(2021,South Africa/US)
4 stars  
"You know the drill!"

directed by: Danishka Esterhazy
starring: Hannah Gonera, Frances Sholto-Douglas, Alex McGregor, Mila Rayne, Reze-Tiana Wessels, Schelaine Bennett, Masali Baduza, Rob van Vuuren, Jane de Wet, Reem Koussa, Larissa Crafford-Lazarus, Jennifer Steyn, Michael Lawrence Potter, Arthur Falko, Nathan Castle, Eden Classens, Richard White, Braeden Buys, Richard Wright-Firth

choice dialogue:

“He seems to be pretty equal opportunity when it comes to murder.”

- Russ Thorn is a killer with modern sensibilities.

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

  Another group of teenage girls face the driller killer in the remake of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.

Danishka Esterhazy’s SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is more of a deconstruction than a remake of producer Roger Corman’s playful slasher classic. Five teenage girls find themselves terrorised by a fabled ‘driller killer’ at a remote lakeside vacation house - only all is not what it seems. Perhaps more in line with the seriocomic slashers of the past five years, it takes the elements of the 1982 film and then mixes them up into an infectiously fun concoction that, despite its lightness of touch, doesn’t skimp on the more horrific elements.

In a 90s’ throwback prologue - which serves as a mini slasher in itself - a group of teenage girls are enjoying a slumber party with beer, pizza and brownies at a cabin by the lake. Soon a diminutive man with bug eyes and a giant battery-powered drill turns up and starts to kill them one-by-one. He is seemingly vanquished by the lone survivor, Trish Devereaux (Masali Baduza), and sent to the bottom of the lake.

30 years later, Russ Thorn (Rob van Vuuren) is the stuff of legend and the subject of true crime podcasts - especially as his body was never found. Teenager Dana (Hannah Gonera) is planning a girls’ trip away with friends for the weekend - against the wishes of her fearful mother Trish (the grown-up Final Girl now played by Schelaine Bennett). Ignoring her concerns, Dana leaves with her friends Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas), Breanie (Alex McGregor) and Ashley (Reze-Tiana Wessels). On the road trip, the group discover that Maeve’s younger sister Alix (Mila Rayne) has stowed away in the trunk.

  Russ Thorn - the pint-size killer - is back!

The group breaks down in a country town and is told that their car can’t be fixed until at least the next day. After some pressing about needing a place to stay the night, local storeowner Kay (Jennifer Steyn) lets them rent a broke-down lakeside house - but warns them to stay inside. Alix says the name of the lake Jolly Springs rings a bell but curiously doesn’t seem to register with the others. However, before long Russ Thorn has returned to his stomping ground and a whole new generation will soon know the drill …

To say more about the plot twists would diminish the fun. Suzanne Keilly’s script subverts expectations - but, importantly, still functions as a slasher movie (albeit one that revels in its absurdities). Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the film tips its hat more in its second half to another 80s slasher juggernaut - with the lakeside setting providing the biggest clue.

The original SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is well documented as a feminist reaction to the wave of slasher movies that followed HALLOWEEN (1978) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) - but also still functioned as a slasher movie and was playful rather than heavy-handed with its commentary. The remake also has a female writer and director and whilst perhaps more broadly parodic than the original it hits many of the same notes.

  The cheesecake has a whole different flavour in Danishka Esterhazy and Suzanne Keilly's updating of the early 80s slasher classic.

However, the remake takes the battle-of-the-sexes to greater extremes - albeit never losing the humour of the situation. Across the lake from the girls are a group of five guys who are fans of the true-crime podcast ‘Crime Bandits’ that has recently covered Russ Thorn. Whilst director Amy Jones was more-or-less forced to include nude female shower scenes in the original, Esterhazy flips it here with one of the buff guys getting naked for a long, lingering splash about. There is also a variation of the much-discussed phallic scene of a woman being seen through the legs of the killer, as his drill hangs down - here recreated with a male victim. In another amusing inversion, the girls watch through the boys’ cabin window as they play fight shirtless in slow motion - with one of the group quipping: “Are they out slumber partying us?” The men here are mostly depicted as the usual slasher movie bro dudes - too stupid and pumped up on beer pong and testosterone to survive a slasher movie. The girls are mostly depicted as resourceful and resilient, but the rub is that the film is more nuanced than it may first appear - as their hubris is very nearly their undoing. Seemingly part of the joke is that this group of teenagers dress pretty much the same as the group from the 90s and it seems to be a subtle dig at the inertia of modern culture - and perhaps even a subversive comment on the nature of remakes.

In the original, Russ Thorn is symbolically emasculated when his drill bit is lopped off with a machete by one of the survivors. The modern obsession with true crime is spoofed in the remake, in-so-much that despite the fact he is a mass murderer, Thorn is an even more ridiculous figure than in the 1982 movie. Dwarfed by his giant drill, the killer has a squeaky baby doll voice and comes across as pathetic rather than legendary. In other nice touches, there’s an appearance of the guitar from SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE 2 (1987), which shows that the makers weren’t just playing lip service. Plus, it isn’t just a drill that makes an appearance - with an electric saw and a nail gun joining in the fun.

The SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE redux was a Shout! Studios production and was filmed in South Africa (which is pretty apparent towards the end of the film during outside scenes). Esterhazy had previously helmed the slasher adjacent horror comedy THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE (2019). Writer Suzanne Keilly had previously proved her horror chops with ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2021) and LEPRECHAUN RETURNS (2018). The film was released directly to the Syfy channel in 2021.

All-in-all, this is a worthy remix of the 1982 original and is commended for still finding fresh things to say without ever looking down on the slasher subgenre.


BODYCOUNT 13   bodycount!   female: 6 / male: 7

1) Male drilled to death
      2) Female found dead
      3) Female drilled to death
      4) Female drilled through the neck
      5) Male foun with eyes drilled out
      6) Male drilled to death
      7) Male drilled through his forehead
      8) Male has face drilled off
      9) Female has throat slashed with a machete
     10) Male gets a powersaw through his back
     11) Female mangled in a car enginet
     12) Female gets a nail gun to the eye
     13) Female impaled on a drill bit



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