Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Flashback: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) : Drilling Its Way Back Into Your Heart...

Back in the early eighties, there were loads of formulaic slasher films. And I'm guilty of seeing pretty much every one of them. I fondly recall the first time I saw Slumber Party Massacre, with it's pulsating electronic score and deranged nut-job wielding a power drill. It wasn't exactly brave new cinema, but it was a fast-paced, tight little film with a short running time so as not to bore you to tears while you wait for the red stuff to start flowing.

After an opening scene in which the paper boy delivers a fresh newspaper divulging the fact that escaped killer Russ Thorn is on the loose, we focus on eighteen year old Trish Devereaux (Michelle Michaels), who has invited her basketball team friends over for a slumber party since her parents are leaving town for the weekend. Her parents have charged their neighbor, Mr. Contant, to keep an eye on the house (and the girls, of course!) while they are away, to which he readily agrees to do.

At school in the locker room (after steamy showers and lots of gratuitous T & A shots), Trish's bitchy friend Diane (Gina Hunter) cuts up the new girl on the team, Valerie (Robin Stille) and the other girls add in their hateful two cents as well.  Trish wants to ask Valerie to the slumber party, but Valerie overheard the nasty comments and rushes out of the school.

Here's where I find myself having to mention what incredible bitches teenage girls are. Back in the day, it wasn't outright called bullying, and there was much less focus on it back then - but let's be frank when we say it most certainly was bullying, and this is a prime example. Just because someone is different (in this case Valerie was better than them at sports and is noticeably prettier) isn't a reason to be a cunt.  Regardless, it happens all the time, and this film is true-to-life in that respect.

While all the planning for the party is underway, our lunatic occupies himself with some practice kills by laying waste to several poor unfortunate folks before heading over to the Devereaux household.  Thorn, with wild, spastic eyes and dressed to kill in head to toe denim, gears up his weapon of choice - a power drill - and powers his way through bone and tissue - which of course means lots of blood and guts for us gore-hounds.

Finally making his way to the girl's party, Thorn proceeds to drill his way through the cast (which at this point include some peeping tom boys from school and the unlucky Mr. Contant) until there are only a few girls left - one of which is Valerie, the scorned girl from the gym who happened to live across the street from Trish.

No new ground is broken throughout Slumber Party Massacre, but humor abounds and the old-school feel of the film really reeks nostalgia. It's a fun 77 minutes, with no time lost on developing secondary story lines or explaining why Thorn has chosen the girls. It's just pure, early-eighties, slasher-film fun!

There are an ungodly amount of cliches in SPM. Catty teens who bad-mouth the new girl, parties (in this case, slumber) with no parental supervision, the creepy neighbor next door, the lone girl stranded in an empty school hallway or dark garage, underage drinking and drugs, the escaped lunatic with a penchant for young lovelies, etc...etc.  But to my surprise (and perhaps yours), it bears the stamp of two women: Director Amy Holden Jones and writer Rita Mae Brown.

Jones, an ardent feminist, worked with both Scorsese and Roger Corman in her career, and Brown (an even more staunch feminist) has found great success as an author, in particular with a series of "cozy" mysteries starring a cat: 'Sneaky Pie Brown'. 

It is said that when Brown wrote SPM, it was intended to be a parody of the slasher film, but the producers ended up playing it straight. But it still has some genuinely funny parts (such as when the girls eat pizza out of the box on the dead delivery boy's chest) and it helps the film be a little more original and likable than you'd imagine it could be. The two women even inject a dose of their own feminism into the film when the girls actually chase after the killer. We love tough girls!

If you've never taken a chance on it, I'd say you could do far worse, so give it a chance for some good old-fashioned 80's fun.


Francisco Gonzalez said...

You've just made me want to watch this one, thanks for the review, I love those cheesy, cliche filled 80's movies, this looks fun. Also, it will be interesting to see what a slasher film directed by two women will turn out like.

Christine Hadden said...

Francisco: I can't believe you haven't seen this one. That's so awesome! I wish I was seeing it for the first time again! Enjoy!!

Doug Brunell, author of "Nothing Men" said...

I saw this one many moons ago and just recently put it back on my Netflix queue. I'm not a huge slasher fan, but this film (and "Happy Birthday to Me") really bring back some good memories. How great of you to revisit it.

Christine Hadden said...

Doug: It's one of my favorite "guilty pleasures" as far as slasher films go. And you know, I'll have to revisit 'Happy Birthday to Me" as well, I haven't seen it in years - it would be a great addition to Friday Flashbacks!