Friday, October 14, 2011

Slumber Party Massacre

The Slumber Party Massacre
Amy Holden Jones

When I was younger, I was never really drawn to slasher movies. I enjoyed the Nightmare on Elm Street series, mostly because of the supernatural elements and Freddy at least had a personality that made him very watchable. Recently I’ve begun to catch up on slashers of old and I’m finding a lot of enjoyment in their rhythm and clich├ęs. It’s also the moments that deviate from what a standard slasher set-up is like that can make watching them a treat. Strangely enough for a type of film that is notorious for simplicity, it’s that set format that highlights the subtleties.

So, it was with some delight to discover that Slumber Party Massacre is a much more sly film than it lets on. The opening of the film wastes no time getting to the standard slasher tropes. Gratuitous nudity, parents going away for the weekend, and horny teens eager to have a few drinks and smoke some weed. Meanwhile, a sinister figure (Michael Villiella as Russ Thorn) seems to have already staked out the house of Trish (Michelle Michaels) , although since he’s recently escaped from prison, I’m not sure how he knows there’s going to be a slumber party that night. After dispatching a woman working for the phone company, who just happens to have a van and a power drill, he stops for a brief kill in the gym before heading to Trish’s house that night. Trish’s next door neighbor, Robin (Valerie Bates) is stuck watching her younger sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers), unaware what’s about to take place nearby…

You can probably guess what happens next, but the typical stalk and… um, drill comes with a definite comedic edge to it and without descending into what would become the bane of the late 80’s, the horror-comedy. There’s plenty of amusing dialog, a strange neighbor who let’s himself in the house and then later is out snail hunting with a meat cleaver, and a girl overcome by pizza lust despite the pizza delivery guy being a fresh corpse on the floor, there’s even an outright slapstick moment involving a circular saw and an extension cord.

Thankfully, the comedy doesn’t water down the tension. There’s plenty of chasing and hiding, especially an early scene in the high school locker room, which work as effective scary moments. Thorn is an effective lunatic, all the creepier because we’re never really given his motivations. Unusually for a slasher film, most of the women are killed off screen while the men get the brunt of the more brutal deaths. The end even gives us a nice variation on the ‘final girl’ in a pretty brutal struggle in the rain.

It’s nice to encounter a slasher movie where it’s almost as much fun to watch the characters as it is the killer. “The Slumber Party Massacre” is highly recommended and fun little film, and if you’re not really into movies of this ilk, this might be the one to turn you on to their nuances.

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