(aka SLUMBER PARTY MURDERS / SLEEPLESS NIGHTS)
"THE ULTIMATE DRILLER KILLER THRILLER!"
directed by: Amy Jones
starring: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso, Andree Honore, Gina Mari, Jennifer Meyers (I), Joseph Allen Johnson , David Millbern, Jim Boyce, Pamela Roylance, Brinke Stevens, Ryan Kennedy (I), Jean Vargas, Anna Patton
(back of video blurb):
"A group of pretty girls get ready for a fun party.
Then an escapee from a local mental institution decides that he'd like to do a little partying himself.
They've got potato chips, Coke & dope.
They also get the odd severed head, bloody handprints - and a killer with a very novel style all his own.
Even the poor pizza delivery boy ends up resembling his product.
It's going to be no ordinary weekend.
Pity they didn't stay at home."
"Kind of an extreme reaction to not being invited to the party, wouldn't you say?!"
Two guests ponder if Valerie might be the killer
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is a film teetering on the brink. If you've read your fill here at you'll know that I reckon the slasher movie's golden age was between 1978 and 1984- well, one minor adjustment to that is that the real golden age (the platinum age, perhaps?) is between 1978 (when HALLOWEEN first said "Boo!", natch) and 1981 (when the last of the big studio stalk n' slashers of this initial cycle wowed them at the flicks). Post-'81 you can start to pinpoint the sub-genre's decline into video hell. Somewhere, teetering right on the edge of that precipice, is Amy Jones' film.
In Anytown-USA - actually, a suburb of Los Angeles, something a body-double for Haddonfield (dig those wide, tree lined suburban streets and panning shots!), which, in itself, comes as no great surprise as it was in-fact a Los Angeles suburb used in Carpenter's film, with palms hidden and fake leaves liberally strewn. ... Oh, back to the story. ... a teenage girl, Trish (Michelle Michaels), is putting away childish things- by dumping her doll in the trash (nice touch), and is already planning a weekend of fun as her parents disappear for a trip.
At the local High-school the planning continues unabated in the locker room and the showers, except when Trish and her girlfriends aren't soaping themselves for the camera, and tossing out dialogue bonbons like, "Do you know what? I think your tits are getting bigger!". As the guest-list gets nearer to being finalised Chris muses over whether to invite Valerie (Robin Stille), the new girl on the block (who's eavesdropping in the neighbouring aisle). Chris' mind is made up for her when Dianne (Gina Mari) says nay and justifies this, with the somewhat unlikely (but agreeably loopy) reason that she " drinks too much milk"(!)- this causing Valerie to rush out of the locker-room and the other girls to squirm with embarrassment.
Now, amidst so much excitement and teenage intrigue the little matter of a newly escaped portable drill brandishing psycho, (Russ Thorn (Michael Villella)- who had previously embarked on a killing spree back in 1969 and who is heading back to town) is a fact that seemingly passes the girls by. Thorn starts his new killing spree by offing a repairwoman in the back of her van, and stalks one of the girl's basketball team friends, Linda (an early appearance by Brinke Stevens) through the school's locker-rooms (the sight of which, with the killer weaving his drill through the air in front of him, is true slasher trash heaven!) - and, in a clever touch, the poor girl gives her hiding place away due to unstoppable blood flow after she's been wounded with the whirring weapon.
All roads now, of course, lead to the ill-fated slumber party. Trish gets the place ready (spooking herself in the meantime)- and actually getting spooked by the jovial neighbour (in one of the film's many false scares), Mr Contant (Ryan Kennedy), who's been instructed to keep an eye on things. The other girls, Dianne, Jackie (Andree Honore) and Kimberly (Debra Deliso), get ready for the evening's entertainment- whilst two boys get ready for the time honoured tradition of "Let's go by and scare the girls". And, across the road Valerie, tries to feign indifference, but, her gawky, Playgirl reading kid sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers)(who adopt the Laurie Strode and Lindsey Wallace roles, respectively), comments, "Do you think they're doing something, you know, funky, over there?". So, the curtains start to twitch and, naturally, as night falls so does the teenage population
One thing's for sure- much of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is a hoot. Director Amy Jones and scriptwriter Rita Mae Brown poke fun at the genre without the whole thing descending into a particularly self-conscious, parodic mess; occasionally surprising with a genuinely witty script with such great one liners as, "As the famous Jim Jones once said- shut up and drink your Kool Aid!". The film, in amongst the by then routine scare fare, has a few genuinely inspired moments of lunacy- my favourite being the one where Mr Contant indulges in (yet another) false scare, where he creeps up on one of the girls who has ventured out into the moonlit garden, machete in hand. He brings the blade crashing down; she screams. But instead of cleaving her skull in half he whacks a snail on a plank in front of her (evidently he's doing a little bit of nocturnal pest control), "They come out at night and eat my veg", he offers in way of feeble explanation. Another great moment comes when one of the girls, at the height of their besieged peril, uses the body of a dead pizza delivery boy as a sofa and, as she matter-of-factly takes a bite of the lukewarm take-out muses that, " life goes on".
Perhaps most interestingly is the very fact that the film was written and directed by women- especially in light of the fact that the film was in production at the very height of the protests against films where women were supposedly portrayed as victims and cinemas found themselves picketed by angry feminists. It's tempting to see SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE as a kind of crypto-feminist slasher flick- certainly the implications are clear with the symbolic emasculation of the killer (when one of the battling girls manages to snap his phallic drill-bit in half) near the end of the movie. Still, women fighting back in horror flicks was certainly nothing new- and, indeed, post-HALLOWEEN it was, in-fact, de-rigueur. It's also interesting to note that the film contains an almost unprecedented amount of naked female flesh, with the camera not afraid to linger longingly on a pair of soapy buttocks! It's been suggested that Rita Mae Brown's script had been significantly altered, but you have to wonder how different any film with the tag THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE really could be?
Be-it straight exploitation, a generic slasher flick, or a satirical take on the sub-genre, many feminists at the time clearly didn't get the joke and were reportedly outraged by the picture and felt betrayed. Jones however, in a televised interview, said that she felt that the protesters were taking the movie and its violence much too seriously. Kudos to her.
The film's reputation followed it to the UK where it showed briefly at cinemas , before emerging in a highly butchered print on video as SLUMBER PARTY MURDERS (bizarrely enough, at the height of the anti-horror hysteria a film wasn't allowed to even have the word 'massacre' in its title).
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, which spawned two increasingly demented
sequels (and reportedly another on the way with a resurrected Brinke Stevens)
probably works better in retrospect. Viewing it now its cheesy charms
have matured nicely. Likable characters, snappy dialogue and some tasty
gore (in the uncut version, at least) are all pluses; it occasionally
works as a full on (late)early 80's slasher flick but fails, just, to
gain that classic status- despite his modus-operandi the pint-sized killer
always fails to scare. Now, if they'd given him a mask and platform boots,
well, then it might just have been a different story