If you ask me, 1982’s The Slumber Party Massacre is one of the most underappreciated slashers out there. I wouldn’t call it one of the best, but I certainly think it’s among the most entertaining. It may seem generic upon first glance, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Despite launching a franchise and developing a cult following, the film is rarely brought up in discussions about the subgenre. With a new Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, I’m hoping the tide finally turns.
Here are 8 reasons to watch The Slumber Party Massacre:
1. It has a sense of humor.
Depending on who you ask, The Slumber Party Massacre was either written as a parody and filmed straight, or it was a generic script injected with a dose of satire. Whichever the case, the end result contains just the right amount of satirical humor, along a healthy helping of cheese for good measure, without ever feeling obtusely comedic.
2. It was influenced by Halloween.
Unlike many of the slashers that followed, The Slumber Party Massacre draws more influence from Halloween rather than Friday the 13th. The plot concerns a largely silent and seemingly unstoppable escaped killer who stalks and kills a group of suburban high school students. If you’re going to borrow from someone, it may as well be the best.
3. It has a cool killer.
Although his narrow backstory is similar to that of Michael Myers, The Slumber Party Massacre killer Russ Thorn doesn’t attempt to look like him. He wears plain clothes (albeit a denim-on-denim fashion faux pas), he doesn’t bother with a mask, and he uses a power drill to take out most of his victims. To prepare for the role, method actor Michael Villella read Helter Skelter. While on set, he deliberately avoided the other actors to add to the creepiness. He modeled his movements on a peacock, which works surprisingly well.
4. It was written and directed by women.
Women filmmakers are sadly a rarity, particularly in the horror genre, but The Slumber Party Massacre was written and directed by females. Writer Rita Mae Brown is an established feminist author. Despite some cheesy dialogue, her female characters are strong, while the drill is a none-too-subtle phallic symbol. Director Amy Holden Jones got her start in the industry as Martin Scorsese’s assistant on Taxi Driver. She then went to work as an editor for Roger Corman before giving up the chance to edit E.T. in order to direct Slumber Party Massacre. She went on to write Mystic Pizza and Beethoven.
5. It was produced by Roger Corman.
The Slumber Party Massacre was distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, so Corman served as the (uncredited) executive producer. The man is responsible for countless the careers of many of Hollywood’s best (James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, et al.) while churning out cult classic B-movies. Although it has a feminist touch, the film’s prerequisite nudity and deaths – which can be attributed to Corman’s involvement – are out in full force.
6. It delivers on what you want to see in a slasher.
Some may wrongly assume that a film written and directed by women means a more subdued approach to horror, but that is not the case. The Slumber Party Massacre offers unashamedly gratuitous nudity, along with some good gore and kills, not to mention a relatively high body count for the time. The killer is a good one, even playing cat and mouse with some of the girls before offing them – such as the great chase scene with scream queen Brinke Stevens or when he hides under a blanket pretending to be a dead body.
7. It has a great score.
The Slumber Party Massacre’s electronic score was composed entirely on a Casio synthesizer by composer Ralph Jones (who is the director’s brother). The result is perfectly ’80s. Once again, it seems that Jones was influenced by John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween score. The main theme actually reminds me a bit of Rob’s acclaimed score for the recent Maniac remake. Fans will be happy to know that the soundtrack is soon to be released on vinyl via .
8. It spawned a fun sequel.
Regardless of your feelings on The Slumber Party Massacre, you have seek out Slumber Party Massacre II. It’s a batshit-crazy sequel that hits many of the same notes as the original but with a rock-‘n’-roll killer who wields a guitar with a drill attached to the neck. The third installment, while not as memorable as the first two, isn’t bad either. The original film further spawned some underwhelming, vaguely related spin-offs: Sorority House Massacre, Sorority House Massacre II, Hard to Die and Cheerleader Massacre.
Whether to revisit it or experience it for the first time, I recommend picking up The Slumber Party Massacre on Blu-ray. Hopefully Part II makes its way to high-definition soon; in the meantime, you can grab the trilogy set on DVD.