A Review by Noah Antwiler
Movie clerks are usually required to read the titles of every movie you rent, ostensibly to confirm that you picked up the correct titles. A select few angry clerks forego this practice except to humiliate customers by loudly announcing through a well-practiced poker face that someone is actually forking over greenbacks to watch White Chicks or (god forbid) The Sum of All Fears. The clerks at my local Blockbuster people are a group of these angry people, and man, do they love me when I come around. I'm the video store equivalent of a guy who goes into a drug store and buys nothing but condoms. You can't resist taking a shot at the guy. Sometimes I try to cover up my embarassing rentals by casually slipping a good movie along top of my sickie selections, but they know...the smug bastards...Only twice in my life have the clerks been so stunned and sickened by my choice of rentals that they either refused to recite the title, or they forgot. The second such film was The Jackhammer Massacre, at which the clerk simply looked at the box, looked up at me, shook his head, and tossed it back across the counter as if to say "I can't stand here and watch you throw your life away like this. You scan this shit." The first movie? Well...
Whenever you get horny think of these guys. Hah! I've killed your libido forever! Here's the really sick part: I actually thought The Jackhammer Massacre might be good. I'd recently seen another direct-to-video indy film called The Ghouls, and while it wasn't very good, it sort of grew on me. Like a rash. People, seriously, stop looking at the nasty clowns. I'm down here. Sickies! All of you!
The Jackhammer Massacre is the tale of a miller's son and his unrequited love for a nobleman's daughter, set against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution. Famous for its turgid soliloquies and Dickensian characters, The Jackhammer Massacre is a forgotten historical war drama that was remade due to its cult fan status and rewritten to one day become Cold Mountain starring Renee "Ugly Stick" Zellwegger.
Or it could just be a thinly-scripted gore exploitation piece written on loose Pay Day wrappers while someone stuffed towels under the door to keep the bong smoke in. Normally I don't stoop to such obviously terrible films to rant on (the part of me that believed this movie might be good was quickly overcome and beaten by the rest of my personalities for being a pussy), but The Jackhammer Massacre intrigued me. Unlike the film the movie was based upon, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a jackhammer is a bulky and most unwieldy tool. It doesn't lend itself to manic swinging Leatherface-style, and isn't as imminently lethal as a chainsaw. It's just not a power tool that lends itself to an easy massacre. I wanted to see how creative the killer could be with a massive rockbusting implement that (probably) has to be plugged in to function. Without an extension cord, the massacre was bound to be awfully short-range.
Then I realized-- OF COURSE!-- the killer has a jackhammer that runs on gasoline! My mind was already spinning at the glories that awaited within. Plus I knew that someone in this movie was going to die with a jackhammer shoved (quite literally) up his or her ass.
Don't make that face. It's going to happen.
In reality, The Jackhammer Massacre is a riches-to-rags story of a metrosexual executive, disconcertingly-named Jack Magnus. He's swept up into the perpetual nightmare of hard drugs and emo punk by his friend Mike, a bulging moron who wears tank tops so he can show off his bazooka arms. Mike takes Jack to a local heroin den, run by a twitchy junkie who...well, just see for yourself:
Anyway, this isn't the kind of place where you buy a dimebag and go home. This is for hard-gainers, the kind of place where you make a reservation, crash on the couch, jam an unbelievable amount of heroin into your arm and vibrate for eight hours while explaining the strategic shortsightedness of the Maginot Line to complete strangers (and why it really should have been represented in the Axis & Allies board game). Mike and Jack make smalltalk with Twitchy Junkie and buy his experimental "fuck you up real good" stuff that he calls Glass. They hesitate, but Twitchy Junkie assures them that all his dope is FDA-approved so they crash and proceed to inhale, inject, and ingest enough toxins to kill Robert Downey, Jr.. Mike soon discovers that not only did he shoot up enough Glass to fill a salt shaker, he also got a hold of a bad batch. Blood rushes out of his nose and he does the spasm dance on the floor. The good friend that he is, Jack dials 911, panics when they ask his name, and runs away to leave Mike to die.
Things begin to spiral down the toilet. Devastated and guilt-stricken over his yellow streak, Jack turns to drugs to dull his pain. Not only did he fail to learn a damn thing watching his buddy OD, he snorts the same shit that killed him! A year later, we find that Jack has degenerated into a stumbling Tourette's case study who makes random goat noises at people, eats Big Macs out of public park trash cans, and has a gait reminiscent of Torgo. Jack's got a gap in his teeth wide enough mount a .50 caliber machinegun in, and he looks sort of like a young Gary Busey. He's such a junkie that he barely holds down a job as night security for a machine shop's warehouse, but blows all of his mighty paycheck on junk anyway.
It doesn't help that Jack was already very stupid, and it seems that the entire year he's been injecting the stuff into the same arm every single day. So much so that he's developed an abscess on his arm the size of a goddamn football. He spends his nights crouched over a toilet swabbing the pus out of it and wondering if there might be other places he could find a vein. Christmas comes early when his pusher idly suggests sticking the syringe between his toes for a change, which opens up an entire new universe of possibilities for Jack. He still has a bit of a problem, in that he's got no money, and his pusher is expecting his cash tonight or else he'll cut Jack's throat.
