April 12, 2012
Slasher filmmakers were poking fun at the sub-genre way before Wes Craven did it with Scream. Even in its infant stage, filmmakers who saw the familiarity in the gratuitous sex and violence would exploit it, usually without apology. After the success of killer-stalking-kids films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, any location with a group of young women gathered together was considered a ripe scenario for a horror film. In 1982, producer/director Amy Jones sent a killer into a dream hunting ground - a teenage girl’s sleepover - in The Slumber Party Massacre.
The Slumber Party Massacre begins with a newspaper boy delivering papers with a headline about the escape of a mass murderer named Russ Thorn (Wild Orchid’s Michael Villela). As the news circulates, a young lady named Trish (Michele Michaels from Share the Moon) learns that her parents will be going out of town and decides to have a party that night with some of her girl friends. At basketball practice after school, she invites the girls, and all of them accept her offer except for Valerie (Robin Stille from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), a girl who is not liked by the other girls but happens to live next door to Trish. Meanwhile, Thorn shows up at the school, where he kills a telephone repair woman and steals her van - and her power-drill. That night, the girls show up at Trish’s place for her party, and their guys follow suit, trying to crash the party. However, the boys are not the only party crashers, as the kids soon find themselves stalked by the drill yielding psychopath.
The script for The Slumber Party Massacre was written by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown (The Long Hot Summer). Or, at least, the first draft of it was. Originally called Sleepless Nights, it was meant to be a comedy reaction to the misogynistic masked killer movies of the late seventies and early eighties. When the studio decided to play it as a straight horror film, they didn’t include Brown in any of the revisions, preferring to let director Amy Jones (who also wrote Mystic Pizza and Indecent Proposal) handle the rewrites. The result is a horror film with comically more T & A than its contemporaries; it boasts strategically placed shower scenes and topless shots between the death and carnage. With the exception of the formulaic plotline (which is scripted and hilarious), much of the unintentional humor in The Slumber Party Massacre comes off as serious and, therefore, instead of making fun of the slasher film, the movie epitomizes it. Thanks to the script, even played straight, the movie has the feel of a comedy.
Although Brown’s script didn’t end up as the feminist comedy that she intended, there are still snippets of feminism in the finished film. Although the women are objectified, they are also resourceful, tough and, for the most part, intelligent. The male characters are practically useless, as none of them puts up any fight at all against the killer. The strong characters are the women – Trish, Valerie and Coach Jana (Pamela Roylance from “Little House on the Prairie”), the girls’ basketball coach. And, in the final duel with the killer, Thorn and his phallic drill are defeated in grand horror movie-finale style, with no help from any of the guys.
Of course, since it is an early eighties slasher, The Slumber Party Massacre boasts some impressive make-up effects. The team of Larry Carr (the Friday the 13th series) and Rick Lazzarini (the A Nightmare on Elm Street series) provide all the blood, guts and gore that are expected from a crazed killer movie. The practical effects are like a how-to clinic in horror make-up; the film is chock full of severed digits, missing limbs, and buckets and buckets of blood. Carr and Lazzarini put the splat in splatter, placing The Slumber Party Massacre on many horror fans’ favorite films list.
By the time The Slumber Party Massacre was made, the golden age of slashers was in full swing, and the recycled plotlines and characters had become old hat. The Slumber Party Massacre recognized, exposed and embraced these archetypes, becoming a classic of the genre while holding a mirror up to the lack of originality.
**Watch The Slumber Party Massacre now via Instant Streaming on Netflix.**