So you'd have to be such an idiot that there's not a word for it in English to expect a film titled Nail Gun Massacre to be even a little bit classy. Still, the speed with which it reveals the incorrigible depths to which its not-classiness reveals itself caught me by surprise - it's not just any movie that opens with a gang rape, and by "opens with a gang rape", I don't mean that's what happens in the first scene. I mean that's what happens in the literal first second of the film's running time.

And with that jolly kick-off, I welcome you to the absolute dregs of human artistry: direct-to-video horror movies in the 1980s. The great slasher boom had largely exhausted itself by the end of 1984, just in time for the newly expanding home video market to create a new, if even cheaper and more threadbare opening for for savvy producers with a halfway decent make-up artist and a couple young actresses willing to take their tops off. It was a grubbier world with fewer rules and smaller budgets, attracting and thriving on a lower tier of talent than was necessary to pass theatrical muster. This resulted in some of the tackiest, tawdriest movies in the history of the medium as well as some of the most impossibly ill-made. Even within that company, though, Nail Gun Massacre is something special. There is not a more inappropriate word than "special". I'm sorry. That's just horrible writing.

But faced with the garishness of a movie depicting a rape in its opening frame, and only gets worse and more exploitative from there, language itself starts to break down a bit. You know that feeling when you're watching a movie for the first time, and you can already tells that it's one for the ages? Nail Gun Massacre is the opposite of that. In my notes I had written down "this is the fucking worst" before the 10-minute mark, and "this is THE FUCKING WORST MOVIE IN HISTORY" around an hour in. That's probably hyperbole. It is, however, the worst movie of the 1980s. I'm very comfortable and confident in making that claim, and I don't give a shit if I haven't seen every movie of the 1980s yet.

An attempt to describe in prose the experience of watching the film would be titanically boring, since there is virtually no plot, and the little bit that scrapes its way through, the film tries very, very hard to keep hidden. So it begins, a propos of nothing, with a gang rape, yes? And then people start dying? Unless this was to be some manner of confrontational, experimental anti-narrative, in which unrelated events take place in an arbitrary order, we can be forgiven for assuming that the murders are an act of vengeance for the rape. That's basic, 1+1=2 logic. Even the briefest, monosyllabic summary of Terry Lofton's heavily reduced script implies that motivation for this particular massacre. The movie pretends that we haven't figured that out for almost 70 minutes. This movie is a grand total of 85 minutes long. That's a repellent amount of stalling for a story that literally could not function without its "secret" being obvious from the opening, and the scene in which Doc (Rocky Patterson), the thirtysomething doctor in a small Texas town who is the closest the movie has to a hero, explains his realisation is static, maddeningly dull, and criminally mis-performed by Patterson, who like every member of the cast seems to be reciting lines that he can't begin to parse and never memorised. Elsewhere in the film, two men who were part of the original crime say their goodbyes to the visibly hostile owner of a lumberyard (Beau Leland), who mutters under his breath "I'll see you sooner than you think" with a snarl on his face. GEE I WONDER WHO THE KILLER MIGHT BE. And the film acts as though we didn't notice that, either.

There is one possibility I can imagine that might justify all this as anything but rank incompetence: co-directors Lofton and Bill Leslie were aware that the audience only cared about the killing scenes, and gave the plot away to let the audience stay ahead of the story and enjoy the ride, like Hitchcock and Vertigo. It's certainly the case that Lofton and Leslie were only interested in staging murders; God knows there's little enough else that happens in the movie. I've already punted on trying to explain the story, but if I were going to, it would be something like this: men, usually two, who presumably had something to do with the rape - the movie doesn't try very hard to make sure we recognise characters from the opening scene, up to and including the victim, and the killer attacks plenty of people who had absolutely nothing to do with, including no fewer than five women, which I think spoils his feminist bona fides - are in an isolated location. They are approached, in a comically abrupt fashion, by a wiry little man in camouflage and a jet black motorcycle helmet with the eyepiece covered in gaffer tape, and with a ludicrous synthed-up voice that sounds like a cross between Darth Vader, Jeff Foxworthy, and Ben Stein. He quickly kills one of them with the nail gun he has handy, and then spouts several sentences. Some of them quips; fewer of them puns than you'd think. "You should never hitch a ride with a hearse, unless you're dying", he snaps to a hitchhiker to tried to thumb a ride, which is A) not funny and B) not wordplay. Oh, and the bit about the hearse is because the killer drives a hearse that has been painted bright gold. It says so much about Nail Gun Massacre that I almost forgot to mention a detail like that. He then kills the other person, if there were two, and quips some more.

