Review Date: October 28, 2005
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 10/25/2005
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
Of all the states in the former Confederacy, only Texas and Florida have actually contributed much in the way of horror and exploitation filmmaking. Florida gave us H.G. Lewis, Dave Friedman and other minor figures like Barry Mahon, while Texas gave us the great Tobe Hooper, the late S.F. Brownrigg, the just-as-late Larry Buchanan and…well…Bill Leslie and Terry Lofton. If those last two names don’t ring a bell it shouldn’t be surprising, since Nail Gun Massacre
is the only directorial effort of either man. Shot in the backwoods of the Lone Star State on what must have been an impossibly low-budget, the movie was completed in 1985 when the decade’s slasher film cycle was almost on its last legs. Though not nearly as famous or notable as that other
Texas power tool rampage, with a title like Nail Gun Massacre
, how can you go wrong?
Nail Gun Massacre
begins with a young woman named Lisa (Michele Meyer
) being assaulted and gang raped by a horde of dirty construction workers. We fade to black and open again on a small, run-down house in the backwoods of Texas. One of the construction workers involved in the assault is yelling at his wife about needing clean laundry when a sinister figure wearing military camouflage fatigues and a motorcycle helmet walks in and shoots him dead with a nail gun. This crime is followed by the killing of two more men who are cutting trees in the woods, with one of them being shot in a most unmentionable place.
In charge of investigating the murders is lawman Sheriff Tom (Ron Queen
), who is assisted by local physician Dr. Jones (Rocky Patterson
). But, with only limited resources and manpower, their efforts bear few results and the body count keeps going up. A hitchhiker is nailed to the pavement of a nearby highway, a couple getting it on against the side of a tree find themselves both
being nailed while another pair of lovers on a desolate road after dark end up getting shot as well. By the end of the movie will there be anybody at all left alive in this small community, or will everyone succumb to the killer’s nail gun and corny one-liners?
Nail Gun Massacre
is the epitome of both what is awful and what is entertaining about the slasher films of the 1980’s. The blood flows freely, the nudity is frequent and gratuitous, and often no more than a few minutes pass before yet another murder happens. The budget is low and the production values are poor, while the story is almost non-existent. It makes even the worst of the Friday the 13th
films look like Forrest Gump
, and even trash like the Slumber Party Massacre
films don’t appear quite so shabby in comparison to it. But yet the movie is fun – it is a gory, ridiculous, implausible and hilarious thrill ride. It is one of the worst slasher movies I have ever seen, and yet it is so much fun that in a way it is beyond scrutiny.
The idea of a nail gun murderer is rife with phallic symbolism. Much has been written about the fact that the murder weapon in so many slasher films is often a penetrating weapon like a knife. To have a killer “nail” his victims to death is an even more provocative extension of the concept. If nothing else it’s symbolically appropriate for a crime spree meant to avenge a rape, though as a revenge film it also fails. The rape scene is poorly edited, poorly shot and presented with absolutely no context whatsoever (it isn’t even revealed until much later on who Lisa is, or that she was delivering building supplies to the construction site where she was assaulted). The crimes seem to be taking place in a vacuum where motives are incidental, and of course, with a script this bad motives are of little importance.
The story – such as it is – is simply an excuse for constant mayhem. The cast is populated with actors whose characters are introduced with the sole point of killing them off, and the sad part is that many of these doomed souls are somehow given more characterization than the two protagonists. Sheriff Tom seems to preside over a department that doesn’t even have a single deputy, and in real life his decision not to call in higher authorities when it’s clear the situation is out of hand would probably result in an angry mob forming to do his job for him. Here though the community remains calm and seemingly unconcerned with the unfolding bloodbath. The killer – who speaks with a disembodied voice that is reminiscent of Darth Vader with a Texas drawl – is not much of a mystery, and if your first guess isn’t right then your second one certainly will be.
Yet, while there are many words to describe what this movie is, boring is not one of them. Whether you’re genuinely interested in a film of this type or simply watching out of macabre curiosity, Nail Gun Massacre
is surprisingly engaging. It’s nothing but empty cinematic calories, yet it goes down easily. Even after the story has sputtered to an uninspiring non-climax, it’s hard to be mad at it. “I hate to see it end this way,” Dr. Jones says after it is all over and done with. I agree, but at least trip was fun.
Synapse presents Nail Gun Massacre
letterboxed at 1.78:1 and with 16x9 enhancement. The transfer does its best to make the film’s rather drab cinematography presentable, and for the most part the image looks great. The picture is clear and detailed and colors are strong. Night scenes are above average with decent shadow detail and the light grain that is present in some scenes is rarely distracting. The only notable flaw in the presentation is the high number of blemishes and specks which appear on a regular basis throughout the film. They are neither severe nor constant, but they are noticeable.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and it suffers from three problems, all of which seem to be the result of the incompetence of the original production. The first of these is that the dialogue recording often has a tinny, distant sound to it, which is most noticeable in long shots where there are multiple people talking (I suspect the crew was using the wrong type of microphones for this type of recording). The second problem comes from the live sound recording done while shooting at various locations where there was a considerable amount of background noise (like cars going by) present. This adversely affects our ability to hear and understand the dialogue, which is also the consequence of problem number three – the sound mixing. A number of dialogue scenes are overlaid with music, which the sound editors recorded a few notches too high, often causing the score to overwhelm the voices of the actors.
On the plus side there is little in the way of hiss, distortion or any other type of background noise not associated with the film’s bad sound recording
The best extra here is Nailed
, a 24-minute featurette and interview with Terry Lofton (Bill Leslie is nowhere to be found). Lofton admits that Nail Gun Massacre
has many problems, and he even points out a few goofs that critics have missed, but is still largely unapologetic about how the production turned out. One of the most interesting tidbits that he reveals about the film is that the script was originally eighty pages long, but was hacked down to twenty-five pages, which resulted in the actors having to constantly ad-lib their scenes. He is quite interesting to listen to and comes across as being a normal, down-to-earth man, not a sleazy hack director.
Though there’s no formal commentary track on the feature itself, there are 8 minutes of outtakes provided with commentary by Lofton (his comments sound like unused bits from the featurette interview, since here he is prompted by the same voice that was asking him questions in it). He talks about how he got into filmmaking in the first place, how he was screwed over by the company that distributed the film, and about plans for a potential sequel (saints preserve us!). The outtakes themselves are presented full-frame and are extremely beat up. They don’t really reveal much and the segment is of interest mainly to hear more of Lofton speaking.
Lastly this release is rounded off with a promotional trailer and humorous liner notes listing off twenty pertinent lessons from the movie.
Anyone looking for serious, mature horror entertainment should give serious thought to the D- rating that Nail Gun Massacre
gets, and it truly is one of the worst movies I have seen in many years. But is entertaining, albeit in the worst sort of way. It’s a cheap, bloody mix of dark humor and sleaze – and a movie that shouldn’t be missed by fans who appreciate those values.
Movie – D-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – C
Supplements – B
- Running Time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- Nailed featurette with co-director Terry Lofton
- Outtakes with Terry Lofton commentary
- Promotional trailer
- Liner notes