Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE - Officially Licensed Horror T-Shirt –  Fright-Rags

I finally got around to watching the classic 1982 The Slumber Party Massacre, and it was worth the wait. I think it’s my new favourite slasher movie! The film had a strange production, and because of it, it’s delightfully subversive in terms of gender and expectation (most of the women are independent and pretty resourceful, and most of the guys in it are kind of losers and pretty useless when it comes down to it). Apparently Rita Mae Brown (feminist author of Rubyfruit Jungle) wrote the original screenplay as a parody of the slasher film genre, but then the studio wanted to play it straight, so they added the usual sex, nudity, and gore. The end result is a lot of fun to see, and also quite refreshing for a slasher movie. It’s also directed by a female director (Amy Holden Jones, who co-wrote 1992’s Beethoven), so it’s great to have a female perspective, even though the female nudity is quite surprising considering. One of my favourite characters was the sexy telephone repair person, but unfortunately she gets killed minutes/seconds after being introduced. Still pretty cool to have more women in trades though!

We know the story, but the jump scares actually work pretty well, and the multiple narratives (girls at the party, and the new girl who’s babysitting his mischievous little sister) are compelling to watch. I also liked how the driller killer (an escaped homicidal mental patient) doesn’t have a disguise or conceal his identity like Jason or Michael Myers, and instead we see him as insane and very human as he is, and this makes it all the way frightening, particularly how easily he infiltrates the school and its surroundings. There’s a very Freudian reading of his drill as weapon of choice since it is so conspicuously phallic, and suggestive of his need to assert his masculinity by killing (virtually all of) his victims with it. There are black comedy leftovers from Brown’s screenplay that create bizarre humour, such as the scene where the slumber party ladies eat pizza over the corpse of the poor pizza guy who got his eyes drilled out. It feels almost out of place, but makes the film fun, and reminds us that we’re watching a movie at the end of the day. The resourcefulness and survival instincts of these women also creates a feminist angle for the film. Even poor Linda, who dies in the first few minutes of the film, manages to survive the killer by bandaging herself up and hiding/holding out in the gym.

I generally find that most slashers are formulaic or predictable or boring by now, but sometimes there are a few gems that sit a “cut” above the rest (The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), or Silent Night, Deadly Night, or many of the giallo classics such as Tenebrae or Don’t Torture a Duckling). Puppet Combo’s slasher video games really inspired me to give this one a try, and it was a delight. It’s a great movie to watch on Friday night with friends and pizza and drinks, but also a powerful feminist take on the slasher genre in its own right. The ending of the film was really satisfying too, when the remaining women have a showdown with the killer, and hot damn, there are so many drop dead gorgeous women in this movie. Definitely one of the classics!
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