A mother locks her child in a closet so she can have an uninterrupted tryst with her lover. But the couple is rudely interrupted after all, as they are bludgeoned to death. Ten years later, a group of friends arrive at the deserted house to party down. After doing so for a fair bit of running time, they then fall prey to a hulking masked maniac, who not only has the titular hammer, but also has all sorts of supernatural powers.
This is, according to the box, “the first shot-on-tape slasher movie for the home video market.” This is a warning as much as anything else: don’t be expecting John Carpenter or Dario Argento behind the camera. That the film is amateurish goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Viewers should be prepared, then, for lots of padding (a slow-motion scene of a couple walking that goes on for minutes), bland camera set-ups, ropey script (let’s have a complete food fight sequence!) and whipped-up-in-the-kitchen gore. On the upside, once the supernatural kicks in, logic goes out the window, and all sorts of strange things start happening with no explanation whatsoever, resulting in a rather charming sort of dime store surrealism. This isn’t a good film, but it is a likable one.
How to review the picture quality?How to give it an accurate star rating? The fact of the matter is that this is a perfectly good transfer of a film whose image is abysmal. Colours are functional at best, grain is strong, and there’s a tracking issue at the bottom of the frame. All of which is pretty much to be expected in a zero-budget shot-on-tape film from 1983. Let’s just say that the Beta/VHS experience has been perfectly preserved. The fullscreen aspect ratio is, of course, the original format.
Same deal with the sound, a mono track just bursting with hiss and electronic noise. It’s a bit harsh on the ears, but once again, there is absolutely no way it could sound any better than it does.
Commentary Tracks: Track 1 has writer/director David A. Prior interviewed by Riot Releasing’s Clint Kelley. Prior has plenty of behind-the-scenes info, but there are also swatches of the film that he doesn’t have much to say about, so Kelley is there to keep the discussion going and provide his own thoughts about what we’re seeing. Track 2 is a discussion between Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik, creators of the Bleeding Skulls website. They freely admit that they don’t know that much about what went on in the making of the movie itself, and are here in their capacity as enthusiasts, though they do have plenty of good contextual information about the genre to bring to the table.
Hammertime: (8:10) Zack Carlson of Destroy All Movies!!! makes the case (and quite a good one at that) about why the film is deserving of love.
Sledgehammerland: (6:08) Cinefamily programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald describe the strange experience of actually watching the movie in a theatre.
Interview with David A. Prior: (5:53) The director talks about the film’s genesis and production.
This release signals that we have fully arrived in a new period of nostalgia. For some time now, there have been home video releases that catered to our fondness for the bygone era of the drive-in and the grindhouse. Now, earlier forms of home video are the objects of nostalgia. Think about that for a moment. And then indulge.