailed In The Toolbox Murders” – an interview with actress Marianne Walter, better known to old school porno fans as Kelly Nichols. Hail Bill Lustig! You are truly a sleazy gorehound’s best friend! This is essential exploitation and a mandatory purchase. Buy this one or get SCREWED!

DRILLER KILLER (1979)

A true piece of punk rock cinema, “Driller Killer” begins with an on screen title card instructing viewers to play the film LOUD. Infamous director Abel Ferrara stars (under the name Jimmy Laine) as Reno Miller, an up and coming avant garde artist who struggles to keep a roof over his head and to hold on to the last shreds of his sanity. Reno is constantly tormented by the sleazy denizens of the mean streets of NYC, and his manhood is threatened by his girlfriend’s girlfriend. Things take a turn for the worse for Reno when a fucking horrible punk rock band called Tony Coca Cola & The Roosters move into the apartment above him and assault his eardrums with their non stop rehearsals.

The constant noise prevents Reno from finishing his latest masterpiece, a bizarre and bloody painting of a buffalo. After many long nights filled with pizza, beer, and frustration, inspiration finally hits Reno in a big way when he catches a TV ad for a nifty combination belt/battery pack that allows mobile use of power tools. Reno quickly runs to a hardware store to buy one, and then begins wandering the streets at night with a drill. Now completely unhinged and frequently hallucinating, Reno drills holes into any bum that makes the fatal mistake of bothering him. Reno has become one of those who kill violently!

Despite the rather lurid sounding premise and title, this is actually more of a cracked out character study than a traditional slasher film. “Driller Killer” owes a lot more to films like “Taxi Driver” than “The Toolbox Murders.” Slasher fans looking for non stop bloodshed will be sorely disappointed, although the film is punctuated with some fairly graphic kills. The film’s gore centerpiece is the brutal scene where Reno repeatedly plunges the drill into a hobo’s forehead. This incredible scene was used as cover art for the notorious UK vhs release, which was promptly banned and instrumental in helping to create the “Video Nasties” craze. As a result, “Driller Killer” was banned in the UK until 1999 and wasn’t released uncut until 2002.

“Driller Killer” perfectly captures the sleazy and amped up essence of the big apple in the 70′s. It was the directorial debut of Abel Ferrara, who would later go on to helm equally disturbing films with much bigger budgets including the clas-sick  “Ms. 45” and “Bad Lieutenant.” “Driller Killer” takes a long time before getting to the bloodshed so impatient splatter freaks might have to hit the fast forward button a few times to complete a viewing. There are numerous scenes of Reno arguing with people. Mostly his girlfriend(s), but also his landlord and his art dealer. Bickering, bile, and bad music largely comprise the first two thirds of the film. In the long run this actually works in the flick’s favor, because it’s much easier to relate to Reno’s descent into madness when you suffer right along with him as you watch.

The good folks at Cult Epics have released DRILLER KILLER on dvd a few different times. The best release is the two disc collectors edition which is presented in widescreen and includes a hilarious drugged out director’s commentary track, theatrical trailers, and the original Porto-pack commercial. The second disc features three of Ferrera’s early short films: “Could This Be Love,” “The Hold Up,” and “Nicky’s Film.” There’s also a trailer for the legendary “Nine Lives For A Wet Pussy.” Cheap bastards looking for cheaper thrills should look out for the “Classic Splatter Pack” double feature dvd from CFS Releasing that features “Driller Killer” along with the notorious “Drive-In Massacre.” Either way, there’s no excuse for not having a copy of this clas-sick in your collection. Buy or die!

NAIL GUN MASSACRE (1985)

After a brutal gang rape occurs on a construction site in a small Texas town, a masked maniac with a bad case of Darth Vader-itis and a penchant for horrible Freddy Krueger wisecracks goes on a killing spree seeking revenge against… well pretty much everyone. Dressed in camouflage, driving a hearse, and armed with a pneumatic nail gun, the deranged killer makes swiss cheese out of any redneck that crosses his deadly path. Forget about that guy with the chainsaw, and start worrying about the deranged Nail Gun Killer!

The unfortunate (in many ways) victims are repeatedly nailed in the head, the groin, to trees, to the highway, and sometimes to each other during sex. The dimwitted country bumpkin sheriff with a badge that likes to switch sides on his chest at random teams up with an always denim clad county medical examiner who looks like the bass player from Journey to investigate the murders. As these two geniuses wander aimlessly around the countryside looking for clues the nail ridden dead bodies begin stacking up like cord wood. Who will get NAILED next?

I’m a huge fan of this hilariously inept but equally lovable 80′s slasher flick. This body count flick delivers about fifteen bloody murders and some really nice titties within its 90 minute running time. Hard to argue with that! “Nail Gun Massacre” is a special film for many reasons, but my favorite part has to be the odd, inexplicable appearance of a toothless old geezer who randomly shows up in a scene and proceeds to steal the whole fucking movie by asking the immortal question “Hey, what put all them holes in her body? Sex?” That’s followed closely by the freshly grilled dead body that starts to tip over and is thoughtful enough to prop himself back up so he doesn’t fuck up the shot. You don’t see that in every flick, folks.

Fans of gratuitous nudity will enjoy a steaming eyeful thanks to a big haired blonde who proudly displays her enormous rack, complete with tan lines and a set of nipples roughly the size of a midget’s thumbs! There’s also a fairly sleazy scene with a really ugly couple bumping uglies against a tree, and an unbelievable moment where a hick talks his bimbo date into having sex on the hood of his car “so they can really fly!” The latter sex scene is set to the tune of a toe tapping number entitled “Foozeball” that is played in it’s entirety not once, but twice in a row. It’s guaranteed to get stuck in your head and fuck up your life. What I really appreciate about the chicks in this flick is the fact that they are all 100% authentic trailer trash. No pesky silicone or cosmetic surgery to ruin the fun, they all look like chicks you could pick up at a county fair.

The late, great writer, producer, and co-director Terry Lofton was the brains and the bucks behind this incredibly cheesy homemade horror flick. More than a few critics have nailed “Nail Gun Massacre”  over the years but I think it more than delivers the goods for horror fans with a hunger for bloody mayhem and cheap, sometimes unintentional laughs. Terry had stated that he didn’t want to make a “real blood & guts type horror movie” but instead wanted to make a fun, low key horror flick. Hats off to Terry for a job well done! I think that’s the reason this flick still has such a well deserved cult following – it’s a blast! Unlike a lot of other micro-budget horror flicks from the same era, and especially nowadays, this one is actually fun to watch. It’s a very penetrating story!

Synapse Films released a fantastic looking dvd of NAIL GUN MASSACRE that was fully restored in high definition and is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The special features include outtakes, a promotional trailer, and an interview with Terry Lofton. There’s also some very funny liner notes from Michael Felsher that point out some of the film’s many shortcomings.  If you attempt to take this one seriously, you’ll probably hate it. But if you watch this flick with sense of humor you’ll love it. This is a perfect movie to watch on a Saturday night with a few beers and buds. It’s also cheaper than a chainsaw!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

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