Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Sledgehammer (1983)


WRITER: David A. Prior

DIRECTOR: David A. Prior

STARRING: Ted Prior as Chuck
    Linda McGill as Joni
    John Eastman as John
    Jeanine Scheer as Mary
    Tim Aguilar as Jimmy
    Sandy Brooke as Carol
    Steve Wright as Joey
    Michael Shanahan as Lover
    Maria Mendez as Mother
    Doug Matley as Killer
    Ray Lawrence as The Driver
    Justin Greer as The Boy

QUICK CUT: A group of teens, or college students, or whatever, head out to the middle of nowhere to spend some time in a remote farmhouse.  Why are they there?  Besides getting drunk and getting killed?  Who knows!

    Chuck -
Our hero, such as he is.  He's rough, he's brash, but he's a good guy, and the best you're gonna get around these parts.  He's also willing to sacrifice, which says a lot.

    Joni - Chuck's girlfriend, who takes his playful abuse probably more than she should.  She probably sees something in him that others don't.

    John - A big, goofy, goof.  He's your typical jokester, and the big, burly, bearded guy who will do anything for a joke.  And will also wet himself the moment he's the victim of the joke.

    The Killer - An unstoppable, supernatural force of nature that makes Jason Voorhies look lazy and shiftless.  He's big, crazy tall, likes sledgehammers, and has no clear origins.

Stop. Hammertime.

THE GUTS: Kicking things off by bashing the title with an actual sledge is pretty cool.  But the rest of the credits look like they were typed up on this old device I used to use with friends' home movies.  Probably because it was.

Enough about the credits though.  The movie proper opens up after a fade into a small, rural house.  And we stay there.  For like a minute.  Listening to chirping birds.  Soon, the birds change into yelling people, and the camera pushes into the house.  Finally.

Inside, we see a woman in a white nightgown yelling at her kid.  She grabs the boy and shoves him into a closet locking the door, yelling at him to shut up.  Ahh, the tried and true method of tough love child raising.

The music builds and builds and builds to an almost annoying crescendo while the camera holds on the door.  Something amazing must be about to happen!  All this build up and rising music!  I can't wait, this should be amazing!!  No.  No it's not.  We just cut to a guy in a chair.

Villains are a superstitous and cowardly lot. I will need a symbol to inspire fear...

The woman comes into the room and tells the guy that her kid is out of the way for the evening, so they can do whatever they want.  Well, I presume other than have sex in that closet.

After listing off all the places they've been sneaking around together in, we find out they're both married and seeing each other behind their spouses backs.  And they found this place to finally have some private time together, out in the middle of nowhere, without any phones...wait.  So who's place is it?  And why bring the kid if this was some remote, planned getaway??  That's like bringing along a witness!

Fortunately, we see a sledgehammery shadow appear on the wall behind them, and before too long, down comes Maxwell's silver hammer.

I love the gooey center.

I will say this, when the hammer comes down on the woman's head repeatedly, it's a nice touch to punctuate each hit with a loud, sharp sound.  Not quite a gunshot, but close.  And effective.

Anyways, the movie gets bored and fast forwards to ten years later.  I wish I could fast forward to the end.  And if the shot of the farm was bad, this isn't much better.  I think the same birds are there still, chirping away as we watch nearly a minute of a van driving along the road in the background.

The van stops at the familiar red house in the middle of nowhere, and a bunch of jerky college kids pile out like its a clown car.  This is the farmhouse equivalent of Evil Dead, isn't it?

We spend a good long while watching these kids unloading the van.  We see lots of beer, lots of bad singing, lots of hooting and hollering.  This time could have been spent on character development and introductions beyond "Drunken college kids".  No, we just sit and watch people carry around sleeping bags.

But we do get some stuff finally, and we meet Chuck and Joni as they blather about their relationship troubles outside the cottage.  But they don't really say what the troubles are, just that they have some.  I think I'll make stuff up.  I think Joni is jealous of Chuck's superfluous third nipple, and she can't handle the pressure of him being more womanly than her.

As if being in an Evil Dead situation in the remote-est of nowheres, the guy driving the van is just there to drop them off, and drives away with their only means of transportation, and he'll be back to pick them up after the weekend.  And thus any hope of escape putters down the dirt road.

Joni is still jealous of Chuck's passing of the SATs with a higher score than her, but he convinces her to at least have a good time over the weekend.  To add insult to injury, he then tells her to take care of all their crap while he gets a beer.  Yes, that is how you fix your relationship.

