Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 12th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1983
Director: David A. Prior
Writer: David A. Prior
Cast: Ted Prior, Linda McGill, John Eastman, Janine Scheer, Tim Aguilar, Sandy Brooke, Stephen Wright, Michael Shanahan, Mary Mendez, Justin Greer, Doug Matley, Ray Lawrence, Luci-Lynn Norris
DVD released: May 10th, 2011
Approximate running time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Intervision Picture Corp.
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
No budget horror films are a dime a dozen. The majority of them suffer from amateurish acting and just generally lack of production experience from the those involved. And while most of these micro budgeted horror films have falling into obscurity. There have been a few that just won’t go away. This brings us to Sledgehammer, a film that reportedly was the first ever horror film shot on video.
Plot wise Sledgehammer, is pretty bland. This film’s drawn out opening setup does little to make any of the characters which populate this story endearing. If anything these opening moments of partying only further drive home how annoying these characters are. At least this tediously paced opening act ends with a bang, a no holds bar food fight. Things don’t get going until a séance scene and from there the more horror elements of this plot are heaped on in heavy doses.
Issues with the plot aside, the one area in which this film does work is its ability to create some seriously spooky atmosphere. Whether it be through its overuse of slow motion or refusal to adhere to the laws of reality. And while there are many areas in which this film collapses under the weight of its lofty ambitions. There one area in which this film most surprises is just how well the visuals hold up.
Even though the film’s kill scenes are widely inconsistent. There is a crudeness to them that makes them oddly endearing and somehow appropriate within this film’s strange universe.
Whether it be its mechanical killer, who’s inability to knock off its victim with precision or throbbing synth score. Everything about Sledgehammer screams a product of its time, the early 1980’s. Overall what Sledgehammer lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in its sheer abundance of absurdity.
Sledgehammer was shot on video and things look as good as one would expect considering the films source materials. Details range from hazy to generally crisp and black levels are adequate at best. Also it should be noted that ‘overscan’ lines are visible throughout at the bottom of the frame.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There is noticeable background noise and distortion that varies in degree throughout. And even though dialog generally comes through clearly, it often gets obscured by the score and more ambient aspects of this films soundtrack.
Extras for this release include a eight minute interview with ‘Destroy All Movies!!!’ author Zach Carlson, a six minute interview with writer / director David A. Prior and a bizarre six minute segment with Cinefamily programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald, who superimpose themselves over footage form the film. The best of these three segments is the interview with Zach Carlson, who gives a insightful analytical breakdown of Sledgehammer. The interview with David A. Prior has some information that is also covered in his audio commentary. Other extras include two audio commentaries, the first audio commentary with David A. Prior and moderator Clint Kelly and the second audio commentary with Bleeding Skulls creators Joseph A. Zirmba and Dan Budnik. The audio commentary with David A. Prior does a reasonable good job covering the various aspects of this production, the cast, the locations and the script. It should be noted that moderator Clint Kelly is more than just a passive observer as his also offers up many interesting interpretations about what is unfolding on screen. The audio commentary with Joseph A. Zirmba and Dan Budnik is a laid bad and times humorous ride in which they not only discuss Sledgehammer, they also talk about various other shot on video horror films. Rounding out the extras are trailers for The Secret Life of Jeffery Dahmer, a Night to Dismember and Things. Overall Sledgehammer gets its best home video release to date.