The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Jones
Writers: Rita Mae Brown
Starring: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, and Debra Deliso.

The Plot: Taking place in a small American suburb, our story partially focuses on Trish (Michelle Michaels), a young teenager whose parents are leaving for the weekend, and she plans for a wild weekend party. Valerie (Robin Stille) is the new girl in town, who lives right across the street from Trish, and desperately wants to fit in. Unfortunately for her, Trish and her inner circle do not care much for the girl. So, when Trish is establishing her list of friends invited to her weekend slumber party, Valerie is left out in the cold. This works out fairly well for Valerie, however, because it turns out that a certain uninvited guest plans on ruining Trish’s slumber party. Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) is a lunatic psychopath who originally massacred a group of young people nearly twenty years before, and unknown to this group of young girls, Thorn is heading right in their direction. As Thorn picks off Trish’s neighbors, one by one, it is only a matter of time before he crashes the party for good. Will this group of young women survive his onslaught and will Valerie, the neighbor, make it to the party or survive by being the nerdy girl that no one likes?

The Review
The Slumber Party Massacre is the introductory film in the famed slasher series of the same name, which was notable for being directed and created entirely by women. Originally written as a form of feminist satire on a genre that can easily be seen as one of the most misogynist sections of the horror universe, the film itself actually plays out a bit more straight forward than one might expect. A prime example of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, Slumber Party Massacre delivers all of the cheap thrills that one might expect from the slasher film genre but never gets tied down much in terms of depth or content. Although, this does not necessarily make it a bad film. Occasionally, cinema needs a film that is wholly dedicated to its genre and delivers with a steadfast and unwavering hand. That is precisely what Amy Jones’ film does, it delivers everything that made this genre as popular as it was during the eighties. There is a promise from this movie, right from the start, and it is made directly to any potential viewer. It is the same promise made with any slasher movie. You are guaranteed blood, profanity, and nudity. This turns out to be a promise that Slumber Party Massacre holds up to without fail.

Despite a feminist genesis, Slumber Party Massacre does not shy away from the use of rituals that we expect of any 1980s slasher film. There will be boobs, there will be blood, and the final girl concept will be firmly left in place. However, right from the start, it is the quirkiness of the entire project that inevitably gives it its own unique voice amidst a sea of very similar slashers. Slumber Party Massacre is a film that is filled to the brim with exploitative imagery, but at the same time it does manage to speak to women and make light of some genre stereotypes. The movie seems to poke fun at the irrational competition between women and the general games that are played during youth. Men, thankfully, are not all shown to be evil as one might expect from a “feminist” horror film, but the movie doesn’t pull any punches either. Men are shown thinking with their libido in moments where women are actually dying just feet behind them. Yet, it’s a naive sort of ignorance and is quite correctly asserted to be the ignorance of youth, which is a ignorance that seemingly all the characters in this film suffer from.

Director Amy Jones establishes herself here in making a genuinely effective slasher film. Although it often falls directly into genre pastiche, there are moments throughout where the filmmaker shows off her talent in crafting a taut horror film. Throughout the movie, the use of shadow and darkness plays a large role in establishing the scares that the movie delivers. Although there is very little in the movie that comes across as “otherworldly” in terms of atmosphere, this manipulation of darkness makes up for a lot of that. Throughout the movie there are multiple sequences that take place in the garage, just outside of the home that our story plays out in, and more often than not there’s usually only a few rays of light bleeding into this room. Some of the creepiest moments in the film usually happen on this location and the audience can really feel that impending darkness as it completely surrounds these characters. Aside from this, the entire film really looks tremendous to have been such a low budget affair.

The violence, one of the main draws for any slasher film during the 1980s, is most certainly a factor within Slumber Party Massacre. Although the movie never reaches the levels of gore that one might expect from a movie featuring a “driller killer,” it does manage to produce a great deal of gory fun. The body count is an integral part of any slasher from this era, and Slumber Party Massacre generally does not disappoint. With decapitations and drill-induced murders aplenty, the movie establishes itself as a genuine slasher by stacking up at least twelve bodies. While the violence is certainly an aspect that should draw in most viewers, the subtle, yet sharply sarcastic, humor that surrounds the movie is perhaps its most endearing legacy. The comedy is toned down from what the script apparently contained, but there’s still a taste of biting satire that runs througout the movie. Before the self-awareness of Scream, there were films such as Slumber Party Massacre that pointed out the inherit silliness of the genre without going over the top and deviating from the scares.

The Conclusion
Although I feel that I may not have the love for the film that many fans do, I certainly had a good time with it. The scares are effective, the gore is welcome, and the satirical look at the slasher genre is very welcome indeed. However, this is a relatively routine piece of slasher cinema. It is commendable that the film may be the first movie to make light of the fact that the knife (or in this case, drill) of our killer is something that can be taken as a phallic symbol, but generally speaking you’ve seen this film many times before. Still, it is a strong enough production to warrant a high three out of five rating. It is definitely a film worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for a slightly different look as the slasher genre.