The Film: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
The Principles: Amy Jones (Director). Rita Brown (Writer). Michelle Michels. Robin Stille. Michael Villella. Debra Deliso. Andree Honore. Gina Mari. Jennifer Myers.
The Premise: When a teenage girl’s parents go away for the weekend, she sets up a slumber party with her BFFs. Little do they know a serial killer has escaped from prison and, for some odd reason, he’s got this girl’s house on his radar. He also has a giant power drill.
Is It Good: Nooope! [/lanakane] At least not in cinematic terms. The script is wonky, the pacing is terrible, the majority of the kills are horrible, the killer himself is ridiculous and while it’s implied that he has particular designs on this girl it’s never expounded upon, the performances range from atrocious to charmingly flat, the editing is kinda rushed and clumsy – it’s not the kind of movie that leaves one engaged for the entire running time unless 1) you’re live-tweeting it or b) you have a rowdy group of friends around who can appreciate the above things.
Granted, it was a kind of coming out party for Amy Jones, whose previous credits included being an editor on some b-movies and Scorsese’s assistant on the set of Taxi Driver. And you kind of have to give her some credit for jumping into a genre that traditionally isn’t altogether female-friendly. Because even though there was a sense of “I’m going to learn how to make a movie as I go,” there are a lot of things she (and writer Rita Brown) got really, really right…
Is It Worth A Look: Actually it sort of is, because while it wasn’t particularly good in a traditional “movie” sense, it manages to be fairly subversive and – although someone more schooled in the genre may be able to correct me – it might very well be the first Feminist Slasher Movie. Part of that can be credited to Jones who pretty deftly managed to incorporate every horny Slasher Movie trope but give them a little spin. Tracking shots through the showers in the girl’s locker room, scenes where all the ladies are in various stages of undress – but it never succumbs to actual objectification because Jones makes a point to make their attractiveness just a small part of the girls’ characters and spends far more time giving them personalities and making them real people as opposed to being nothing more than naked bodies to be counted when it’s all said and done. Also, because practically every single male in the movie is a useless, horny high school kid (or a well-meaning but also ultimately useless next door neighbor), they all get killed early so the concept of the chaste Final Girl is thrown out the window. All in all it’s a surprisingly authoritative stance by Jones in a movie full of amateurish stumbles.
But the real credit for the subversion at play goes to writer Rita Mae Brown. Already an author and a feminist activist, Brown sat down to write Slumber Party Massacre as a parody of the slasher genre, but producers demanded it be played straight in production, which is probably part of where the sluggish pacing and terrible kills come from – turns out they were supposed to be funny! At any rate, with all the little character beats and moments that she managed to give our ladies, what was (to me, anyway) the film’s saving grace was a moment towards the end where the killer has one of the ladies trapped outside by the pool and he gives her the old “You know you want it” routine. And it’s in that moment, while he’s getting ready to penetrate the shit out of her with his giant steel penis (fuck YOU, butcher knife!), that Brown brings everything home. This killer is not only a commentary on rape culture and victim blaming, he’s also a surrogate for the mouthbreather fans of more traditional exploitive slasher efforts and, perhaps, the entire genre itself. It’s audience condemnation on an almost Haneke-level, just, ya know, minus the filmmaking chops. And the fact that she managed to work all of that organically into the structure of the very thing she was tearing down is pretty damned impressive, if only in spirit. Because at the end of the day those ideas deserved a much, MUCH, better movie.
Random Anecdotes: Probably my favorite character in the whole movie was the little sister Courtney (played by Jennifer Meyers). No older than a 9th grader, she stole her older sister’s Playgirl magazine, conspired to get her hands on some alcohol and still played an instrumental role in stopping the killer because at the end of the day, no matter how female, young, lusty or thirsty she was – she had enough of a head on her shoulders to react when she needed to react. There weren’t that many ADULT female characters getting as much respect in most movies back then.
Cinematc Soulmates: Apparently there were like 4 or 5 sequels. I haven’t seen them. Somehow I doubt they have this much on their mind.