Does this smell funny to you?

The movie suddenly becomes a Summers Eve commercial as everything goes into slow motion with happy, slow music.  Get used to this.  People will randomly enter pockets of slow motion and then just as quickly step back out of it.  This farmhouse exists in a dimensional anomaly.

Anyways, Chuck and Joni are smiling at each other again.  I guess she has forgiven him for only having nine toes.  While they find their way out of the dimensional rift of slomo, Beardy McRedshirt wanders around the cottage inspecting it's structural integrity.

Beardy finds an abandoned barn or garage that the set designer has nicely pre-trashed, and he finds something.  The music again starts building towards something, and as Beardy yanks what might be a slegehammer out of a pile of junk...  Hey!  *hits his DVD player*  I'm not sure if that pause when he goes flying back is a glitch or deliberate, but either way it's annoying.  Especially since again the music built to nothing.

Oh hey, there's other people in this movie.  Not that the movie seems to be too bothered to do anything with them besides Chuck and Joni.  They're not even bothering to make me care about these people before they get hammered.  Seriously, not even names yet.  I suspect the director just got his college friends together, gave them beer, and filmed a regular party.

Joss Whedon, the college years.

Well, so much for smiling, happy Joni.  Her and Chuck go away again and whine some more about how they're not happy that he still lives in his mother's basement.

The next day, Chuck is out front playing guitar.  Joni turns up in her clothes from the day before, but not what she wore at the beerfest last night (oops) and sits there while the cameraman gets tangled up in some tree branches.  Oh wait, maybe that's supposed to be the killer.

Ok, I am getting a little bored with their drunken antics.  Now the group is sitting around the table, eating, making stupid bets and sigh.  I need one of these drunken idiots to die soon, this is getting boring.  At least we get a food fight out of all this.  I guess it passes for action.

But we do get the return of condiment bukkake!

After the food fight, everyone tries to clean up, and there's way too much talking about shit I don't care about.  Finally, some of them try to take a shower.  The music again begins to build, but I'm not falling for it, not even when one of the girls finds a sledgehammer in the hallway.

She ignores it, goes into the bathroom and ignores the body you can clearly see through the glass doors, no matter how much they try to hide it with a towel hanging over them.  She tries to act surprised when she opens up the shower to find nameless college guy #1 hanging from a noose.  But ha ha!  He's not really dead!  It was a lame prank!  And he surprises her by saying boo.  Damnit, you can't surprise someone when you can clearly be seen!

Wait, what the hell?  We cut back to the sledgehammer in the hallway, and it fades from view.  What was that?!  Ghost weapons!

That night, it's another drunken party time!  I don't think we saw them unloading enough beer for all this drinking.  Oh and look, they're back in the same clothes from the previous night and that party.  I can see how this movie was filmed.  Besides cheaply.

The Cannon Fodder Crew

Chuck decides that it's time for the real fun to begin.  It sure better.  30 minutes in, and I'm jonesing for anything besides drunkenness to occur.  But his idea of fun is to hold a seance.  Really?  Does this movie really need a seance?  Well, I guess to explain the disappearing hammer, but it seems overly complicated.  Guy with hammer bashes in skulls.  Is that so much to ask for?  Does it need the supernatural?  Convince me!

After McBeardy John makes some bad jokes, we cut to the seance, which flashes back to the start of the movie, to cover what we already saw.

Oh fuck me.  They seriously replay the opening scene of the movie, completely the same way as it was.  Including the jump into slo-mo, and even the same building to nothing music while we stare at the door.  Gah!  They could have at least done SOMEthing different.  They replay almost all the footage from the ten years ago sequence again, with no differences, save for the occasional cutaway to Chuck narrating what we've already seen.  TWICE.

Now that I've wasted your time...

Chuck tells us that the kid disappeared, and the killer was never caught, and it is believed that the kid is out there, somewhere, waiting for the killer to return.  Yeah, I'm gonna bet he's waiting just like OJ Simpson is waiting.

While Chuck calls upon the spirits, one of the other Nameless Victims sneaks off to mess with the stereo and lights to freak everyone out.  Even big, tough, John freaks out.

The prerecorded voice calls out to John, saying it wants to drink his blood, but minus the Transylvanian accent.  Meanwhile, the kid up with the stereo is busy being stabbed in the neck and not making any noise.  The movie cuts to him several times before this, laughing, pounding on the floor, but not making any noise.  Apparently he calls out for help, but the editor removed his audio track, so no one heard a thing.

