So June might bring summer, picnics and vacations galore, but this year summer also brings shot on video madness! This June I will take a look at a few of the classics in the SOV genre that we all love and/or despise so much.
With a prologue ripped from Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (and perhaps Boogeyman), a young boy is locked away so his hot to trot mom can make time with her illicitly illicit lover who is not her husband. Things go predictably awry as said little boy finds a sledgehammer (and apparently a way out of the locked room) and takes down mother and lover.
Flash forward 10 years later and a group of happy-go-lucky-party-goers find themselves in the very same house, mostly meeting the very same fate. With more than a flash of the supernatural, something menacing and unstoppable is inside these quarters, waiting to satiate its hunger to kill, and what better way to get going then with this collection of feathered haired babes and overly buff machismo?
Director David A. Prior and his hunky actor bro Ted (who was Playgirl Playmate of the Month in March of 1984) made their auspicious debuts in this fun, if greatly flawed, Vaseline smeared SOV slasher. Based on all the slo-mo lensing that takes up a good portion of the movie, it looks like the Priors had nary a script but a lot of heart. Most of the film is comprised of the group having food fights, getting drunk and discussing their love woes. And for whatever reason, it’s not annoying at all. Even with a lot marginal acting (although some are better than others), Sledgehammer manages to keep a decent pace (or maybe I’m just a glutton?) until the last third where the bulk of the blood and gore is spilled.
The entire film takes place inside this huge, barren house. The set design is nil. You might find a chair here and there or a bed, but you won’t see anything in the way of art direction or even unintentional splashes of color. Everything is beige, large and boring. I don’t know if Prior happened upon a vacant house and just tried to use it his advantage, but there is nothing remotely remarkable about the setting.
The special effects are competent but nothing to write home about, even perhaps a little boring. Despite the title and the salacious tagline “Flesh tears – Bones shatter – The nightmare has begun,” not much of the red stuff is spilled. Although that first slegehamming was a doozy. And yes, I said sledgehamming. You get what I mean…
So why, if the film as a whole comes across a bit lackluster, do I find myself wanting to say something positive about it? Because despite its misgivings, Sledgehammer is a straight-faced slasher that is so completely unpretentious I can forgive it just about anything. Just about. I can adore any film when I know its intentions are pure. I’m generous that way. And the killer with his clear plastic mask and hulking build is pretty menacing. I mean, I’d be scared…
The Priors went on to make one of the best cult classics of the 80s, Killer Workout and both actually became somewhat of a mainstay in the industry. There is a sense that David was always trying to make his film bigger than the budgets he was allowed. And well, I’ve seen Ted naked. All that means is that I love these guys and found Sledgehammer to be an enjoyable SOV romp of gore! Tempted now?