FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 25, 2009

Day 25: "Remember when you could sit outside and not worry about the mosquitos and the killers?"

Going into a flick called The Nail Gun Massacre (1985), well, I suppose I should know what to expect: some deadly nail gun shenanigans, a fine patina of sleaze, and a distinct absence of quality. Sure enough, my expectations were met! The only shock I suffered was that in the end, the movie wasn't nearly as lurid as I was expecting.

The movie begins with a gang rape. It's not explicit, nor is it terribly long...but as it literally opens the film, it's a propos of nothing. A woman is surrounded by a bunch of workers at a construction site while a peppy '80s synth tune plays, and it's all so sudden that by the time you've processed that yes, Nail Gun Massacre opens with a rape, it's over. It's not traumatizing for the viewer- it's probably the only instance of cinematic rape where I've claimed that- and one can only assume that it's going to provide the impetus for the titular nail-gunning to come.

And provide the impetus it does, in the very next scene! A hairy slob is yelling at his wife (who's outside hanging laundry on a line) when he's visited by someone dressed in camouflage, wearing a duct taped motorcycle helmet, and wielding a massive nail gun. Judging by the person's diminutive size and vaguely hourglass figure, it seems this is the rape victim out for a bit of pneumatic-powered revenge.

But is it revenge? Is the hairy slob one of the construction workers who raped that woman? We don't know. We never really know any of the people killed in Nail Gun Massacre- their names, how they may or may not relate to anything that already transpired in the all seems completely random. Ah me, might as well just roll with it.

After the hairy slob is killed and his wife runs off into the woods with her baby, we're treated to the opening credits sequence, which surely ranks among the worst credits sequences of all time. Plain text slowly gives the names of cast and crew while the theme song...err, well, it isn't a theme song at all. There's no music, only someone's voice filtered through a vocoder, going "muaa...MUAA...MUAA...MUAA" ad nauseum. It turns out that this voice belongs to the killer. Nail Gun Massacre then quickly establishes a pattern:
  1. People you don't want to watch engage in sex engage in sex
  2. Ample bare bottoms and bare boobs are on display
  3. Nail Gun Killer arrives
  4. BANG BANG BANG goes the nail gun
  5. UHHNNN...NO...UHHNNN goes the victim
  6. Nail Gun Killer cracks wise via vocoder (eg, "Oh, don't you just hate headaches?")
  7. Sheriff arrives, is perplexed by the body, calls the doctor
  8. Doctor arrives in a Camaro, clad in a tank top, says the victim died "hours ago"
  9. They both suspect "Old Mrs. Bailey" of the killings
Add a heaping vat of inept filmmaking, a dose of a horrible script, atrocious acting, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

If anything, Nail Gun Massacre proves that decent slasher movies are much more than the sum of their parts. Though there's nudity, blood, and a masked killer, this is far worse than even the weakest entry in the Friday the 13th series. You've got to have a modicum of skill in at least one essential area (writing, directing, FX, acting) for the movie to work, and Nail Gun Massacre fails on all fronts.

Mind you, this doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the damn thing, because I did. I think the moment it won my heart came during a scene set in a grocery store. An elderly clerk is adding up an order (apparently without the aid of a cash register), and the actress is clearly reading her lines from a script on the counter. She fumbles over a few sentences, and when the scene is finally over...she looks directly at the camera with a look that says "Is that it?" According to imdb, the woman isn't an actress at all, but the director's grandmother, who actually worked at the store- she filled in when the actress originally cast didn't show. I loved her, and it filled me with a sort of "Aww, none of these people are professionals...they're just making a movie, how sweet!" Of course, this doesn't make the affair any better, or even worth your time. It basically endeared the awfulness to me because that's how my brain works.

As I said, it is awful. Another "highlight" occurs during one of the film's copious sex scenes, where a couple is trying to have it off in a 2-seater car. It's not working because there's no room for them to maneuver, and at one point the couple stops moving around completely...while the car still bounces up and down as if they're humping away. The shadow of the person repeatedly pushing down on the car is clearly visible on the hood. The killer soon arrives, prompting the man to ask "What are you, a cop?"- I don't know, how many law enforcement agencies wear camouflage jumpsuits, duct taped motorcycle helmets, and wield nail guns? Maybe things are different elsewhere in the country. At any rate, Ol' Naily makes short work of the couple- the man dies immediately after being shot in the elbow with a nail.

