Toolbox Murders ★★★★

as distanced from its source material’s schlocky, derivative horror as its setting is from the city around it (to highlight one of its departures from the original): it subverts it to reveal a symbolic mystery in the dark crevices of this building which is reluctantly yet intently explored throughout. this crosses my mind regularly in regards to filmographic geography, too. I have this whole building all mapped out in my brain – which, considering the conspiring tone of the film’s mystery at hand, feels like the intention – and my inner exploration of the puzzle and building only add to the formal elements that make the film what it is: the camera appears to never stop moving, unearthing the details and history of the building via constant low angles, invasive shadows and so few glimpses of the outside world – though when there are, it’s in extremely close proximity to the building; only expanding the picture painted of the building, the film’s true main character. the formal trickery at play here seems impossibly constructed, but that’s Hooper for you. it goes guns blazing silly in its final 15 minutes; heavy on exposition but also the peak of its formal perfection, CHAIN SAW MASSACRE reminiscent imagery and all. to further praise this underestimated gem and stay in line with the conspiracies brewing in the mind of its ostensible protagonist, its aforementioned nominal glimpses of the world outside this building suggest some kind of collapsing society: our only entry point is these struggling citizens in a city that Hooper has expressed dismay towards time and time again; and his depiction of this struggle is apt to the picture at large, while capturing the more intimate details of one’s venture for success in an overwhelmingly large city. one of the better horror remakes I’ve ever seen: nastier than the ‘video nasty’ its playing off of (one that, ironically, was inspired by Hooper’s genre-changing magnum opus); and a terrific recontextualization of the central themes of it too.

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