DECEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE
Every once in a while, I'll get a response to one of my reviews that reads something like: "what movies have you made? It's a lot easier to sit behind a keyboard and criticize than it is to actually go out and create something." And they're right -- it is a lot easier to clack away at my computer. Hammering out a review like this only takes a couple of hours, but even a no-budget schlock-slinger like Larry Buchanan needed at least thirty grand and a few days to churn out something like It's Alive!. No, I've never even tried to make a movie, but I came to the realization last night that if I did, it'd probably look a lot like Nail Gun Massacre.
Nail Gun Massacre is a sweeping Victorian epic in which...wait, no, it's set in a sleepy little town in Texas where people are massacred with a nail gun. Nail Gun Massacre opens with a bunch of carpenters gang-raping a local girl before flashing forward to the present, and we're introduced to a dainty killer draped in camoflauge, wearing a motorcycle helmet with the visor taped over, sounding like the wolf microphone that comes with Snake Mountain, and toting a massacre-grade nail gun. The killer spots one of the carpenters, pops him in the forehead with a nail, and electronically belches "those are the worst headaches -- the ones between the eyes!". Take that scene, aim the nail gun at some other body part, and switch out the one-liners (say, the crotch, as a guy's peeing in the woods: "Well, you just pissed me off. I bet this'll stop that leak!"), and that's most of the movie. The remainder is devoted to the investigation into the murders, spearheaded by an underdressed doctor who likes to play detective.
Okay, The Seventh Seal it's not. The dialogue -- what little of it I could make out, at least -- is mostly improvised and sounds like it, and the delivery of those fun-sized scripted lines is stilted and wooden. The special effects consist almost entirely of wobbly nails, a fake hand, and Strawberry Quik, and the killer's too petite to have much of a menacing presence. If someone had gotten around to filling in the 'Goofs' section for the movie on the IMDb, the list would probably be longer than the script. F'r instance, the killer jumps out of a pool and shoots one of the carpenters with a nail gun (although I guess that second part goes without saying), and as the victim's body tumbles onto a grill, the lifeless body struggles to keep the grill from toppling over. A couple of lovebirds fool around in a car with the radio on, and when the Frankie Goes To Hollywood-soundalike "Foosball" ends, the DJ does a quick promo and immediately spins "Foosball" one more time. Oh, and the car starts rocking back and forth even before they start going at it. I'm sure having a nail driven into your arm or hand really, really hurts, but in this movie, it constitutes a deathblow. The killer's one-liners sound something like: "Now, now...you really shouldn't fall to pieces...over me" and "Games! Games! I'll make death a game! Hahahahahahahahahahaahaha!" I'd quote more, but I couldn't figure out what the massacre-r was saying half the time. I guess those one-liners (there are usually at least four of 'em in a row, so do I call them "four-liners"?) are supposed to have the same dark sort of humor that littered slasher movies in the mid-'80s, but...no.
Y'know, if I watch something and have a genuinely good time with it, even if it's for all the wrong reasons, I can't really consider it a bad movie. It's not quite the Troll 2 of slasher movies, but I had more fun with Nail Gun Massacre...laughing and screaming at my TV...than any other movie I've watched in a very long time. A lot of scenes drag on too long, and all of the sequences with the doc and sheriff are pointless filler (the one-sided conversations with the doctor on the phone in his office are particularly painful), but if you're willing to wade through those, Nail Gun Massacre is a ridiculous amount of fun.
Director/writer/thirty-or-forty-other-things Terry Lofton assembled his own Nail Gun Massacre DVD last year and sold hundreds of signed copies online. This re-release from Synapse Films is less expensive and easier to track down, plus it serves up a spiffy new transfer.
Video: Especially considering what a low-budget flick this is, Nail Gun Massacre looks surprisingly okay. The film stock is really grainy, and the camera doesn't always seem to be in focus, but the source material's mostly clean, and I didn't spot any authoring hiccups.
Audio: The monaural soundtrack's pretty awful, although I'm sure that's just the way the movie's always sounded. This is a completely arbitrary percentage, but I could understand maybe...60% of the dialogue? Whoever was running sound on the set kept the mic as far away from the actors as possible, and if there's anything else going on -- music, sound effects, whatever -- the dialogue is completely overwhelmed. Even when it's just a couple of lovers fooling around in a bedroom, there's so much noise in the background that they were tough to make out. It's bad enough that people with decent hearing might've benefitted from closed captions or subtitles too, but neither of 'em are provided on this DVD.
