Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Films from the Crypt: Episode 11 - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Films from the Crypt Episode 11: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Director: Amy Holden Jones

Tagline: "Close your eyes for a second...and sleep forever!"

Starring: Michael Villela, Michelle Michaels, Debra Deliso

It's recently come to my attention that the Slumber Party Massacre DVD has gone out of print. Being someone that owns the disc, I've contemplated selling it on eBay - some of the asking prices are outrageous on there - but I just don't know if I can part with it. You see, The Slumber Party Massacre is one of my favorite eighties slashers. I'm card carrying - I've got the shirt from Fright-Rags and have seen all of the sequels including the T'n'A'd out Cheerleader Massacre (which, oddly enough, has more connection to the first film than you would think). It's a great film - and actually a pretty fun little series.

Before we discuss the plot, let's talk about the film's humble beginnings. According to legend, feminist author Rita Mae Brown originally wrote a draft of the script that was a parody of the burgeoning slasher genre - one that served as a wake up call to the misogyny showcased in such films. Of course, when the studio got a hold of the script they trashed all the spoof elements, rewrote it, and played it straight. Strangely enough, a few years later The Slumber Party Massacre II would arrive, being a parody itself (and one I'm rather fond of - I may do an episode on it in the future).

Anyway, all of that aside, Slumber Party Massacre is a little light on plot. A few girls have a slumber party when some parents are away, the new girl feels like an outcast, blah blah blah, and then they get murdered by a power tool wielding, fresh out of the sanitarium psycho name'a Russ Thron. That about sums it up. And if that little synopsis doesn't entice you, then I can't do anything for you and your life sucks.

But, oh, SPM, why do I love thee? Is it the gratuitous flaunting of nubile female skin? Is it the fact that the kills aren't always spectacular, but are always full of vigor? Or is it the absolute lack of pretension, the lack of irony, and the unwavering feeling like you are trying to act like a real film? I think it has to be all of these things.

The kills, while fun, aren't up to snuff if you've cut your teeth on the likes of mid-series Friday the 13th or anything after that. But, I'll be damned if the film-makers didn't give it that old film school dropout try. Which is how the whole movie feels. There's a tenacity to it, and a certain built-in naivety that permeates the production. It's there in the original Friday the 13th as well. It's there in The Burning and Sleepaway Camp. But, it's decidedly absent from any of the new onslaught of slick remakes. It's also absent from films done by extremely competent directors - like Carpenter's Halloween - because they are just too good. It's a quality that can't be reproduced. And that's why I love The Slumber Party Massacre - it's the spirit of this whole damn cheapie slasher movement that is encapsulated in these early eighties films that really gets me more than anything else.

So, if you can find it, I heartily suggest that you pick yourself up a copy of The Slumber Party Massacre and give it a watch some Friday night. Watch it with a bowl of popcorn in your jammies, maybe with a group of friends (if you have any, nerd). I guranty you will not regret it.

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