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directed by David A. Prior
USA 1983

 

A woman locks her eight-year-old son in a closet of an isolated house so she can have a clandestine encounter with her lover. Quickly, the two are pounded into pulp by a sledgehammer-wielding assailant and the boy is never found. Ten years later, seven friends (three couples and one practical joker to provide the false scares) are dropped off at the same house in the mountains for a weekend of partying and screwing. Chuck (Ted Prior, KILLER WORKOUT) tells them the story of the murder and holds a seance to contact the victims, but they may have brought the killer back since a dark figure skulks around the strangely cramped house (actually the director's apartment) and picking off the horny twenty-somethings. By the time the first body is discovered, it may already be too late since the killer is not simply unstoppable in that Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees fashion, he shape-shifts too. One of the earliest shot-on-video horror movies catering to the growing video rental market (it is debatable whether it is the first since BOARDINGHOUSE was transferred to 35mm and got a brief theatrical release), which also included a handful of titles from VCI/United Home Video and some non-theatrical features from Wizard Video, Camp Video, and City Lights. Despite some familiar story and stylistic elements (including some HALLOWEEN-esque mask POV shots), SLEDGEHAMMER is unpredictable, quirky, a little creepy, and strangely dream-like at times; although much of the post-produced slow-motion was added to bring the film up to feature-length (although an early slow-mo scene of Prior and MacGill just walking through the woods is scored as if it were from a early seventies romantic drama). Performances are uneven and get worse whenever drama is required (but it ultimately adds to ones enjoyment of the viewing experience). The effects are better than expected for the limited budget, and well-executed by actor/musician/model Ted Prior (including a couple cranium puncturing sledgehammer blows). Other than the main title theme, the synth score is largely shapeless but suited to the mood and the videography is frequently striking (with creative angles and some atmospheric lighting during the seance). Not a neglected masterpiece or even definable as "so bad, it's good," SLEDGEHAMMER occupies a strange filmic universe in which it hardly seems to matter that the acting is uneven, the music is droning, and the action choreography is laughable. Watch it when you would normally go to sleep and see if it mimics some of your caffeine-infused nightmares.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

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DVD Review: Intervision Pictures Corp. - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Intervision Pictures Corp.

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:24:42
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.58 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Intervision Pictures Corp.

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary with director David A. Prior, moderated by Clint Kelly
• Audio Commentary by Bleeding Skull creators Joseph Z. Ziemba and Dan Budnik
• HAMMERTIME interview with DESTROY ALL MONSTERS author Zack Carlson (16:9; 8:10)
• SLEDGEHAMMERLAND interview with CINEFAMILY programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald (4:3; 6:08)
• Interview with director David A. Prior (16:9; 5:53)
• Trailers for JEFFREY DAHMER: THE SECRET LIFE, A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER, and THINGS
• Startup Trailer for THINGS

DVD Release Date: May 10th, 2011
Amaray

Chapters 23

 

Comments

Intervision's DVD of this early shot-on-video slasher film is a labor-of-love, and an overall improvement presentation-wise over their first two releases (THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF and PAULA-PAULA). The transfer looks as good as the original tape master (overscan lines are visible at the bottom of the frame). The audio is strong, but subject to the limitations of the original mix (the music and effects can drown out some dialogue, and some improvised shouting distorts the audio levels). Clint Kelly moderates the audio commentary with director David A. Prior. Kelly does far more than prompt Prior, he offers his valid interpretations (Prior says there is no backstory) and supplements Prior's information about the cast and crew. His affection for the film is palpable (and bewildering to Prior).

The second commentary with Bleeding Skull website creators Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik is not trivia- or -fact-based. While not a "comedy commentary" despite some justifiable pokes at the story and characters, it is a somewhat unfocused overview of shot-on-video horror, video collecting (including both commentators' discoveries of SLEDGEHAMMER and acquisitions of the highly-coveted World Video cassette edition). The Bleeding Skull website is highly recommended for features and reviews of some of the most obscure video-era horror movies. An interview with Prior (shot before the commentary) features a little overlapping information but is more concise in its story of how the film came about (Prior admits that casting friends in a film is a freshman mistake). The featurette with "Destroy All Movies!" Zack Carlson is an astute appreciation of the film's virtues (including what some might call its faults). "SledgehammerLand" is a recollection by Cinefamily's two programmers about the belated 2008 theatricial premiere of the film as a "party film" and the odd experience of seeing it with a post-Halloween night hangover. Trailers for other upcoming releases round out the extras (THINGS also appears as a start-up trailer).

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Intervision Pictures Corp.

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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