He wasn't being killed, just getting easy to use handles installed!

Some time later (who knows when), the group is drinking.  Again.  Everyone's teasing everyone else over being scared, and no one is noticing that Joey is missing.  Chuck admits to it all being a joke, and everyone pounces on him for making them scared, and pour beer on him.  Hey now, that's alcohol abuse.

And more weird shots with the killer's legs fading in, walking towards the camera, and fading away.  They better be ready to explain this.

While one couple sneaks off to talk about their issues, I'm going to say she wishes her hair was as thick and luxurious as his, Chuck looks for Joey but finds only blood on the boom box.  Let's see how long that takes to raise alarm bells.

Wow, they pull off a classic jump scare.  We get a POV of someone walking down the hall, the music builds AGAIN, and someone grabs Chuck's shoulder, making HIM jump, and hopefully the audience.  But it's just Joni, still hoping he'll give her back the My Little Pony he stole years ago.  As jump scares go, it's weak, but at the time, it was probably almost new.  And at least it wasn't a cat.

Chuck tells her what he found, like she can't see the blood they claim is on the floor.  Granted, we never see it either.  They couldn't afford the cleanup, I guess.  And for some reason, he doesn't want to go tell everyone right away that their friend is dead.  Because that might make for a short movie.  He thinks he could be wrong.  Um...blood?  I guess it COULD be an elaborate joke by Joey, but...

The couple that snuck off are busy having sex, and the music's building thrumming comes in again.  Ok, unless this pair gets a hammer to the mutual brainpan, this is highly inappropriate music for sex.  Although, the rythmic nature of it could be argued for...

While the doorknob does begin to jiggle, with this movie's love of using the building music to go nowhere, I completely expect someone to walk in saying they were looking for the bathroom.  And if the killer is a spirit of some sort that can fade in and out like they're implying, why not just fade into the room?  Is he a polite murderous ghost with a sledgehammer?

Heeeere's Sledgey!

At least we are going with the classic horror trope that having sex will get you killed.  This started popping up when horror movies tried having some sort of message, becoming modern day urban myths to scare people into doing the right thing.  Or it was just an excuse to see naked people, and get a body count.  I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between.  I'm always a fan of it though, since it at least gives the movies some weight beyond blood and boobs.

Meanwhile, Joni opens a closet and Joey's body falls out, with the knife still through his neck.  Still think it's a joke now?  Still think we shouldn't tell anyone?  I love that she screams, and Chuck doesn't come rushing from right off camera until she says his name.

They split up to each grab the other couples, and Joni finds the sleeping couple with the big guy and his sledgehammer standing over their bloody bodies.  She naturally runs, and the music just cuts out and dies when she runs into the rest of her friends.

John looks in on the dead bodies, and sees a sledgehammer in the corner.  Before it can be raptured, he grabs it for a weapon.  Not a bad move, but with the way those have been shown to disappear so far, it might not be too trusty.

The group gathers in the living room to discuss their game plan.  John's all gung ho to go make smashy on the killer, but Chuck has a better idea.  And actually, it's not a bad idea.  Here's a thought, let's stick together, everyone, right in this very room, and wait for daybreak.  Once the sun comes up and we can see what's what, we run down the mountain.  Sure, WE know it won't work, but that at least sounds better than most horror movie plans.

Whosoever holds this hammer, and if he be drunk enough, shall be granted the powers of almighty John.

Well, I called it.  While on watch, John dozes off, the killer ports in elsewhere, and when John wakes up, his sledgehammer is gone.  He immediately grabs a knife from the kitchen, and rather than see his friends end up dead like the couple ten years ago, he breaks from the plan and sneaks off alone.  Well, it WAS a good plan.

And while he's sneaking around the house, the movie flashes back to Chuck recapping the start of the movie.  Behold, the nesting doll of flashbacks!  John looks in the room where the other couple were killed, but their bodies seem to be gone.  While he's looking, Chuck's flashback tells us how the other bodies were beaten to a pulp.  Are we to assume that's what happened here?  If so, mangled pulpy flesh leaves more blood, but again, I guess they couldn't afford the cleaning bill.