Jack tries selling his unpublished screenplays, but unfortunately Hollywood's not quite ready for a new series of Thundarr the Barbarian. The Pusher and his Beefy Bitch don their tank tops and pay Jack a visit at the warehouse. They find him (not surprisingly) unconscious amidst Pop Tarts wrappers and sticky Victoria's Secret catalogues. They beat the crap out of him when it turns out that Jack was unable to raise $35 with his secondary plan of becoming a gigolo for wealthy oil tycoon wives. When they decide that they couldn't even sell the machinist's tools for anything (fuckin' Snap-On Tools), the Pusher injects Jack with a hot dose of drugs that'll give him a heartattack.
Or, y'know. You could just shoot him. Just trying to help.
Pusher turns his attention to Jack's stereo and curses in frustration when he realizes he can't even sell that (fuckin' Goldstar) or Jack's CD collection (who buys this much Chumbawumba?). But it seems that the narcotic cocktail doesn't kill Jack; it turns him into a homicidal maniac with super-strong forearms and a penchant for singing "Ah get knocked doon, but ah get oop again!" Jack lurches to his feet, plugs in the jackhammer, and plunges the bit into Pusher's mouth until his head is squished like a fake foam rubber thingy! Damn it! I was sure that it would be a gas-powered jackhammer.
The Beefy Bitch somehow fails to hear Pusher's anguished death throes and is caught completely off-guard as Jack runs up and stabs his eyes out with a syringe, then kills him with the jackhammer. More on this later.
Ed Wood always used to say "Get me Tor Johnson and an eightball, and I'll make you a movie." I always say, "Get me an abandoned warehouse or a power switching station, and I'll make you a really shitty horror movie." The rest of the movie is centered on your typical abandoned warehouse where the lights don't work, cell phones are useless due to the natural radio-blocking properties of drywall, and there's a rather strange amount of loose plastic sheeting all over the place. Since Jack is now incapable of moving far beyond his wall outlet, the movie is now tasked with bringing the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. There aren't many reasons that ordinarily sane people visit old warehouses, but the movie manages to keep a steady stream of victims coming because of its B-plot: the owner of the building is selling the place to a Rich White Guy. The owner has to visit the warehouse so he can fire Jack, because the Rich White Guy is going to demolish the building. Rich White Guy and his Cousin Balkey have to visit the warehouse in the morning so he can deliver a cashier's check to the owner, and after that, a group of workers are scheduled to arrive so they can take inventory and start hauling stuff out of there.
Not only that, but Jack's sister and her hawt lesbian fiancée are coming over because they're worried that something might be wrong with Jack. The sister goes in first while Hawt Lesbian Fiancée keeps the car running. Jack's too stoned out of his coconut to recognize his sister, plus he's starting to see a Max Headroom-like hallucination of his dead friend Mike that keeps pushing him to violence. But she's not threatening him, so Jack starts to tie her up with duct tape. When Hawt Lesbian Fiancée wanders in and sees this, she starts to rip at the duct tape, only to get the jackhammer shoved (quite literally) up her ass.
I knew there'd be a sodomy kill! Boo-yah!
Hey, this reminds me of something...what was it?
It's fairly predictable after this point. Someone wanders in the door, stumbles through the heaping piles of plastic sheets and fails to notice the pools of gore in the warehouse until Jack spontaneously leaps into the shot barely off-camera like Sir Lancelot (complete with a celebratory "ha HA!") and kills the poor sap. It only picks up when a Humvee full of heavy-lifters arrive to take the warehouse's inventory. Oblivious to the maniac in the building with them, they promptly split up to their tasks: one to fix the power, one to find the new owner, and the others to itemize the equipment and clean up the plastic dropcloths. The guy fixing the lights gets picked-off early on; Jack runs up and injects him with drugs and ties him up. One of his buddies tries to free him, Jack runs up with a hearty "Ha HA" and jackhammers him. Yawn.
Instead of just leaving the warehouse, the others run around panicking. Guys...just run out of range of his extension cord or something! Finally, one of the victims decides to do battle with Jack, exploiting his range weakness with a secret weapon! He uses...a cordless drill!!!!
NOW we're cooking with gas! Cordless drill vs. jackhammer!
The matchup is disappointing, though, because the guy with the drill is a pale lunkhead whose jumpsuit has a nametag reading "Elvis." He doesn't stand a chance against Jack. The last surviving woman runs up to the roof, with Jack hot on her heels. Just when things seem their bleakest, the advancing killer halts in his tracks when he hears a "thwunk!" sound behind him. He ran out of extension cord! Aaaagh! I told you a gas-powered jackhammer was the way to go! She tries to battle him with a piece of wood, and almost knocks him silly with one of the weakest-looking girly swings I've ever seen.
Jack shrugs and just starts strangling the poor lady until his sister runs up and whacks him on the head, sending a dummy that looks sort of like him falling off the roof. The ladies act relieved until they realize that Jack fell fifteen, MAYBE twenty feet and probably only tweeked his knee. Jack runs up and kills them both.
The end. Clown Porn, anyone?