Supplements: Nail Gun Massacre isn't the most extensive special edition, but what is on here is really good. First up is "Nailed!", a 24 minute interview with director Terry Lofton. Even with all of the ribbing he's taken over the years about Nail Gun Massacre, Terry has a great sense of humor about the whole thing and comes across as a really good guy. The movie was inspired by Terry seeing a couple of guys having a nail gun fight, so that scene at the construction site I almost griped about really isn't so ridiculous after all. He talks about how the 80 page script was whittled all the way down to 25 pages, with most of the dialogue being ad-libbed, and Terry even apologizes for not giving the actors much to work with. He also covers the effects, such as how the nail gun actually worked but was too dangerous to use, and that those are real nails, no matter how rubbery they might look. He chats a lot about some of the most memorable scenes in the movie: how he was the one who started rocking the car before the lovebirds even started fooling around, the impromptu casting of his grandmother, his own brief cameo, how the scene with the couple screwing against a tree was rumored to have led to the actor's divorce, why he chose to have a talkative killer, and how he's not completely satisfied with the ending.
Terry's mini-commentary that plays over eight and a half minutes of outtakes covers the rest of the bases. He talks about his self-education in filmmaking, how working on The Dukes of Hazzard drew him towards making his own movie, his grandmother's not-entirely-enthusiastic response to being in a "sex movie", and how he lined up a distributor and wound up with a pretty sour deal. An anamorphic widescreen trailer rounds out the extras.
The DVD includes a set of 16x9 animated menus, and the movie's sixteen chapter stops are listed on the flipside of an insert. The liner notes list twenty things Michael Felsher learned from watching Nail Gun Massacre, and even though I read 'em before ever watching the movie, they're laugh-out-loud funny.
Conclusion: Nail Gun Massacre is an earnestly made independent horror flick that's too clumsy to deliver any thrills or scares, but it manages to be a hell of a lot of fun anyway. I don't know if I'd shell out fifteen bucks to buy it, but Nail Gun Massacre is an endearingly inept slasher and worth at least a rental for other people like me who consider that to be a good thing.
DECEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE
Chainsaws are for wussies.
Hey, remember the rack of big box horror tapes you always passed by at the local mom and pop rental shops in the mid-1980s? C'mon, you know the movies I'm talking about—lewd and crude slices of independently-lensed trash like Splatter Farm, Killer Workout, and Sledgehammer—films you were maybe a little bit curious about, but never could convince yourself to rent. Well, if you've ever wished that somebody would mine this almost-forgotten toxic waste dump of North American horror for a DVD revival, then you're about to break out in a big, bloody smile. Now that Nail Gun Massacre, the preeminent Texas indie slasher epic is set to be the first in what promises to be a steady line of 1980s horror making the leap to the digital format, we can finally answer that pressing question you've had since passing it up for rental so long ago: Does Nail Gun Massacre actually live up to its incredible name?
Facts of the Case
Not long after a woman (Michelle Meyer, Free Enterprise) is cruelly gang-raped by a crew of brutish construction workers, a strange masked killer appears, wielding a high-powered pneumatic nail gun. One by one, the construction workers are killed, falling prey to the bloody ker-chunk served up by their motorcycle-helmeted executioner. The clueless sheriff (Ron Queen, Trespasses) is suddenly up to his neck in dead welders and carpenters, and enlists the help of the hopeless town doctor (Rocky Patterson, Repligator) to help him put a stop to the nail gun-fuelled spree of death.
Nail Gun Massacre isn't the first hardware horror film to explore the kill-potential of a pneumatic nail gun, but it is certainly the worst. A sleazy slasher from the "anything goes" VHS heyday of the early 1980s, Nail Gun Massacre is, for all intents and purposes, a one-man rape-revenge show put on by Texas entrepreneur Terry Lofton—an incredibly amateurish, low-budget schlock-fest riddled with technical errors, and all around bad filmmaking. There are moments of unintentionally hilarious reprieve on display throughout the film, but they're a weak antidote for the painful shots of 3/4-inch galvanized movie ineptitude.
In his sole contribution to the world cinematic canon, novice filmmaker/screenwriter/actor Lofton simply falls victim to his lack of experience behind the camera, and is unable to come up with anything particularly compelling. Not that there's much competence in front of it either- Lofton's actors are atrocious without exception, a mix of amateur thespians, centerfold models, and locals who seem completely baffled by the nonsensical script, to the point of shooting pained looks directly into the camera. Together, they try to give a little narrative thrust to Nail Gun Massacre, but only manage in pushing the plot towards each subsequent nail gun death, rather than contributing to any story arc or satisfying resolution—in fact, the filmmaker's attempt to keep us "guessing" at the true identity of the nail gun massacre perpetrator is not only irrelevant, but also vaguely insulting. To make matters worse, the unconvincing sheriff and town doctor, ostensibly the only ones who can stop the killings, are infuriatingly incompetent at their jobs, seemingly driving around on a hunt for more bloodied victims rather than the actual killer. At one point, they even leave a nailed corpse at the roadside because "she's not going anywhere."
