Mr. T never had as potent an anti-drug message as this film, says Judge David Johnson.
Don't do drugs!
Who would have thought a harmless little PCP addiction could turn a mild-mannered businessman into a raving jackhammer-wielding lunatic? Well, watch the descent here, in The Jackhammer Massacre, and prepare to be wowed by a psycho who's able to kill people with the most awkward, impractical industrial device a psycho can choose, and maybe learn a thing or two from this cautionary tale about the dangers of drugs.
Facts of the Case
There once was a man named Jack (Aaron Gaffey). Jack was a businessman. Jack was rich. He drove a shiny sports car. He wore nice clothes. He had a nice house. But one day Jack made a mistake. Jack tried drugs. He liked the drugs. They made him feel good. They made him feel like a neon blimp. He took more and more drugs. Jack took so many drugs he forgot about his job. And his shiny sports car. And his nice clothes. And his nice house. Jack cared only about the drugs. More and more drugs. And more drugs. Jack started to hang around with people who liked drugs. He stopped talking to his family. He liked to sit on a ratty couch and inject drugs into his arm. He made friends with a topless skank. She had her nipples pierced. He took more and more drugs. His arm started to get sore and red and yucky. Jack had a friend who liked drugs a lot. But he died. Jack was so wasted. He started to see his friend's ghost. His friend told him to start killing people. Jack picked up a jackhammer and went to work. He hid in an old warehouse and took his drugs. One day a salvage crew came. They didn't know Jack was there. They walked around making noise. A boy and a girl started making out. They were horny. Jack turned on his jackhammer. And the blood started to fly. All because of drugs. The End.
I can appreciate what the minds behind The Jackhammer Massacre were trying to do. Yes it's highly derivative of pretty much every single slasher movie ever made; but for a low-budget gore romp, the flick does a few noteworthy things that elevate it beyond waste-of-time dreck. Unfortunately, some snail's-pacing toward the end, along with a few moronic moments, end up dragging the flick down, ultimately sentencing it to the mediocrity bin.
The bulk of the first half of the film concerns Jack Magnus's introduction to drugs and his downward spiral into self-destructive addiction. As a "scared-straight" anti-drug tool, The Jackhammer Massacre may be effective in high-school health classes. Director Joe Castro really lays the explicit drug use on thick. Jack and his cronies huddle in ratty apartments and pound narcotics into their lungs and veins, and hang around with questionable women, and foam at the mouth a lot.
It goes without saying (but hey I'll say it anyway) that Castro certainly goes over the top with his imagery—e.g., Jack's spectral best friend, his outrageous transformation into a brutal killer—but what do you expect from a film with the words "jackhammer" and "massacre" in the title?
On that imagery note, the strongest aspect of The Jackhammer Massacre is the gore. Joe Castro has a deep background in special effects; his gore effects on this movie are very well done for what was surely a limited budget.
The scenes of Jack injecting drugs into his ragged, puss-dripping veins were particularly unnerving. As someone not too keen on needles, I can assure you I cringed often. And when old Jack unleashes the titular murder weapon, Castro really lets the Karo syrup fly. A jackhammer in the mouth, a shot to the shoulder, a crushed head—well done!
The movie stumbles toward the end, when the salvage crew/jackhammer fodder show up. These people are absolute idiots. One guy sees Jack coming at him with the jackhammer pounding away, and literally stands still with his hands up in the air screaming. Needless to say, he is appropriately wasted. The heroine, the head of the salvage company who is so horny she can't keep from making out with one of her employees, slips into female-in-peril mode something fierce and starts doing stupid, stupid things. Sure, she refuses to escape, preferring to instead run back into the dark lair of the murderer. And yes, she does a lot of shrieking and zero problem-solving. But that's not the worst of it.
You see, the villain attacks with a jackhammer, and it's plugged in, and wherever he runs, there's an extension cord draped over his shoulder. So, you would think our girl would know that extension cords are actually finite. Nope—she opts to stay within Jack's outlet-radius. But that doesn't matter, because Jack won't die, since Castro pulls the "villain-lying-still-with-his-eyes-closed-but-then-suddenly-opens-them-and-looks-pissed" routine way too many times. For a near-dead, emaciated, burned-out, recently-stabbed-with-a-drill junkie carrying a 50 pound jackhammer, Jack is shockingly resilient. All of this is compounded by the fact that the whole stalking and lurking phase of these sequences is tedious and suspense-free.
The video is okay, in that bottom-of-the-barrel kind of way, but the full-frame transfer is regrettable. There is some grain to be seen, and that earns a few demerits. The 2.0 stereo mix is neither effective nor worthless. It's just kind of there, and does its job without note. A largely technical commentary, sprinkled with a few anecdotes (Did you know that the two stars had thing for each other are anticipating their on-screen kiss? How titillating!) by the director and cast members accompany the feature. Oh, and no scene access!
Points awarded for the gore and makeup effects—but the moronic characters, the lifeless slasher clichés, and the meandering pacing keep this flick from escaping the Void of Forgotten Horror Movies.
The accused is mandated to watch the 12-part video series The Absolute Worst Horror Movie Missteps and How to Avoid Them No Matter How Tiny Your Budget Is.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Commentary with the Cast and Crew
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.