In 1982, director Amy Holden Jones took a subversive slasher parody script by famed feminist writer Rita Mae Brown and — with the support of producer Roger Corman — made a cult classic piece of 80s horror history, Slumber Party Massacre. Two (loosely connected) sequels followed, creating the first (and only) slasher franchise entirely written and directed by women.
It’s not uncommon to remake a popular horror film — some are grittier than others — but it’s not often that a horror remake is able to capture the true spirit of its original. With 2021’s Slumber Party Massacre, however, writer Suzanne Keilly (Leprechaun Returns, Ash vs Evil Dead) and director Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16, The Banana Splits Movie) have found a perfect celebration of the original film and its feminist intent, while adding their own distinct improvements.
In the film, a group of girls go to a remote cabin for a good old fashioned slumber party. There’s drinking, dancing, and a deranged killer. You know the drill. But Esterhazy’s Slumber Party Massacre excels at setting you up for a run-of-the-mill slasher before completely subverting your expectations.
There are so many details that show a deep and loving respect for the original films — character names, props, a kid sister, and Russ Thorn’s detail-accurate recreation — but perhaps the greatest homage the film offers is its treatment of its male characters. The slow motion pillow fights and shower scene are a perfect way to lambast the sexualization of the original franchise (which was strongly encouraged by Corman, despite how the directors felt about it). Their inability to run away and even their names (which literally include Guy 1 and Guy 2) poke fun at the treatment of female characters in 80s horror as a whole, while notes on toxic masculinity offer logistical reasons for very bad ideas.
For those familiar with Leprechaun Returns, you may feel a familiar vibe with Slumber Party Massacre. Both of Keilly’s scripts have a fun take on the original film that sprinkles social commentary in a way that keeps it from feeling heavy-handed. This balance of humour and horror is perfectly captured by Esterhazy; between the script and the staging, I had moments where — in my house, all alone — I was literally laughing out loud at the delightful absurdity.
The original Slumber Party Massacre was intended as a parody, but producers pushed for a more conventional slasher film. With the remake, Esterhazy definitely leans into the parody angle, but that doesn’t keep her from building some legitimately tense moments of horror goodness. Practical effects are awesomely gory without being excessive; every victim of drill-bit carnage is impressively done.
Slumber Party Massacre is a bitingly clever slasher for the modern woman. It’s the perfect companion piece to the original movie; chock full of references that you’ll appreciate all the more if you see the 1982 classic, but different enough that you’ll have an entirely new viewing experience.
The spirit of Slumber Party Massacre is alive and well in this remake. Keilly and Esterhazy knew exactly what they wanted to do, and it feels like a true accomplishment. Presented with humour, tact, and a great deal of care, the film is a perfect way to honor the original while doing something completely different.
Modern horror remakes, take note. This is how you do it right.
You can check out Slumber Party Massacre for yourself on SyFy Channel on October 16 at 9pm PT/ET