Of course, some of these things might be forgivable if the film actually made sense, but it doesn't—Nail Gun Massacre falls further, subject to continuity errors too numerous to mention, including several scenes that have obviously been accidentally swapped in the editing process. This gives the film a disjointed, bizarre atmosphere, made even stranger by heavily padded and tenuously connected subplots that seem to have more to do with offering up glimpses of female flesh from obvious victims-to-be rather than contributing anything at all to the rape revenge plot.
The dialogue also deserves special mention, especially the nonsensical one-liners spewed forth by the killer—"You shouldn't fall to pieces over me," "Those are the worst headaches—the ones between the eyes," and, after accidentally being peed on by one victim, "Well, you've just pissed me off!" Delivered through what sounds like a Darth Vader voice changer, these no-brow witticisms are enough to make Freddy Krueger beg for mercy. Not to be outdone, the town shopkeeper (played by Lofton's grandmother) asks some customers if they "remember when we could sit outside on our porch and not have to worry about the mosquitoes and the killers?" Once the film ends, and the doctor expresses relief that the murders are finally over, the sheriff inexplicable asks, "Is it?" before they walk off into the sunset.
But I digress—if you were expecting to savor such filmic tropes as character development, coherent scripting, and plot logic then you probably wouldn't be reading a review for subcretinous cinema like Nail Gun Massacre. What you really want to know is, how does the film stack up, nail victim-wise? Well, in this respect, I'm pleased to announce that the film does deliver all the steel spike action you could ask for, and much more. While Nail Gun Massacre is surprisingly light on the blood spurts and flesh piercing scenes, it is clearly aiming for quantity over quality, a goal which it easily achieves with a non-stop parade of at least a dozen unlucky victims. In fact, not more than two minutes have gone by when already the nail gun is being used for nefarious purposes, dispensing its clip into the mouth and crotch of a loutish construction worker. Now, there's no getting around the fact that "death by nail gun" sounds actually worse than it is, especially as actors desperately flail around and die after receiving a few minor puncture wounds to the hands and stomach, but the film really sticks to the concept and offers enough interesting variations on the nail gun death to please any inebriated crowd—even though being physically nailed to a paved road seems illogical, at best. We never do see a nail actually come out of the gun or sink into flesh, but there are a few gory highlights, including a scene in which one character is shot while operating a chainsaw, causing him to inadvertently hack off his own hand, and a much later killing where a corpulent victim belly-flops onto his barbecue grill—even though the corpse has to visibly steady himself so he doesn't topple the whole set-up over.
Given Synapse's excellent track record with cult film restorations, I'm inclined to believe that every effort was taken to present the film in the finest possible quality, but it still doesn't look entirely impressive. There aren't any artifacts to speak of, but grain is a constant problem, and the whole movie seems rather soft—no doubt a limitation with the source material. Likewise, the soundtrack is quite muffled, with dialogue and the sparse electronic score often struggling against each other. The best part of the disc is undoubtedly the extras section, which includes Nailed, a half-hour interview with Terry Lofton on the making of the film. Lofton, well aware of the shortcomings of Nail Gun Massacre, offers some entertaining behind-the-scenes stories about the film and gives some explanations on why it turned out the way it did—improvised dialogue, reshoots to up the T&A content, and even cast and crew confusion over whether the movie was supposed to be serious or a comedy. He mentions a possible sequel(?!) Also on board is a badly beat-up eight-minute outtake reel, which has a running commentary by Lofton on how he got into the film business (he bought cameras from a company going out of business) and the critical reception to the film. There's also a promotional trailer included, but it's not very interesting.
Here's a film that's really difficult to recommend to anyone, including the film's target audience. There is an undeniable, Ed Woodian entertainment value to many of the scenes, but I found it something of a chore to watch, which is saying something, considering I've enjoyed certified grade-Z trash like Rock N Roll Nightmare and The Corpse Grinders more times than I can count. Fans of slasher horror—even lower rung titles—should probably grab The Toolbox Murders or My Bloody Valentine for some better crafted nail gun kills and leave Nail Gun Massacre for that peculiar breed of masochist known as the bad movie hound.
Guilty—case (nailed) closed.
DECEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE
Following the rape of a local Woman by some construction workers a psycho wearing combat gear and black biker's helmet uses a big ass nail gun rig to kill off any construction worker type people that happen on by...
Badly made, badly acted, badly scripted. Starring no one of any worth whatsoever.
