Any horror fan that came of age during the 1980’s had to develop a taste for trash. The marketplace was glutted with opportunistic, often dodgy product so it was a matter of survival. Learning to appreciate or at least understand the genre’s lows built character and deepened one’s appreciation for the good stuff.
Once a viewer gets enough experience in this area, it easily develops into an acquired taste. That said, dilettantes should be careful because every now and then there is a bad horror flick that packs a real wallop. This brings us to Nail Gun Massacre. The title hints at the film’s potential for schlock but in no way can it prepare the viewer for the mind-melting sights and sounds the film contains.
The story? Well, it’s more of a loose concept. A young woman is raped on a construction site by a bunch of no-good rednecks. Shortly after, a killer in a helmet and camouflage fatigues begins ventilating the rapists and any other unlucky souls who get in the way with a nailgun. Each kill is punctuated with jokey quips and hysterical laughter, all delivered in an echoey, synthesizer-filtered voice. Between the kills, a doctor (Rocky Patterson) who never does any doctoring and a somnambulistic sheriff (Ron Queen) pad out the running time with halfhearted attempts to solve the case.
However, no synopsis could capture the tidal wave of schlock that Nail Gun Massacre dumps on the viewer’s head. The script lumbers from kill to kill, each with murder being virtually identical in nature (the only change is where the nails go). However, these kills still wrack the nerves because the viewer never knows what cringe-worthy quip the killer is going to unleash and the killer’s synth-filtered laugh is like nails on a blackboard.
Between kills, the viewer is assaulted by brain-warping stretches of dullness – the worst is an overextended scene where a would-be lothario has to deal with an ex-girlfriend waitress while trying to seduce a new conquest. Nail Gun Massacre is also unique in horror history for boasting the most insanely shrill and obnoxious electronic scores ever recorded. It’s far more upsetting than any gory setpiece could ever be.
However, if one is brave enough to deal with the aforementioned aesthetic obstacles, there are wonderfully demented moments that pop up amid the wreckage. The fact that all the actors are cut loose without any real guidance results in some hysterical bits, like a local-color farmer type who stammers out his lines in a fit of camera-terror or one actress who goes through the world’s worst method-actor crying/panic scene in tight close-up with no edits.
The best bad-acting moment is a deliriously awful four-person dialogue scene in a general store that is covered in a one-take long shot: the actors flail about helplessly, stepping on each other’s lines and nervously bluffing their way through the whole thing (you can even see the clerk – the grandma of one of the directors – sneaking peeks at a script and looking off-camera for guidance at scene’s end). As a final bonus, there’s an amusing faux-country rock song called “Foosball” that pops up on the soundtrack during a necking scene.
Ultimately, Nail Gun Massacre succeeds as a horror movie… but for unintended reasons: under the guise of a slasher quickie, it presents an assault on your taste and level of endurance. Every bad movie buff needs to test their limits every now and then and this film serves that purpose well.
Side Note: The Texas b-movie film history tome Texas Schlock, recently reviewed here at Schlockmania, has an interesting chapter about Terry Lofton, the filmmaker behind Nail Gun Massacre. The story of him, his film and its circuitous route to cult success is by turns tragic and touching. Click here to read our review of Texas Schlock.