John continues to search the house, until he turns around and instead of seeing the giant guy that's been stalking through the house so far, he sees a little kid in the same clothes and mask.  The kid rushes off and locks himself in a room.  You would think he'd have issues with locked doors, but I guess not.  And John?  You're chasing a kid with a sharp knife in your hand.  There's no way he's going to do anything you ask.

Are you my mummy?

And the what the hell continues.  John tries to use the knife to jimmy the lock, and he gets bamfed from one side of the door to the other.  Yeahbuhwhat?

Inside the room, he finds the locked closet, covered in cobwebs.  He flips open the lock, and opens the door, finding inside...NOTHING!  No wait, that's what they've trained me to expect.  He finds a skull and the killer's plastic mask in a bloody puddle.  Ok, that's actually kinda cool.

He turns around and finds the original dead couple taking a break at the table after a long day's murder, and a bloody pentagram scrawled on the walls.  Really?  Satanism?  Do we really want to go there?

John pulls a news article about the murders from the dead lover's hands, and somehow pieces together that it must be the kid doing all this.

David Hasselhoff, nooooo.

Of course, he makes this revelation based on flimsy evidence just in time for the killer to appear behind him and swing down his mighty hammer.  John does manage to fight back and stab the guy before he does any serious damage, although I'm not sure it will do any good, considering.

The rest of the group find John stumbling out of the room, and he falls forward onto his face.  Somehow, he has a knife in the back of his neck all of a sudden.  Now how the hell did that happen??

Now, the acting up to this point has been...passable.  I know I've seen worse.  It's actually even watchable, quite frequently.  Particularly Chuck.  But once John dies, Chuck calls out for bloody vengeance, and it's painful.  But it gets worse.  John's girlfriend cries out, grabs the knife and gets bamfed into the room of doom herself.  And she starts shouting out very badly, and repeatedly, "No."  It looked at first like she ripped the knife right out of her boyfriend's neck, but I was mistaken.  That would have been whole levels of awesome though.

Chuck pounds through the door, I guess he's not worthy of teleporting, and finds the little boy stabbing  Mary over and over again.  The kid explains he's doing it because the bad man took mommy away from daddy.  Ok, I can actually roll with that motivation.  I've heard worse ideas.  Of course, I'm not entirely sure that's what he says, since the kid is trying to act through a mask, and it's horribly garbled.  And shot on video.

John tries to take the knife from the kid and they try to make it look like the kid slashes his hand.  This is so poorly shot though, that it looks like John deliberately hit the knife with his hand.  Which is probably what happened.  He then tries to remove the mask from the boy.

My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts.

The mask stays in place though and, bahahaha, the kid fwaps Chuck right in the face, sending him sprawling out across the floor.  I bet he learned that from watching dad.  But it is hilariously over the top, and in slo-mo to boot, so yeah.  That's great.  I love it.

Chuck tries punching the kid in the face, but from his reaction it looks like he punched a brick wall.  Chuck sells it pretty well, actually.  But I love that we have now been treated to our heroes trying to punch a child in the face, even if he is a spectral killer.

The kid then takes some Pym Particles and grows to adult size before their very eyes.  Chuck and Joni just kinda lay there on the floor, squirming back by inches.  Last I checked their legs should work, but I guess fear has them.

Chuck pushes Joni out of the room and closes the door behind her.  His plan is probably to buy her time to escape, which she foolishly wastes pounding on the door calling her boyfriend's name.  Oh well.

Have at thee!

He manages to not get his skull immediately caved in, and Joni finally gets tired of yelling for him and runs away.  After Gigantor takes the time to toss Chuck around the room, hegets bored with his new toy, and the grown up boy goes after Joni instead.  Walking very, very slowly down the hallway.  Hello, fast forward button.

Joni opens a random door, and instead of an exit, she finds Joey hanging there, strung up by the knife in his neck.  OUCH.  That's something that I don't think I've ever seen before.  Good work.

She grabs a baseball bat from nowhere we've never seen before, and turns to face the shadows on the wall.  But the killer uses his killer powers to teleport behind her.  Damn ghosts.

Running back upstairs, she goes into the room the couple were killed in coitus interuptus, and uses the very white and non bloody blanket to fashion a rope out the window.  It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to.  Because when the killer comes in and sees the escape attempt, Joni rushes out of the corner and bashes him in the back of the legs.  Nice fakeout.

Tonya Harding would be proud.

When he falls to the floor, she keeps hitting him, and this time, the slo-mo does not help the movie.  It only lets us see the wobble of the fake bat as it hits the actor.  I don't see what good this will do after everything else he's taken, but it is a good catharsis of a beating.

