I'll be honest. I had never heard of and had certaintly never seen Sledgehammer before I heard rumblings a while back about this past Tuesday's first time DVD release of the film, courtesy of a partnership between Severin Films and former VHS label Intervision. Which I guess is the beauty and the whole idea of the release; to unearth a lost film and re-introduce it to horror fans who never got to see it when it was released back in 1983, only ever hitting VHS (which I believe is a tape that has been pretty hard to come by over the years). From what I gather, Sledgehammer is actually the first shot on video slasher film ever made, which is a pretty cool little claim to fame that makes it worthy of such an unearthing. That being said, the film is really only worth your time due to this historical significance, if it is even worth your time at all.
Essentially a poor man's Friday The 13th that takes place not at a sprawling campground but inside a cramped and tiny apartment, Sledgehammer is the story of a young boy whose mother locked him in a closet one night while she made love to a man who was not the boy's father. I guess the boy wasn't too happy about this because he broke out of the closet, found a sledgehammer somewhere, and proceeded to kill both mom and her fuck buddy with it. 10 years later the boy is brought back via drunken seance as a grown up ghost (when did he die?) that is able to change back to his boyish self whenever he chooses, still with his sledgehammer in tow, which can also appear and disappear like a spectre, and he goes on a killing spree, slaughtering all of the depraved old people acting like teenagers who came into his house to drink and fuck the weekend away.
It's this mixture of the familiar and generic with the totally off the wall and nonsensical that makes Sledgehammer unique and charming at times (an extended food fight scene and a little kid bitch slapping a big muscular dude being the highlights), but it ultimately amounts to not much more than a really poorly made slasher film. The gore effects are serviceable given the limitations and the synth score is pretty kickass, two standout qualities that make me think a little more money and a little more talent could've made it a decent slasher, but it unfortunately never even becomes close to one. Quite frankly, with its serious overuse of slow motion effects and terrible acting, it's oftentimes incredibly painful to sit through. Bottom line being, it's a pretty horrendous movie all around. Then again, what can you expect from a combination of less than 10 grand, a small apartment as a sole filming location, friends and family for a cast and a camera barely capable of capturing watchable video?
So what's all the hooplah about this release, if the movie's so bad? I honestly think it has nothing to do with the movie so much as it does with what the release means for the resurgence of VHS and shot on video horror as a whole. I don't think anyone truly thinks the movie is enjoyable to watch, aside from making fun of it with a rowdy drunken crowd, but this release of the film both on DVD and even on VHS (courtesy of Mondo, a release that sold out in about 10 minutes) represents a big time step in the right direction for the digging up of forgotten and lost films, some of which are gems just waiting for re-discovery. No, this is not in my opinion one of them, but I am very thankful to Severin, Intervision and Mondo for not only re-releasing this one, but also for keeping the original art and not trying to clean the film up, instead choosing to keep that VHS feel with the DVD release, tracking lines and old school trailer and logos before it and all. Kudos to all three of you for that. While the cast of the film may be embarrassed and unhappy about it being re-released and seen by more people than ever (purely assumption on my part, though I bet i'm right), I can't help but smile about it, regardless of how bored I was with the movie itself. In a home video market dominated by the highest quality releases possible, it's refreshing to see some respect tossed the way of poor quality shot on video horror that teleports us back to the glory days of VHS. Let's keep this up!
As far as extras go, the disc boasts two commentaries and a few short interviews with folks who are just a tad pretentious and over congratulatory towards the film. Don't fool yourselves guys, there's really nothing special or watchable about this one aside from the fact that it's the first of its kind. Let's be happy about this re-release, but not get too carried away here ...