The Tool Belt Killer

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The Tool Belt Killer is a 2006 feature film directed by Trent L. Strauss. Trent believes the film is his Citizen Kane and a bit of a departure from the standard extreme cinema fare. Trent shot on the film on 35 mm. instead of his usual 16 mm. or Super 8, a move that he believes will garner awards. He described the film as Phantom Of The Opera meets Norma Rae, but with way more impalings and beheadings.

Plot Overview

(as detailed by Strauss on the 3/14/06 show)

A young man, Brian, lives in a really poor town and he’s shunned by all of his classmates because he’s different. At the end of his senior year of high school, he gets a summer job at Lowe's. He’s stationed in the lumber department and gets taunted by burly contractors who come in to buy their masonry supplies.

Brian comes from the only rich family in the town. His philandering father is the mayor and also owns most of the local businesses. His father made his fortune by inventing Paint-Be-Gone, a corrosive agent that strips paint off metal. A lot of the townsfolk hate the family because 75% of the kids are addicted to P-B-G and the father ran out most of the other small business owners.

Brian's father wants him to work at Lowe's so he'll know what it's like to have a manual labor job before departing for college. During one shift, Brian is driving a forklift and a jerky, fat contractor is really pressing his buttons. As Brian retrieves his order, one of the tongs on the forklift gives way and a palette of cement bags crash to the floor in a plume of dust. At that moment, lightning goes through the roof and strikes the exact spot, killing Brian. Is he really dead? The body was never found.

At this point, the story really takes off. Brian’s mucho disfigured but alive. After dusting himself off, he slinks into the Lowe’s bathroom and looks in the mirror to see what 1,000 pounds of cement (and lightning) have done to his visage. He’s shocked and mortified at what he looks like and realizes that his life is over. He takes up residence in the walls of the Lowe’s, surviving on coffee and Lance Toast Cheese crackers from the vending machine.

When the store is closed, Brian starts to morph into Belty by fashioning himself a creepy new outfit: a mask made from duct tape and sandpaper and a suit made from fiberglass insulation. The new look also includes a toolbelt loaded with screwdrivers, hammers, hatchets, pliers, and saws that have been modified into "horrific implements of death and torture". He also used the keymaker to grind his fingers into keys. Strauss notes the extreme sickness of this sequence, which includes spurting marrow. Belty is now ready to get revenge.

Since he has free run of the place at night, he uses Photoshop on one of the office computers to create fake Lowe’s coupons. He mails them to the families of all the people he hates, instructing them to go around to the back entrance at closing time for a free patio set. They all fall for it, and Belty slices, dices, and grinds them up. (At this point, Tom thinks it’s nuts, but Trent thinks it’s a great story.)

This Lowe’s store was built on an ancient Viking burial ground, and Belty finds a horn hat that was jostled up out of the grounds during construction and became lodged in the sheetrock. (Strauss’s research team confirmed that this was plausible.) The hat becomes a part of his outfit, but he is not yet possessed by the Viking spirits.

Strauss also weaves a touching love story through the grisly tale. During his high school years, Brian had a crush on Monica, but she wouldn’t talk to him because he lived in a mansion across the tracks. Her parents worked in his mansion as a maid and groundskeeper, and were horribly treated by Brian’s father. In one scene, we see that he forced them to watch him make love to filthy prostitutes, which Trent claims he shot in a way that makes it funny.

One night, Monica comes into Lowe’s just before closing to buy some light bulbs. Belty sees her and realizes that the store is mostly deserted. He summons the courage to talk to her and he’s amazed that she’s not repulsed by him. In fact, she doesn’t realize it’s him due to the disfigurement. The relationship escalates and Monica is frequently desirous of rides from Belty. Their after-hours trysts are graphically depicted in montages, but Strauss assures Tom that it’s all done in a nice way. Monica eventually informs Belty that her father got a great new job in Western Maine and the family are moving in a week.

Belty lures the family –- minus Monica –- to Lowe’s with another coupon and her parents and little brother get really attacked, a plot turn that does not surprise Tom at all.

The next morning, Belty and Monica (still oblivious to her family’s fate) are eating their traditional breakfast. She takes a bite of food and suspects that something is wrong. She then sees her father’s face in her omelette. It’s not a ghostly or hallucinated image – it’s the actual face that Belty hacksawed off while enacting his revenge. Her father was trying to take away the one thing that he loved, so Belty had to take action. Trent clarifies to Tom that Belty is the film’s hero, while Monica’s family are the villains because they are boring, poor, and as guilty as everyone else who picked on him for being rich.

Monica now realizes what has happened and knows that she has two choices: Kill Belty or become his Belt Bride. This sparks off a long fight scene that spills over into multiple merchandising departments. The gruesomeness reaches a peak in the kitchen department when Belty tries to gouge Monica’s eye with a screwdriver. She gets loose and puts his arm in the garbage disposal. While he’s stuck, she summons all of her anger and, in an empowering feminist statement, puts his entire body in and purees him.

Tom assumes that this is the end of Belty, but he’s wrong. Just as Belty’s about to take his last breath, he calls upon the Viking spirits to help him. They give him the strength to chase Monica throughout the store with an old-school push lawnmower that old, dumb, poor people favor. Monica falls, and Belty corners her with a functional five-foot-long chainsaw that he lifts from a display. Trent says that the resulting carnage outdoes the graphic gore of Entrails 2: The Gouging and might get him kicked out of AMPAS again.

He was booted in 2002 for going too far in You're Soaking In Her. That film focuses on a guy who runs a New Age therapy retreat. He’s also a brutal serial killer who combines the mineral water with the liquefied bodies of his victims, luring hot chicks to soak in the solution. Even Belgium passed on YSIH.

Marketing Overview

The tagline on the poster for The Tool Belt Killer is a take-off on Lowe's "Let Us Help You": "Let Him Help You Die." Tom asks Trent how he got permission to film at Lowe’s, and Trent reveals that it was all filmed on a soundstage in Iowa. The use of the Lowe’s logo is a bone of contention as they are being "hard-assed" about granting permission to Trent. This makes sense to Tom, who points out that the company might be leery of a film that suggests that using one of their coupons will lead to getting murdered.

Trent is working on alternative marketing strategies and hopes to land a promotional Belty Burger tie-in with Hardee’s. He’s convinced that Belty will be pop culture sensation.

Tom's Take

Tom is disgusted by the film and Trent accuses him of hating Hollywood. Tom counters by saying he likes top-shelf horror films, but hates the current crop of movies that only portray graphic torture. Trent thinks Tom can’t look beyond the graphic gore and realize that this is Hollywood holding the mirror up to the audience and putting their internal struggles on the screen.

Trivia

Rumors circulated that Purple Shirt was commissioned to create a Belty bobblehead doll, but have never been confirmed.