Monday, July 28, 2014


By Morgan Ashley Harrell

In the early 80’s feminist icon and author Rita Mae Brown penned a screenplay meant to be a send-up of the slashsploitation genre. Brown used the standard algebraic model for dead teenagers wherein (Movie) = [(Nudity4) × (the inverse of Adult Supervision) + (Violent Psychiatric Ward Escapee)] ÷ (Pizza) and the resulting hot mess is 1982’s THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE stands out as a genuine slasher flick that coupled graphic violence with subversive humor and macabre sight gags. The novelty is the result of a clash between Brown, who originally intended THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE to be a parody of the blood-soaked slashers studios were churning out at the time, and producer Roger Corman who wanted a blood-soaked slasher. Corman’s production credits include DEATH RACE 2000, WOMEN IN CAGES, and the abysmal film adaptation of Stephen King’s CHILDREN OF THE CORN, but we won’t hold it against him because out of his steadfast humorlessness came the strange wilderness of HE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.

Directed by Amy Holden Jones, THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is equal parts chuckles and bloody murder that only takes itself as seriously as Corman demanded. Jones adhered to Corman’s demand that she film the screenplay as straight-genre horror, only Jones elected not to remove any of Brown’s original jokes. The plot is generic and predictable, but the effect of the flatly played humor makes THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE infinitely more fun to watch and does much to improve the generic plot.

Likeable Teen Trish invites some girls from her basketball team over for a slumber party. Noticeably absent is New Girl Valerie, who lives across the street and whose absence is the result of teen girl friction over Valerie’s basketball prowess. Valerie is sensitive and full of teen angst, but she’ll redeem herself later when shit gets real. For the moment no amount of prodding will get Valerie in the slumber partying mood.

Meanwhile, Bona Fide Psycho Killer Russ Thorn has conveniently escaped from the confines of a psychiatric facility or something and he’s already wearing an egregious amount of denim and offing people with his power drill, which we can only assume is a phallus. The movie is a few murders in by the time anyone realizes that there is danger afoot when the pizza delivery guy arrives dead of an acute case Drill Bit Through the Eye, which doesn’t stop Jackie from eating the pizza anyway. This brings us to what is perhaps the most priceless piece of dialogue in the entire script:
Diane: “You’re not going to eat that dead guy’s pizza!”
Jackie: “I feel better already, I really do.”
Jackie and I share similar coping mechanisms and I’m damn sure not gonna let a little thing like murder stop me from plowing through my share of large Domino’s Meatlovers with extra cheese. You can’t outrun crazy armed with power tools on an empty stomach.

An attempt is made by the girls to alert the authorities, but like any good Psycho Killer Russ was clever enough to cut the phone line and, I don’t know, maybe everybody’s cell service is really terrible or they all left their iPhones at home or something. This part always confuses me as a Millennial. The point is help ain’t coming, so Trish and company arm themselves with sharp kitchen utensils and prepare for a rough night.

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE has garnered praise for its feminist message, and although it does pass the Bechdel test, it’s really just hack ‘em up (or in this case, drill ‘em up) ‘80’s horror. All parties are still afflicted with Slasher Flick Deafness, an unfortunate neurological condition that results in general obliviousness to danger, and the ratio of naked women to naked men (as informative as the Bechdel test and more fun to watch) is exactly all of them to zero. There is a momentary thrill of Girl Power when Valerie hacks off Russ Thorn’s drill bit with a machete, scoring a symbolic victory against The Patriarchy on behalf of all Womynkind, but that is the extent of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE’s feminist slant.

This column is among those featured in
 BRIDE OF MONSTER SERIAL, a collection of 
horror essays written by contributors to 
Buy it today on Amazon!
There are three films in THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE franchise. The sequel is a rock n’ roll slasher so inexplicable that I would not believe it even existed had I not seen it with my own eyes.  It features New Girl Valerie’s kid sister and a drill (the only ubiquitous element in the franchise) that looks like guitar, and a villain that bears enough of a resemblance to John Travolta’s character in GREASE that I have a hard time imagining it wasn’t a deliberate casting decision. There are musical numbers and a few instances of 4th wall breaking.

The third installment in the series is unwatchable. Like, we’re not even going to discuss it because it’s so bland and awful that 20 minutes in I switched over to a PBS documentary about cephalopods. Not everything needs to be a trilogy ...

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is sly compared to its formulaic contemporaries, but it doesn’t hold up to the reactionary trend of hyper self-aware horror films that dominated the 90’s and permeate the genre today. It’s hard for a low budget, 77 minute film like THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE to claw their way out of obscurity when slick thrillers like the Scream franchise and Urban Legend walk around like they invented meta horror, but I’m confident that THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE will age gracefully.

MORGAN ASHLEY HARRELL is a full-time student who enjoys makeup, bikinis, and reading the Dune series out loud to her 4 cats.

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