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The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/18/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/31/2014
I've written before about how I've never bought into the concept of "guilty pleasures". If there's something that you like, you shouldn't feel bad about it. Having said that, I think that many of us have a movie that we love, but we have difficulty explaining our affection towards the film to others. For me, The Slumber Party Massacre fits that description. It's one of those movies which I watch on a regular basis, but if hard-pressed to defend the movie, I'm not sure if I could. I can't remember when or where I first saw the movie, but I clearly recall purchasing a beat up copy on VHS from a video store which was closing. From there, I've owned the movie on DVD and now on Blu-ray Disc from Shout! Factory's Scream Factory collection.
The Slumber Party Massacre opens with a radio announcement that murderer Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) has escaped from prison. The action then moves to a high school, where we meet best friends and athletes Trish (Michele Michael), Kim (Debra Deliso), Diane (Gina Mari) and Jackie (Andree Honore). As Trish's parents are away, they decide to have a get-together at her house. New girl Valerie (Robin Stille), who lives next door to Trish, feels left out. That night, the girls gather at Trish's and indulge in drinking and pizzas. Soon, male admirers Jeff (David Millbern), Neil (Joe Johnson), and John (Jim Boyce) arrive to crash the party. However, none of them are aware that the true party crasher is Thorn, who, armed with a massive power drill, has set his sights on Trish and her friends. Valerie has decided to spend the evening with her sister, Courtney (Jennifer Myers), but she can't ignore the screams coming from next door.
Put quite simply, The Slumber Party Massacre is an odd movie. Appearing in the midst of the slasher cycle, at first glance the movie contains all of the hallmarks of the era. We get a killer (obviously), nubile teens, and violence. However, this movie takes minimalism to the extreme. 1978's Halloween kicked of the slasher cycle, by (re)introducing audiences to a masked killer on the loose. In that film, the killer's identity was not a mystery -- from the outset, we knew that it was Michael Myers. But, in the deluge of movies that followed in Halloween's wake, many were murder-mysteries in that the killer's identity wasn't revealed until the end. (Typically in a twist which made little sense.) The Slumber Party Massacre takes the Halloween route by telling us who the killer is in the first scene. However, it decides to forego the mask...or any other distinguishing features. Russ Thorn is just a guy wearing jeans and a denim jacket. So, we have this guy in a Canadian tuxedo running around killing people.
Whereas the movie doesn't care about style, it also doesn't go out of its way to give us much of a story. Again, we are told that Russ Thorn is a murderer who has escaped from prison...and that's it for his story. Other than the fact that they are all athletes, the girls are all stereotypes. Actually, they are less than that as they barely have any personalities. The "get-together" is simply a group of friends getting together for pizza. No big blow-out or major party. It's never made clear why Thorn target's Trish and her friends. He simply follows her to school and then home again, killing everyone in sight.
So, what in the world could be the appeal of The Slumber Party Massacre? First of all, the bare-bones approach actually works for the movie. The streamlined nature means that there is nothing to get in the way of action. We came her for a massacre, and while the gore is kept to a minimum, we certainly get a body count. Second, and most famously, the movie gained notice upon its release as it was directed by and written by women (Amy Jones and Rita Mae Brown respectively). While this may be surprising at first, especially given the leering shots in the shower scene, some feminist ideas do creep in during the second half. You don't have to be Gloria Steinem to see that the drill is clearly a phallic symbol. Therefore, the finale takes on a deeper and darker significance.
The Slumber Party Massacre is one of those films which most viewers would watch and immediately dismiss, assuming that they made it all the way to the end. But, for those who are familiar with the slasher cycle, this can easily be viewed as a Rick Rubin-like stripped-down version of every other movie of the era. Not to mention, the movie offers some laughs, both intentional and otherwise. Best of all, this is one of those movies which is best viewed with others, as you can both make fun of it and marvel at its audacity. It's not surprising that The Slumber Party Massacre ends with a scene by a pool, as it's both shallow and deep.
The Slumber Party Massacre tries to convince us that high school girls obsess over baseball box scores on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, and the amount of defects from the source materials has been kept to a minimum. Still, the picture does show a slight amount of grain. No offense to anyone involved in the movie, but it's always had a slightly cheap look. This means that some of the nighttime exterior shots are a little too dark and the colors aren't as vibrant as we would like. Still, this is a low-budget movie and some of these issues are to be expected. The level of detail is acceptable, although we don't get the kind of depth which we like to see on a Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track doesn't provide a lot of dynamic effects, although there are a few moments where we get sounds coming from the front channels to represent noises coming from off-screen. The incredibly cheesy score doesn't drown out the dialogue, but it's not from a lack of trying.
The Slumber Party Massacre Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Amy Holden Jones and actors Michael Villella and Debra De Liso. "Sleepless Nights: The Making of The Slumber Party Massacre" (23 minutes) offers interviews with Jones, De Liso, and Villella, as well as comments from Brinke Stevens. Jones very openly speaks about how she became involved in the film and her no-nonsense views on the film. Villella tells us how he approached the role and we realize that he was overthinking it. This doesn't contain any behind-the-scenes or on-set footage, but we hear several anecdotes about the production. We also hear about the film's legacy. "Interview with Rigg Kennedy" (13 minutes) catches up with the actor who played concerned neighbor Mr. Contant. Is that a joint he's holding? A "Still Gallery" contains on-set photos, lobby cards, and promotional materials. The extras are rounded out by a TRAILER for the film, as wells a trailers for Slumber Party Massacre II and Slumber Party Massacre III.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long