Then, when all seems darkest, a savior appears. In his left hand he grasps a clumsy, dinosaur-sized video camera that must weigh nearly half as much as its bearer. In his sturdy right hand, he clutches a holy relic, the solution to the national crisis. His name is David A. Prior, and the treasure he offers is the first Shot-On-Video slasher filmed exclusively for the home video market,** SLEDGEHAMMER.
**According to the Intervision Pictures Corp. website.
|What It Says on the Tin|
Unfortunately for our fornicating friends, before they can get it on they are visited by the grim spectre of DEATH, this time wielding not a scythe, but a 20-pound sledge! The unseen assailant does to the Lover's head what Gallagher made a career of doing to overripe melons, with comparable results. As blood splatters the walls and a deep bass buzz fills the soundtrack, we watch the opening credits roll. The fate of the kid and the identity of the killer are left, for the moment, tantalizingly unclear.
Of course it's a law of nature that a long-abandoned cabin with a bloodstained past cannot stay empty during the vacation season, and so a decade or so later we find a crew of twentysomething teenagers rolling up to the house with fun and frolic on their minds. The leader of the pack is golden boy Chuck, portrayed by the director's brother and future SOV legend Ted Prior. Also in attendance: Chuck's love interest Joni (Linda McGill); musclebound oaf and winner of the 1981 Arn Anderson Lookalike Nationals, John (John Eastman); John's slightly harpyish girlfriend Mary (Janine Scheer); stereotypical jokester Joey (Stephen Wright); the requisite blonde nympho Carol (Sandy Brooke); and Carol's boyfriend, 70s-style studmuffin Jimmy (Tim Aguilar), about whom a little more later.
|Hetero As Fuck|
It doesn't take us long to discover that each of the couples has its own set of problems. Chuck is feeling rather commitment-shy about his relationship with Joni, a situation just possibly related to her spiky femullet and penchant for wearing baggy sweater vests. John drinks too much for Mary's taste, but he is the patient sort, having been circling Mary in a promised-poontang holding pattern for two years, with no result. (No wonder his forearms are so well-muscled!) Carol and Jimmy have the opposite problem, as despite his magnificent man-mane and Van Nuys-ready flavor-saver, Jimmy is shockingly reluctant to take the lustful lass to bed. Also, one of the girls apparently had (has?) a thing with Joey, but found his twisted sense of humor too much to take. ("He wears a mask to bed!" "How do you kiss him?" "He doesn't wear it on his face!" )
|"Look, I know I have more fabulous hair than you do, better fashion sense, and bigger boobs, but...wait a minute, what were we talking about?"|
|"And from the bottom of the stairs the boy heard a whisper....Whooooo's got my giant pecs?!"|
Things might have been okay had Chuck not broken the cardinal rule of party séances*, which is "Never invite the dead to come back, but NEVER." Since he's not a pussy (nor particularly smart), Chuck rather exhorts the dead to "Awaken on this night of vengeance, and walk among the living!" Which, as we all know, ALWAYS works out well. In Chuck's defense, he is trying to pull an elaborate prank on his friends, as jokester Joey is in the next room, playing a tape recorder of ghostly moaning. Unfortunately the dead take Chuck up on his invitation, announcing their presence by shoving a kitchen knife through Jimmy's neck and dragging him out of the room by it!
*Apart from the BIG rule of party séances, which is of course, "Don't fucking have one, dumbasses!" But no one ever follows that one.
|Kind of a Drag|
Still, as the night wears on and the fecal matter gets closer to the wind-stirring apparatus, there's fun to be had. The reluctant Jimmy gives in to Carol's advances at last, and we're treated to some slow-motion sexy time that is one of the cinematic high-water marks for hipbone-and-moustache fetishists around the world. About this time Chuck and Joni find Joey's body; Chuck, always solid under pressure, instructs his shocked girlfriend to "Go get the others, but DON'T TELL THEM ANYTHING!" (Why? I'm sure he has his reasons...) Meanwhile The Killer (Doug Matley), an absolute GIANT of a man in a surprisingly creepy half-mask and curly killer mullet, interrupts the hip-grinding lovers by breaking Carol's neck and then giving Jimmy 20 pounds of steel to the sternum!
|Nailed, then Nailed Again|
That all sounds exciting, but MAN is it slow, thanks to the editing job sponsored by the National Molasses Board. Eventually Chuck and Joni have to face both the killer and his masked-kid alter-ego, more deaths occur, and there's a final showdown between an inexplicably shirtless Prior and his Andre-the-Giant-sized enemy. More teleportation, a Home Alone-style booby trap, Fun with Dead Bodies, and some grody home-made gore round out the festivities, leading to a satisfyingly cheesy but far-too-leisurely finale.
|Loves His Job|
On the plus side, there's some fairly respectable gore effects, particularly when the killer pops the Lover's head early on. There's also hilarious 80s clothes and hairstyles, endearing technical gaffes and continuity errors (such as the ubiquitous crew shadows, or the way the sledgehammer magically changes from silver [metal] to black [rubber] whenever it gets swung at a living actor), and a woofer-abusing, droning bass soundtrack that will have Sunn O))) fans turning up the volume and lying down on the floor. And while the plot has its unanswered questions (How was the killer able to fade in and out of reality and teleport? Was he a supernatural being, or an abandoned child grown up feral? Were he and the kid the same or astral-projected aspects of the same ghostly personality? What's with the Satanist symbology? Where can I get a smoking jacket like the Lover's?), trash movie fans will likely count those plot holes as pluses rather than minuses.
Intervision Pictures Corp.* has given this historical flick a fantastic presentation in their recent DVD release. The sound mix is on Philip G. Slate's soundtrack is good, particularly if you're a Drone/Doom fan.There is also a plethora of extras, including commentary from directory David Prior, bonus commentary by Joseph A. Ziemba And Dan Budnik of the Vicar-admired site Bleeding Skull, two featurettes and a director's interview. However, it has to be said that the transfer, though probably the best available, is still pretty terrible; be ready for tracking lines, artificacts, and periodic tape-jumps. Still in all, a great package.
*Intervision provided a copy of this film to MMMMMovies for review purposes.
As for the flick--as a movie it's entertaining if a little slow, but as a historical artifact it's absolutely invaluable to trash movie fans everywhere. 2.25 thumbs, and recommended from me to you. If anything in this review gave you a throbber, please check it out.
|"Get ready for the hurting."|
|Chuck performs his heartfelt folk tune, "The Sun Never Sets on My Pecs."|
|"I know what it looks like, but...yeah, it's pretty much that."|
|"OMG! Look at the color of that carpet!"|
|One Shining Moment|