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Nail Gun Massacre

Synapse Films // Unrated // October 25, 2005
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 19, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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, 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,

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.
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