Joni runs off back down the stairs (Up, down, up, down, geeze), and into the room where Joey was hanging but his body is gone now.  She looks around at the crap he left behind with the stereo and wiring.

Unsurprisingly, the killer lumbers down the stairs, more or less unharmed.  Which again makes me ask why he doesn't just bamf, but it builds up better tension to have him lurking and stalking.

Tonight on This Old House, how to install a killing floor.

Ok, this is another clever bit.  Or it would be if this guy wasn't a ghost.  Joni takes the wiring that Joey was messing with to run his scary sounds and lights, plugs it in, and uses the stripped end to electrocute the guy when he grabs the doorknob.  That's pretty good.  With that minor flaw.  But hey, she's thinking and fighting back, right?

The killer gets electrocuted, but yeah, it doesn't do any good.  He suddenly appears in the room, smashing the tv that's only there to be smashed, since we've not seen it until now.

Joni runs away once again, and at least heads to the kitchen instead of back up the stairs.  She looks for a weapon, but really, hasn't she learned by now?  Get out of the house!  I can accept a few tries, especially if they're clever, but he has now survived electrocution.  GET OUT.

But no, she finds a meat cleaver and buries it into the killer's shoulder.  Which he promptly removes like a post it note slapped to his chest.

He knocks Joni around, and he is about to strike the killing blow, when he learns the lesson of always finish what you start.  Chuck runs out of nowhere and stops the killer, and for some reason, he took his shirt off to do this.  Ok, at this point, you know what?  Whatever.

Michael Meyers called, he wants his POV back.

For some reason, punching the killer repeatedly seems to do the trick.  After knocking him into the next room, Chuck grabs the sledgehammer and uses that to hit the killer right in the face.  Yeah, I can buy his own weapon actually being the one thing that DOES work.

Rather than finish the job, or make sure he's dead, which I'm not sure how he would do that in the first place, Chuck goes out to check on Joni while the killer spews blood all voer the walls.

But that does seem to work and the couple stumble out of the cottage, their disagreement over who has the most He-Man toys long forgotten, and the killer is destroyed.



Video: Well, really.  What do you expect me to say?  It was shot on video, with a home video camera.  And it looks it.  The fact it looks as good as it does is a minor miracle.

Audio: Ditto the video.  They at least bothered to use a boom mike, as it almost deserves an acting credit all its own for the times it sneaks into the frame, but it's still not great.

Special Features: They did a decent job here.  Two commentaries with fans of the movie, and the director.  Both are informative in their own ways.  You get the amateur director's viewpoint on what he did, and you get the fans poking fun and making theories about what the CRAP is going on.  I like that, for a movie like this.

Sound Bite: "Country noogies!!"  That's pure Chuck.

First Blood: About seven minutes in, when the killer hammers the mother and her lover.

Best Death: I'm going with Joey's death.  It kicks things off, and it kicks them off right, by treating us to an amazing necking, and something I've not seen before.  And it leads to a number more good scenes post death.

Blood Type - B+: There are some creative kills here, with some nice amount of blood too.  For an amateur show, I cut them some slack, but even then, the effects are good for the time.

Sex Appeal: Not a whole lot, but the one couple do get naked for sex.

Movie Rating: This will be my testimony, yeah.  As a movie...  This is awful, plain and simple.  But it's made by first time filmmakers, so what do you expect?  This is very much a learn by doing experiment.  And it shows in every way.  But even so, they pull off some cleverness, some good shots, and even stumble upon some things people with training might never think of, because the rules are embedded in their head.  The only special effects are those available in the camera they used.  Hello, slow motion and weird fades.  The story is bad, there's no explanations or proper storytelling at all.  It's bad.  One out of five drivers taking the van down the road.

Entertainment Value: But you know what all that makes?  Possibly the most amazing, entertaining movie I've seen in a long time.  I gotta say...I kinda love this movie.  It is SO unique.  There is quite literally nothing like it, even now.  This is...just wow.  Good kills, TONS to make fun of.  And you can discuss this movie endlessly with friends about what the hell was going on.  It is so atmospheric, so oppresive in the music, the way it was shot, and that works for this film!  This is an absolutely terrible movie, but what an experience.  Seek it out for yourselves.  Four out of five knives to the neck.  This is what Triskaidekafiles is all about.