Awhile back, I was reading about Shout! Factory releasing the movies of Roger Corman as the Roger Corman Cult Classics. I was pretty excited about this because I’m a big fan of Roger Corman. I admire his resourceful, guerrilla film-making aesthetic. Why should the fact that your movie doesn’t have a huge budget hold you back from making the movie you want? So I was really happy when I was able to pick up a copy of The Slumber Party Massacre trilogy for $20.
Trish Devereaux (Michele Michaels)–no relation to Blanche Devereaux–wakes up and starts throwing out her toys. She misses the radio broadcast about the escaped mental patient, though. This could put a cramp in the slumber party she’s planning with her friends since her parents will be out-of-town.
Trish invites her friends from the basketball team but they Mean Girl the new teammate, Val (Robin Stille.) Don’t worry, Val lives across the street so she’ll be involved. Inevitably, their dorky guy friends invite themselves to the party.
As the day progresses, we see the girls going about practice and getting ready for the party while the killer, Russ Thorn (Michael Villela), gets his kill on with a ginormo power drill. What exactly is that hooked up to for power? Shut up, it’s not important!
We see him take out a woman working for the phone company and steal her van. He also kills one of the team members, Linda (Brinke Stevens), who puts up a pretty good fight. There are also several fake-out shots showing the girls being scared and competently facing what scares them.
Things become dangerous as the killer moves ever closer to the party. We see him kill Mr. Contant (Ryan Kennedy), the responsible adult who was keeping an eye on them and who promised not to tell about their baggie of Maui Wowie. Diane (Gina Mari), the sassiest and therefore my favorite of the girls, goes out to be with her boyfriend under the pretense of getting more beer.
She finds her boyfriend’s decapitated corpse in his car. The killer then proceeds to attack her with his phallic power droll.
The girls realized that something’s wrong when they order pizza and the delivery man arrives as a corpse.
Val also notices some strange noises coming from their house. They try to call the cops but the killer cuts the line halfway through the call. The guys come up with a plan to get to Val’s house but are foiled by the killer. Russ ends up picking them all off until only Trish, Val, and Val’s little sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers) take him down.
The benefit of getting this specific copy of the movie is the handy pamphlet of info that comes with it, written by Jason Paul Collum, author of Attack of the Killer B’s; Interviews with 20 Cult Film Actresses. The script for this movie was originally written by Rita Mae Brown as “Don’t Open the Door.” She meant for it to make fun of slashers. Rita Mae Brown usually gets credit for the script, which really bugs me since the director, Amy Jones, actually did extensive rewrites. I think Jones just deserves more credit for the success of the film’s script. Anyway, Jones was working for Roger Corman at the time and wanted a chance to direct. She made a short film showing Russ Thorn’s escape which impressed Corman so much that he gave her the script, “Sleepless Night,” which was given the more salacious title “Slumber Party Massacre.”
Some people have called Roger Corman a feminist because of his willingness to hire and nurture women in the film-making business. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. I think in the end he wanted to make money. But I also think he was willing to give scripts to the best candidate and if the candidate was a woman then so be it. Even now, the attitude seems to be “A DAME directing a horror movie?” despite the success of the Soska Sisters and other prominent female directors. So I can at least give Corman credit for hiring Amy Jones and Barbara Peters when other people wouldn’t.
Much of the movie’s early promotion focused on how it was made by women and was a feminist slasher. So is it? My only real point of contention is that just because someone has the same plumbing doesn’t mean they’re a feminist. Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin could hardly be considered feminist, even though they benefit from the work of past feminists. Secondly, herding feminists is like herding cats. Some have said that I’m not a feminist because of my love of horror. I call bullshit on that. If you consider film art and art as a mirror to reflect what’s happening in society, then some horror films are just reflecting on what they see. It’s really rare that you see a movie that says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to chainsaw some women in half? Just BECAUSE.” There’s usually an underlying message. Besides, this movie actually passes the Bechdel Test which is way more than you can say about a lot of supposedly empowering movies.
That being said, I think that Jones’ final script is smart and funny and that as a director sh e manages to balance humor and horror. I liked the various fake-outs when the audience thinks that a character is going to be attacked but it’s really a friend or dog in the garbage. You can actually tell when Russ is going to kill someone because you’ll be able to see him in the shot. None of the kills are filmed from his point-of-view. The victim winds up feeling empathy for the victim and desires that they survive. It helps that the characters are realistically written.
The scary parts of the movie manage to be actually scary. I was tense when Linda was being stalked and I really wanted her to survive.
There are moments of nudity in the movie but it felt naturalistic as opposed to voyeuristic. It was similar to the opening scene of Carrie.
So Jones has made a movie that’s a slasher that makes fun of the slasher tropes that were established as far back as 1983, and it still manages to be actually scary. This is incredibly rare and it seems like this movie should be celebrated more than it is.