As a palate cleanser in between these evocative scenes of people slumping to the ground with the heads of nails glued unpersuasive to their faces with red food dye being dribbled on their skin, we encounter Doc and the Sheriff (Ron Queen) executing the most aimless murder investigation in the annals of crime, which consists mostly of swapping the observations "[chaws thoughtfully] We nev'r used ta have this many killin's". "[nods, or just stares glassily for about ten seconds] Lot of 'um happening on Old Lady Bailey's property. Wonder if we should go to th' house". "Aww, you don't think Old Lady Bailey has anything to do-" "Course not".

Along the way, we're introduced to a panoply of non-actors of the most awe-inspiring sort. I'm particularly fond of the helpless soul who delivers the line, "Well Tom, in your infinite wisdom, I'm sure you will figure it out in due time" without seeming to know the meaning of any word in that sentence other than "Well" and "I'm". But the clear standouts are Frances Heard (Terry Lofton's grandma!) as a shopkeeper who keeps adjusting her glasses and fearlessly marches on through her pointless expository lines even after she fluffs some of them, and an old man whose identity I cannot certainly attest to (the credits are full of vague descriptions with #1 and #2 following almost all of them) who loudly mumbles with the most impenetrable Southern accent I've encountered in movies in a long while.

Not helping the actors at all, the scenes that don't involve people dying have a nasty tendency to stretch to several minutes a moment that could have been dealt with in half of a line, and frequently could have been snipped out of the film entirely. Such as the great "getting directions" scene, with the dialogue being largely drowned out by background traffic noise. But slamming the film for its technical limitations would be like kicking a beagle puppy. And insulting the directors for their lifeless camera would be pointless, almost as pointless as losing interest in the action altogether to blandly zoom into a naked pair of breasts.

Oh! That's another thing, the porn! Twice, the movie stops being an addled collection of shoddy death scenes and a glacial depiction of the minutiae of human conversation to watch people having simulated sex. And in real time. In fairness, assuming that the cast was hired because of their experience in regionally-produced rural Texas pornography answers most of my objections to the acting, but I don't think that's fair to assume. Anyway, the end of the first sex scene is my favorite part of the whole movie: the dude is lying there dead, and the woman falls on top of him, and the image simply refuses to move or cut for tens of seconds, all while the framing pretty much insists that we notice that their pubic hair is extremely visible in both cases.

This is the most bitterly functional kind of slasher movie that could possibly be: a weak pretext that's only followed about half of the time for a lengthy chain of killings with almost nothing else that could possibly constitute a narrative. It is vile, and it is sleazy, and it is insufferably slow moving nearly all of the time. There is one and only one saving grace to any of this: it is also indescribably ill-made. The acting, the writing, the staging - it's amateurs and first-timers, mixed with an awful degree of cynicism about the market sector the film is targeting. It is, frequently, truly impossible to believe that the thing onscreen could possibly have been made, and it's so daft that it manages to be weirdly compelling even though the whole thing is rotten, from the core to the surface. I have never seen such a reprehensible slasher movie in all my days, but that's not to say that it's not transfixing.

Body Count: 16, and impressively, only one of those does not involve a nail gun. Truth in advertising!