Yep, we're driving through Trash City with this sucker and I have to admit it, it's a pretty fun journey.
First off our very small and slight psycho lumbers around with the most inconvenient murder weapon they could find. This nail gun needs tanks of air, carried on the back and connected via a huge pipe, to even work. Add the combat gear and taped up motorbike helmet and you have a killer that would be advised to stick to the dark for fear of being spotted at every turn. But no, our crazy coot flounders around in broad daylight...and no one sees anything.
And the one who seems to see the least is the local Sheriff, perhaps the dumbest Cop ever to appear in film.
The killer's gold hearse (I personally would have picked a slightly less distinctive car for my killing spree) drives from the direction of a reported murder on a highway and this 'Dumb as a Box of Rocks' Cop does not even pull it over to check it out (where he would have found our psycho in full costume).
Worse, he later passes the same car, now deserted and pulled clumsily over to the edge of the road, and simply looks at it and sees nothing worse investigating.
Add to this the fact that he fails to even link the obvious victims with a recently reported rape (though why nothing was done about the rape is never explained), and needs the help of a local Doctor to even make any headway at all and the folks of this County should ask for a tax refund. Hell the guy does not even drive a real Police car. Ask for a refund now citizens!
The nail gun itself never seems to actually fire anything, we simply have the killer shake it a bit as fake sound effects attempt to make us think a nail was shot out.
And what powerful nails they be!
Now then, being stuck with a nail sure would be painful, but exactly how lethal? Well here we have people shot in the hands, or arms, or stomachs by little tiny nails and sure enough they all drop down dead. One guy has his crossed over hands nailed to a tree by a single (obviously super sized) nail and he is later found dead! That damn tetanus will get you every time!
The infamous nail gun murder in "The Toolbox Murders" had the nasty things used in a realistic and brutally effective way, here they most certainly aren't.
As for the foolish victims, Hell these fools deserve to die just for their stupidity alone.
There stands our loony, waffling on endlessly in an annoying robotic voice (the origin of which is never explained) delivering really bad pun after really bad pun, and no one even bothers to run. Or even move a bit to the side to get away from the gun being pointed at them. They all simply stand there cowering, giving the killer plenty of time to deliver those excruciating jokes, before being stuck with those pesky little metal pointy things.
All the acting is bad, very bad, very bad indeed. So bad it becomes almost numbing in fact.
And the film makers (Co-Director Terry Loften also handled the Producing, Writing, FX and even the casting duties...so we know who to blame here folks) obviously filled minor roles with the locals, as some of the stilted line readings on display here would be bad even in your school play. All hail the lady shopkeeper, don't give up the day job dear.
We also spend time with a number of characters who either do nothing other than die (like the dreadfully drawn out sequences with a man and his girlfriend getting some food from a diner, arguing with the Man's ex girlfriend, driving around then fumbling about in the car in an hysterically clumsy sex scene, before simply being nailed) or just vanish from the film after seemingly being important (like the group doing up an old house). And for no reason at all the killer also kills off people who are not construction workers, like various girlfriends and two women simply walking along minding their own business.
Shoddy script writing.
And don't hold out for a gripping finale either. It's lame dear reader. Lame, lame, lame.
So what on Earth makes this a fun journey then I hear you cry?
Well, it's that hard to describe fun time that only bad movie masochists and Exploitation freaks can appreciate.
We have plenty of blood and nudity for one. The nail deaths may be silly for the most part but they deliver those messy thrills. One double murder in particular is an exploitation gem as a naked couple doing the dirty against a tree get bumped off. The first nail sticks in the back of the man's neck resulting, in a long squirt of blood from the wound, and as he collapses the woman gets hit in the chest, resulting in some classic 'your Mother would not approve' blood on breasts action before the nekkid fools flop down in a bloody pile.
Trash. You have to love it.
And no opportunity to zoom in on tan lined breasts, and then hold that shot for as long as possible, is missed.
Trash. You have to love it.
The music is also worth a mention. Most is pretty bad, but the title theme is a highly effective, off the wall mixture of electro tune and "Evil Dead" demon style vocal effects that seems to herald a grim supernatural movie more than a cheesy slasher flick.
Add to all this the high body count, silly killer, and silly victims (one, seeing the killer in full combat gear/bike helmet and huge nail gun appliance asks, "Are you a Cop"?) and you have what is at least an enjoyable (for all the wrong reasons) watch.
And let us not forget truly wonderful dialogue like:
"Okay turd face, cut the small talk".
"I'm hornier than a rooster in a Chinese hen house"
And my favourite, the almost Shakespearean………"Hey, big tits, get in the car".
Normal people should stay clear. Abnormal bad movie freaks should give this at least one viewing.