The gone but fond­ly remem­bered ‘zine Psychotronic would often orga­nize its film reviews under sub­head­ings devot­ed to a the­me or an ele­ment. The fun­ni­est of the­se sub­head­ings was “Sequels Nobody Wanted,” a ref­er­ence to the fact that straight-to-video pro­duc­ers were about ten times like­lier than their Hollywood coun­ter­parts to sequelize any vague­ly suc­cess­ful con­cept if a few more dol­lars could be squeezed out of it. Toolbox Murders 2 illus­trates the pit­falls of this approach to sequeliza­tion, reveal­ing itself to be the kind of film that can make pro­tract­ed gore set­pieces dull.

This loose sequel, also known as Coffin Baby in some quar­ters, brings back a killer from the Tobe Hooper remake of The Toolbox Murders. At the out­set of the film, he cap­tures Samantha (Chauntal Lewis), the griev­ing sis­ter of one of his pre­vi­ous vic­tims, and cages in her the cell of what appears to be an aban­doned jail­house. Over the course of 85 min­utes, he tor­tures her and tries to turn her into a “pet” of sorts as she vac­il­lates between Stockholm syn­drome and attempts to escape. Bruce Dern also pops up late in the film as anoth­er pris­on­er who kick­starts the expect­ed grim finale.

ToolMur2-bluIf its sto­ry was coher­ent, Toolbox Murders 2 would stack up a gris­ly but for­get­table exam­ple of hor­ror from the Saw/Hostel-derived school of mod­ern Grand Guignol. Unfortunately, the film seems to have been edit­ed in a Cuisinart: an ear­lier cut of the film that made the round on the bootleg cir­cuit fea­tured sce­nes, char­ac­ters and a dif­fer­ent sequence of events that were thrown out for the com­plet­ed ver­sion.

As a result, Toolbox Murders 2 lum­bers from one gore set­piece to the next, with a bare min­i­mum of char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, vir­tu­al­ly no plot beyond its lurid shocks and a char­ac­ter arc that makes no sense for its would-be hero­ine: one min­ute she is will­ing­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in can­ni­bal­ism with her cap­tor and the next min­ute she is try­ing to escape.

That said, the writ­ing with­in stand­alone sce­nes can be awful, too: an unin­ten­tion­al­ly hilar­i­ous moment has Samantha telling a cop he doesn’t under­stand what she’s going through fol­lowed by him berat­ing her because she doesn’t under­stand what it’s like to deal with vic­tims every day. It’s also worth noth­ing that the attempt at mul­ti­ple plot twists in the finale ren­ders it inco­her­ent.

Thus, Toolbox Murders 2 lives and dies by its onscreen car­nage: FX man turned writer/director Dean C. Jones sup­plies plen­ty of prac­ti­cal gore effects but they’re all staged in an art­less, porno­graph­ic mat­ter that just lingers on the vis­cer­al rather than try­ing to build sus­pense. Gory spec­ta­cles like this require some show­man­ship to achieve their desired roller­coast­er effect and Jones is con­tent to just trudge through his paces. The music video cin­e­matog­ra­phy and bursts of fast edit­ing to set up each “day” of the plot try to impart some style but the flour­ish­es are utter­ly cliched: if it’s not try­ing to look/feel like a Saw sequel then it’s emu­lat­ing a Rob Zombie movie.

In short, Toolbox Murders 2 is a blood-drenched, inco­her­ent piece of work that is best left to the diehard gore­hounds. Despite the inten­si­ty and the pre­pon­der­ance of blood­shed, it just feels like a joy­less dirge of a sequel.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory res­cued this title for a blu-ray release and the results look pret­ty good. It does well by the dig­i­tal cin­e­matog­ra­phy, offer­ing a clear and col­or­ful image. Both 5.1 and 2.0 loss­less stereo tracks are offered: the 5.1 track was used for this review and its well-mixed with a decent amount of sur­round activ­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its use of the music. The one extra is a trail­er: like the movie, it’s pret­ty bloody.