Thursday, May 6, 2010

'80s Trash: The Slumber Party Massacre

What kind of film do you expect when you hear this title?  Do you expect a classic film portraying the plight of the poor in a world of ill-gotten gain?  Do you expect to hear a heart-wrenching tale of love, loss and life?  No, you expect a shitty 1980's slasher film with teen girls, murder and jump scares.  To the film's credit, it delivers everything you expect.  To the film's detriment, it delievers everything you expect.  Many films have this thing called 'subtext,' but not this baby.  People act slutty, people get drunk and people get killed.  That's about all there is to it.  Still reading?  Good.  Fun fact: this movie was actually written by a lesbian activist as a parody of the then-booming (in 1982) genre.  Another fun fact: the movie plays it 100% straight.  In spite of that, let's see how much fun we can have with...
Our story begins by setting up our main heroine and her daily life.  Topless nubile breasts in the first two minutes- check.  She goes to High School, despite looking 25 like all of her classmates.  It helps with movies like this if you just think of them as students that have been really, really held back.  Not ten minutes in, we get our first kill as the driller killer (not the movie) takes out a repair-woman in broad daylight from inside her van.  Yeah, nobody sees or hears that.  We follow two horny teen guys who watch the girls play basketball, followed by the girls chit-chatting in the shower.  You really have no shame, do you, movie?  The key thing is that the girls are having a slumber party tonight, which will surely lead up to the titular 'massacre.'  One of the 'teens' forgets a book and goes back inside, only to have the killer follow her.  She runs away for a while, before hiding.  When that fails, she gives up on life and just stands there while he kills her.  Later that day, we get more set-up with the weird neighbor and one of the women next door, who happens to live with her sister.  Don't you just love filler?
Eventually, we get to the party and get some more filler.  Mind you, we get a few kills here and there during this time, but their minimalist at best.  For example, the weird guy neighbor is out killing snails, he bends over and gets a drill through his head.  Unfortunately, every person in this neighborhood is deaf!  Seriously, he has a power drill and nobody ever hears it.  It's not like you can put a silencer on that thing!  The girls drink, smoke pot and talk about guys.  We also get a very Feminist Quote of the Day: 'It's not what comes out of your mouth, it's what goes in it.'  Eww.  Seriously though, this is a pretty clear sign that this movie was written as a satire, even if the producers chose to ignore this!  During all of this, a few minor characters get knocked off, but it's mostly just jump scares.  In fact, this movie is so rife with cliches that it even uses the 'cat jumping out of a closet' scare.  You may think i'm being picky and looking at this through 2010 eyes, but consider that this was made in 1982, two years after such films as Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine.  We also get some more pointless nudity as the two guys from earlier spy through the window just as the girls change into the 'sleepover outfits.'  Thank you for that- it distracts me from how stupid everything else is...for a moment.
The last thirty or forty minutes of the film are the real juicy stuff, but even that has problems.  More people get offed including a pizza delivery guy!  There is also a bit that you would see later in Hostel Part 2 and the Thanksgiving trailer as one woman goes to her boyfriend...only to see his head fall off!  Both of our male heroes try to save the day, but meet a grisly end.  In a bit right out of a crappy urban legend, the second guy drags himself to the door, but the women don't answer it in time to save him.  The body count escalates so much that we actually get a scene of the man trying to stuff all the bodies in a trunk!  Mind you, this can only occur because our heroes have a penchant for turning on loud devices (i.e. the blender, a television) when people are shouting or looking away just at the right time.  That's so conveniently-stupid, at least in the serious manner of the film.  In a comedy, that would actually be, you know, good.  All of it boils down to a battle between the remaining women (see the Feminist hinge) battling the man.  They break his drill (SYMBOLISM!!!) and cut off his hand (MORE SYMBOLISM!!!).  Of course, being a slasher villain, he gets up for one last hurrah, which ends in him being impaled.  Our heroines all cry as the movie ends.  Um, hurray?
Do I even need to say this?  Okay, I will: this is not a good movie.  The movie is very dated and probably didn't even seem that great in 1982.  Unlike a lot of characters that would come from this era, this killer has no motivation.  This idea can work if it's a surprise, like in Final Exam.  In that film, it builds up a mystery of 'who is the killer,' only to have it be nobody.  This guy, however, is just a murderous asshole with a drill.  Can you imagine that going on your resume?  Another thing- why can't the film decide on whether we see his face or not?  In early shots, we see none of it...but then we see all of it...and back to none of it again.  It's not even like it's part of the mystery or anything.  Make up your mind, people!  What else can I say?  The movie has lots of killing, but is also padded to the brim.  The reason for this is that all of the kills are over and done with in about a minute, leaving room for more scenes of the 'teens' drinking.  That adds a lot- thanks!  If you're a fan of the genre, you may have some fun with it.  Anyone who thinks that '80s slasher films are nothing but excuses to show boobs and killing...would be right in this case.  It's a snapshot of film history- good or bad.
Next up, the sequel to a freaky exploitation film about 'rape.'  I'm sure that this one will be about cuddling.  Stay tuned...


  1. I recently went to a lecture given by the writer of this movie, Rita Mae Brown, and was determined to ask her about it. Sadly...I never got the chance...and unsurprisingly, she didn't bring it up!

    Anyway, we at the Farm are bigger fans of the sequels...what an insane series of movies.


  2. It was very hard to find the original one at all, but, believe me, I am trying to find the sequels.

    Apparently, the series morphed from 'Slumber Party' to 'Cheerleader' to 'Sorority House' over the years too. Unofficial sequels? That only means one thing: Jim Wynorski!

  3. I think that, as cliched and distinctly non-feminist as SPM is, it's totally addicting and stands head and shoulders above most early '80s slasher flicks in terms of sheer entertainment value. The severed-limb-heavy finale is one of the most memorable demises for a slasher villain ever!