2013 / Director. Dean Jones.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
COFFIN BABY is the sequel to TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004) but it isn't. Director Dean Jones was hired to helm the follow-up to Tobe Hooper’s moderately successful slasher film and when it was poorly received at the Cannes Film Festival he had a huge falling out with the producer. He was all but removed from further development and so instead of walking away he went ahead and filmed a whole lot of new footage.
He spliced it together with the pre-existing material and the result is a hideously awful exercise of defiance. Jones insists that COFFIN BABY is a stand-alone film and NOT an official sequel to TOOLBOX MURDERS and yet it carries over the same killer from the previous movie and references pre-established elements. I suspect that this unsanctioned cut was little more than a middle finger to the producer and I doubt it was intended for general exhibition. Somehow, despite legal proceedings, it DID find its way to home-entertainment, however the issues between Jones and his producer have since been resolved and both parties now dismiss COFFIN BABY entirely. The “official” TOOLBOX MURDERS 2 cut received a release and they would prefer audiences to ignore this ugly version entirely.
But it cannot be ignored. Jones had the tenacity to put together an alternative cut and so he should expect to be fairly criticised for it. It is a thing that exists and so it will be judged.
COFFIN BABY is a tough watch. All of Jones’s new footage is awfully low-grade with a level of quality that audiences would expect from a school project. He has made no effort to match the tone or aesthetic of the original footage and the difference between the sanctioned material and the unauthorised stuff is undeniable. It’s like two movies mashed together… one being a stylish and gnarly horror film and the other being a micro-budget student film.
The entire first twenty minutes appears to be his new footage, presumedly in an effort to establish a new narrative and only the most forgiving of viewer would persevere beyond it. The colours are washed-out to the point of almost being black-and-white and the plot is incomprehensible. The score is hilariously bloated and never suits the imagery. And then there’s the script, oh boy… plus acting not fit for daytime soap. Yep, it is impossible to find a single redeeming feature in this shemozzle.
The “official” footage, however, is good and gives hope that the actual TOOLBOX MURDERS 2 cut will be a solid and effective slice of torture-porn. These scenes look very reminiscent of the SAW franchise and the gore is decadently explicit. The monstrous Coffin Baby character is wonderfully conceived and has a lot of potential for his own ongoing franchise.
COFFIN BABY should be avoided. Its only purpose was for a fickle filmmaker to throw a tantrum and act out against his producer. I would suggest that its only place in the market would be as a point of interest by way of a supplementary disc on the official release… but it’s not even worthy of that. Find a free copy. Don’t pay a single cent for this piece of shit.