Pillow Fights and Party Crashers: A Retrospective Review of the “Slumber Party Massacre” Series, From Slasher Essential to B-Movie Mayhem.
The Slumber Party Massacre series hit the scene in the 80s and left a blood-stained trail of cheap horror and laughs every step of the way. It also brought us The Driller Killer, a maniac who conveniently changes in character and appearance with each film for the sake of entry into the series.
The plots are pretty standard, but who needs character development when there’s a killer on the loose? There just isn’t time for that when you’re running around in a night gown fighting for your life. And on top of having standard plots, continuity doesn’t apply within the series either, or logic for that matter (characters limp without leg injuries, run through houses instead of leaving, smash their telephones when cops won’t listen), but these things are part of the overall appeal of the SPM series.
These “touches” cause us to yell at the conveniently-stupid teenagers on screen, become pro active with the film, and that can be a lot of fun. And forget realism; it doesn’t come with the territory. Some fans wouldn’t have their slice-n-dice any other way.
Whether they delivered a classic entry into the genre, a standard entry, or an entry that has a killer rocking a guitar drill, SPM never took a wrong turn and fell below the genre’s mediocrity level. Let’s see what all the buzz is about.
The Slumber Party Massacre
The SPM series started the first film with not only the standard nudity expected for these films, but it also brought us a killer with the most bare-minimum motivation for killing half-naked teenagers ever. His reason? Simple. “You’re all so pretty. I know you want it. I love you. It takes a lot of love for a person to do this.” Did I mention this dude is an escaped mental patient?
The movie begins. The paperboy throws the morning paper on the sidewalk, and its headline informs us that Russ Thorn, an escaped mental patient from the local asylum, has just escaped. (It’s a fantastic opening with a wonderfully-simplistic character reveal. It tells us everything we need to know without saying a word, and it’s what having a great first page of a screenplay is all about.)
By the time the opening credits are over, Russ Thorn will not only pick a random teenage girl to stalk for a kill, but he will also steal her Barbie doll from the trash. (Why he does this remains unclear to me.) Thorn will then follow his prey to school where he proceeds to kill a telephone repair woman, steal her van for transportation, and acquire a large electric drill: the weapon of choice for the series.
It’s from here we begin to meet our typical cast of teens for the slaughter, picked off one by one, particularly during the slumber party. Unfortunately, there aren’t many characters that stand out; it’s a typical bunch, the good girl, the black girl, the bitch, etcetera, but they aren’t here to win academy awards; they are here to die for our entertainment and show nudity.
(You can argue that this doesn’t qualify as legitimate entertainment, but the childish sensibilities in some vibe with this sort of thing.) The only thing that really hurts the film is that dreaded sagging middle: a common problem with many stories.
True, SPM has a bare-bones plot with little else going for it (it is a slasher, after all), but if the simplistic actions of a maniac killing half-naked teens with an electric drill is your thing, you could do no worse. Unfortunately, it’s about to be outshined by its sequel. Not because the sequel is necessarily better, but because the sequel is a masterpiece of originality in a not-so-original genre. A sequel that is either loved or hated with equal parts passion. For me, it’s the best bang for the buck.
The Slumber Party Massacre II
I once found The Slumber Party Massacre II in a VHS bin for a dollar. They got screwed. Originally titled Don’t let Go (a reference to holding on to one’s virginity), Roger Corman needed a sequel for his first SPM movie, and this would do just fine. It had all the elements, teens and a killer, but that’s where the continuity ends.
It doesn’t fit with the original much beyond that. Maybe in a few ways. We have Courtney, who is a survivor of the first, and there is mention of her sister from the first film being locked in an asylum somewhere, but that’s it. Beyond the character references, SPM II is its own thing, which I suppose it was in the first place, considering its original title.
The killer this outing was some kind of strange, dream-like Andrew “Dice” Clay wannabe, who breakdances (not really) around the living room to create (for us) his very own music video and theme song on the spot, staring directly into the camera as he does so, completely shattering the fourth wall. Let’s see Jason Voorhees do that; he won’t. This guy will. He not only brings a guitar drill to the party, he brought his own music video, and he’s not shy about showing us he can’t dance.
Played entirely for laughs, and pulling off being good/bad on purpose, Slumber Party Massacre II delivers campiness to order. (I have touched on my love for this movie in a recent review.)
It’s rare to pull this off. A movie can’t just be bad for laughs and claim B-movie status. It has to celebrate itself by becoming something more than its influences. Few movies have broken ground in this manner; this was one of them; its hubris has no bounds. Even though the film is littered with influences, it has since become an influence.
A movie that is two parts slasher spoof, one part Rocky Horror Picture Show, and mixed with a killer that has got to be just as crazy (in a good way) as Deborah Brock, the writer/director of the film. I publicly thank her here. If the first film’s priority was nudity and kills, part two’s was to entertain, and for many, it went past that.
It brought the fun, the blood, an exploding zit, and a rockabilly/girl band soundtrack. It also brought a killer who was one step away from doing the Electric Boogaloo across the ceiling. There is nothing quite like it, and the only thing missing at this point is an official soundtrack release with blood-splattered vinyl.
The Slumber Party Massacre III
Not even appreciated by its own director, the final entry in The Slumber Party Massacre series ended with a slight thud when the bodies hit the floor.
The killer this outing was a young preppie kid with a dark past, hair made of golden wheat, and a smile so bright that no airbrushing was needed. We are made to think the killer might be this pre-Kirk Cobain-looking creep who likes to stare at chicks on the beach (no crime in that), but he’s simply here to throw us off track, and we know this. There’s also a neighbor the film cast suspicions on, but he’s also weak. We don’t really care who the killer is, do we?
We’ve seen these movies before and know that twist is coming, and we are usually smart enough to know that it’s not the ones they shove in our faces. No big deal. This is a slasher film, and we generally don’t care about weak reveals; just bring the fun! Here is where it’s a semi failure. Is it fun? A little.
Maybe it’s from the genre running tired by this point, or maybe it’s from coming after the energetic craziness of the second film, but whatever the reasons are, SPM III is nothing more than a slasher done in the same manner as others at the time. If it’s main goal was to turn a profit, it succeeded. If it’s intention was to bring something new to the game, it failed.
But as part of the trilogy, it’s an honest effort at delivering a slasher on a budget. It does have a few unintentional funny moments, but not in the way it should to be endearingly bad (these are not rewindable moments or anything to laugh out loud about, maybe a groan or two). But truth be told, if it wasn’t part of the series, I would still have it on my shelf. A respectable entry with standard skills all around. I let it play in the background.