The killer drives a massive, golden/puke-colored hearse and leaves it on the road whilst off wielding the nail gun; the sheriff encounters this hearse many times in many places, but thinks nothing of it. Eventually, he and the doctor stop blaming "Old Mrs. Bailey" (whom we never meet) for the crimes...the sheriff finally begins to think that the rape victim from a few months back might have something to do with this, but the doctor remains unconvinced. After all, he spoke to her after the rape and "She never showed any signs that the rape pushed her mind into a state of killing." The state of killing is so dangerous!

Still, the men go to talk to her...there's a lengthy Camaro vs Golden/Puke Hearse "chase" sequence, and all parties end up at the gravel pit. The killer is soon revealed to be...the rape victim's brother. Yes, despite the fact that the role has been played by a woman throughout the entire film, it's actually a man under the helmet. Uh huh.

Totally. Horribly. Ridiculous. And yet, I could not bring myself to be angry with Nail Gun Massacre. I mean, I'm the one who popped it in the VCR and should have known what to expect. What I didn't expect was that the director's gramma would steal my heart! at your own risk.


matango said...

The lame post murder one liners are what I remember most about this movie. That and a really old computer.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ah yes, the most annoying computer ever invented, where EVERY KEY BEEPS.

Oh, Nail Gun Massacre. When will you ever learn?

Rhubarb said...

I'm immediately struck by two things.

1) This movie sounds unbearably bad.
2) I desperately want to see it.

There are so many good films in the world going unwatched as well. It's probably indicative of something or other.

Bill Walsh said...

One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn nail-gun murders.

Crunchy Frog said...

All I can say is, that Old Mrs. Bailey must be one bad mamba jamba.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall there was "watersports" scene early on in the movie?

Stacie Ponder said...

Well, someone DOES get peed on (the killer, in fact), but it's not in a sexual context (praise Jebus), so I don't think it qualifies as "watersports" per se. But it's there, 'cause that's how Nail Gun Massacre rolls.

Chris H said...

This movie was defintely one of the highlights of my youth. I can still laugh thinking about how charmingly inept it is even after all these years. I might have to watch it again soon. I think I tore some stomach muscles during the part where the guy asked if the killer was a cop. hahahahaha!

bird said...

i really need to see this movie. i've read too many blog posts about it not to.

my problem is i moved from a great town for horror and genre rentals to a shithole town so i can't find it here. besides the fuckton of snow i miss you madison, wi.

maybe if i sign up for netflix or something i can get my fix. or maybe i should move to denver or boulder co, living in a town without nail gun massacre at the video store ain't worth livin in.

Jay Clarke said...

Oh Nail Gun Massacre. Been 20 years since I've seen it, and apart from the camo-duct-taped-she-male you mentioned, the only thing I really remember is an early scene where a naked blonde refers to her breasts in the third person, as in "they're lonely, and need some attention" :D

David Robson, Proprietor, House of Sparrows said...

According to imdb, the woman isn't an actress at all, but the director's grandmother, who actually worked at the store- she filled in when the actress originally cast didn't show. I loved her, and it filled me with a sort of "Aww, none of these people are professionals...they're just making a movie, how sweet!"

"Hey, Grandma, can we film you in a walk-on role in the movie?....Yes, NAIL GUN MASSACRE...yes, it still begins with the rape scene...You'll do it? Great!...Love you, too."

Stacie Ponder said...

Yeah, apparently she was appalled when she saw the film. Go figure.

ZedWord said...

I still think they should remake this movie. The look of the killer is neat in a plain way. Someone needs to make this movie again but better.

Home Depot could get in on lots of product placement.

ysubassoon said...

Look at the end credits again. Granny's store also is listed as the "caterer" for the film. What's not to love about that? The box of edible items the main characters got in the movie probably fed the cast that day.