By Dan Kinem
Anyone who’s read any of my reviews knows there’s nothing better than a slasher, except for a slasher that was shat-on-hideo that is. The Hackers is one of the rarest of its kind and is likely on most horror fans’ wishlists, if they’ve heard of it. The second I saw the cover I knew I must own this movie, no matter what it took. Thankfully, the hype I built around this was actually met and the movie is a hilarious time capsule of late 80s Michigan that I’m happy to be able to watch and laugh at (and occasionally with)!
The first 20 minutes or so is honestly a gift from God. It opens with a hitchhiker (Dave Duncan) sticking his thumb out for a ride and it getting sliced off by a knife from an oncoming truck… The Hackers repair truck to be exact! The rockin’ theme song, “The Hackers,” kicks right in as you’re introduced to The Hackers Family. You get “Pa” Hacker, the leader of the clan, who is a ridiculous, borderline narcoleptic, 80-year-old man who’s always disgruntled, there’s also Arnie, who “never did grow right” (whatever that means), and finally, the Leatherface of the family, Junior, who bit his tongue off and got chewed up by a chainsaw when he was younger, so now he wears fake, 25 cent novelty teeth and half a tin foil mask.
They spend their time doing odd jobs around town, killing people for fun, and playing on the jungle gym. If someone has a problem with the shoddy job they did on their roof, The Hackers just take a machete and kill the mother fucker. It’s absurd these guys could still be in business since they murder all their customers without getting paid. How do they not get caught? “Pa” even lets Junior and Arnie play around in the daylight at a local park, just minutes after they slit some random punk chick’s throat. It’s pure hilarity to see these two freaks running around with little children, climbing the monkey bars and sliding down slides.
After the glorious playground scene the movie does begin to drag. There are long stretches where literally nothing happens. Characters just walk around mumbling nonsense to themselves. You do get a priceless death scene where a man screams in pain and they use sound effects of a baby crying, but beyond that, the movie doesn’t pick up till the last 25 minutes, where it turns into Straw Dogs. The Hackers begin work on a woman’s house (who would hire them I don’t know) and they harass her and watch her shower. All I could notice is how she didn’t get naked and how her hair is more feathered than a fucking chicken (see cover). She eventually has to make a run for it or else she’d probably get raped by Junior.
She’s chased by the lead characters and has to fight them off one by one. She finally kills them, steals their truck, and is driving away when Junior jumps out of the back and grabs her. It would have been an incredibly dark ending till you find out IT WAS ALL A DREAM and she wakes up!
The movie sticks out above many late 80s slashers because you can feel the sense of community and you honestly feel like everyone, from the housewives to the local drunkards, helped out. It’s great to know that everyone in the town of Croswell, Michigan thought this low budget horror movie was worth working on. Not to mention, none of the people even feel like they’re acting (whether that’s a good thing or not I can’t decide), especially “Pa,” played by Howard Coburn. He really makes the movie, with his constant crotchety attitude and violent behavior. It’s a pleasure to watch the man go from chopping a dude’s shoulder with a machete to reminiscing about his love of boats to taking five naps an hour. I’m sure you’re napping in Heaven, Howie. Thank you.
The Hackers was always on my list of movies I must find. I never thought it would be possible because whenever this bad boy popped up, which was very rarely, it would sell for around the $100 mark. Then the day came where I said “fuck it,” I’m going to win this tape no matter what it takes. I was sick of not owning it and wondering when the next time the damn thing would pop up. So I bid hard. Hard as fuck. I went all out and now I can proudly say it’s mine. Apparently only 3,000 copies were sold back in the late 80s (which can only be assumed is inflated to make it seem more impressive), which makes this a really hard one to come by. It was the sixth release by Camelot Studios, a company that is still around today. They specialized in releasing various shot-on-video projects in the mid-to-late 80s with movies like The Earhunter, Black River Magic, and Black River Monster. I cannot stress enough, if you have the ability to get this tape, do it, because it’s a hard beast to obtain but well worth it. Anyone who appreciates movies like 555, Cannibal Campout, and Sledgehammer will love this film to death. I do wish it would have taken a cue from Black River Monster and only been an hour long, but at 80 minutes it never completely overstays its welcome or gets boring. Overall, it’s a joy to watch and you can buy DVD-R copies and posters (!) straight from Camelot Studios here.