I’m arriving late to this (slumber) party. As big a fan as I am of the “original” slasher films, there are several of their spawn that I’ve never seen. I’m way past the point of discussing how The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) was written (Rita Mae Brown) and directed (Amy Holden Jones) by women and what that does or doesn’t mean about the way women are treated in the movie.
For any grief she’s been given about it, Jones has said:
That’s what Roger Corman, the producer wanted, and that’s how it’s done, you give the studio what they want.
Instead, I want to discuss what a surprisingly good time I had watching it. Originally written as a spoof of the subgenre, it at some point evolved into a more serious story that retained a sense of humor. For me, this meant I wasn’t cringing at bad jokes, I was cringing at good scares. One of its flaws is there are too many false scares; however, when they’re real, they deliver.
Trish (Michelle Michaels) is 18-years old now, which means she can go to school without wearing a bra, and she can toss a grocery bag full or her old toys into the trash can on her way out the door. This is about the most backstory (or other information) we learn about a character before the killing starts.
After the boys ogle a telephone repair woman on a ladder at school, she’s pulled into her van. She struggles and beats on the windows, but the boys don’t hear her as they turn and head into the building. Instead, we see a big ol’ power drill and blood splatters inside the van. There’s more ogling during women’s basketball practice, then we ogle in the locker room.
Trish is having a slumber party that night while her parents are out of town. She and her friends debate inviting the new girl, Valerie (Robin Stille), who ultimately declines. She’ll play a big part later, though, as she’s babysitting her sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers), and the younger sibling wants to join the fun next door.
I suppose I should have mentioned that before Trish even gets out of bed that morning, her clock radio (Google it) wakes her with a news report about escaped mass murderer of five people, Russ Thorn (Michael Villela.) This plot point is for our benefit, not Trish’s, as I’m not certain she ever puts two and two together.
Back to the slumber party. It’s a set-up for, well, a massacre. (Apparently, a power drill can do more damage than just drilling holes.) I like the way that, almost from the beginning, there’s no mystery to Russ. We see his face, we know who he is, there’s no puzzle. Normally, I’d prefer more story, but this is one element that makes The Slumber Party Massacre unique.
Also, there’s no mystery in the fact that the big ol’ drill is a phallic symbol for a probably-impotent killer. If you don’t get it, there’s a great shot from behind Russ, drill bit hanging between his legs and his legs framing a cowering female victim on the floor in front of him. Further, his mousy, almost feminine voice is all talk and no action before he kills:
All of you are very pretty. I love you. It takes a lot of love for a person to do this. You know you want it. You’ll love it.
On top of all this, The Slumber Party Massacre clips along at a quick pace, with barely an idle moment. I enjoyed nearly everything about it. Does this mean I’ll be attending other parties in the franchise? That remains to be seen; however, I did watch the latest version of the story on SyFy. You can read about that right here on my sister site, The Reaction Shot…
Written by Rita Mae Brown
Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Starring Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra De Liso, Andree Honore, Gina Smika Hunter, Jennifer Meyers
RT 77 min.
Released Nov. 12, 1982
Recorded on Nov. 7, 2020
Rating 7 Slashers (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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