Blu-Review: Nail Gun Massacre (Terry Lofton/Billie Leslie, 1985) – 88 Films

by Jason Suzuki

Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome’s release of Night Train to Terror I was introduced to The Hysteria Continues, a group four friends, two in the UK and two in the US, who love slasher films and do a podcast dedicated the sub-genre. I found that Night Train to Terror was immediately re-watchable alongside The Hysteria Continues. The podcast itself was even more entertaining, the four of them able to be themselves while never being indulgent and always adding humor while they discuss the films. So whenever a release has a commentary by the guys I end up getting it. I’m not completely into slasher films (love Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie) I have noticed I’m watching more and more of them and I blame The Hysteria Continues. Thankfully, Nail Gun Massacre is such a fun no-budget film (reminiscent of something like Don’t Go into the Woods…Alone) and 88 Films offer a fantastic presentation and set of extras.

What’s great about a film like this is that despite having its tongue in its cheek, sometimes you wonder what previous life decisions allowed certain narrative and artistic choices to be incorporated into the finished film. Despite it being obvious that these nail gun killings are related to a rape revenge story, it seems like most of the victims of the killer have nothing to do with the rape at the beginning of the film which is very rough and upsetting in extreme contrast to the tongue in cheek nature of the rest of the film. Characters die from a few nails here and there, accompanied by a one liner from the killer. One of the best bits is when we cut to two men on a construction site having fun shooting nail guns at each other, then when the killer shows up they are scared by the nail gun. At times the movie does slow down quite a bit to where you can tell what’s padding and what’s just amateur filmmaking. It adds to the brilliance in a way, sometimes you have to endure works of art to derive enjoyment later, and Nail Gun Massacre certainly adheres to that statement.

The commentary from The Hysteria Continues is one of the best ones they have done. They allow themselves to have a little more fun and make references to Inga. Surprisingly it’s Justin who aids in lowering the commentary to new depths when he comments on a man’s back hair (“It kind of looks like someone had glue on their shoulders and someone threw pubes at him.” ) and detailing what “seagulling” is. After you watch the film you’ll want to have nail gun shootouts for fun, and then listen to the commentary and you’ll know what you’ll be coordinating for the next family and/or work get-together.

88 Films really give this film a great presentation. Shot on 16mm you are able to choose from watching the movie in Academy or in 16×9 ratios. Not only do you get a commentary from The Hysteria Continues but also a whole other feature length commentary from Texas Frightmare Weekend creator Loyd Cryer who has sort of taken on the reigns of keeping Nail Gun Massacre alive after Lofton’s death. There’s a video with Lofton going back to some of the locations in the film like his grandparents shop. There are also two videos from live events one a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse with two of the actors doing a Q&A interspersed with videos of fan reactions to the film. There is also a separate Q&A hosted by Joe Bob Briggs talking to Terry Lofton and “Doc” Rocky Patterson who doesn’t do much talking here but on he Alam Q&A is able to share more of his experience on the film. And finally there is an interview with the film’s composer Whitey Thomas whose music definitely stands out in the film. You will wish you could have these stings play out after every other thing you say. A lot of great supplemental material here, which helps you appreciate just how much was put into the film despite the low budget and low talent of some of those involved.

I came for Eric, Joseph, Justin, and Nathan (both uses of the word “came” intended here) and stayed for Terry Lofton’s perseverance to complete a film that is endlessly entertaining, except for a scene here and there. Filmmaking lessons I learned from the film: sometimes you have to embrace the camp that you might be inadvertently be creating due to budgetary restraints and it’s not okay to have what feels like 10 minutes of exposition late in the third act of the film. Also, in order to display the cowardice and weakness of a character, allow them to be killed by just a nail in the elbow.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.