THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE
Director: Amy Holden Jones
Year of release: 1982
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 77 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Close your eyes for a second...And sleep forever", "The ultimate driller killer thriller" and "You bring the pizza...I'll bring the drill".
Also known as: Slumber Party and The Slumber Party Murders
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: While her parents are away on holiday eighteen year old Trish invites three of her friends from her school Basketball team over to her place for a slumber party. Trish also invites fellow basketball team mate and new girl in town Val but sensing hostility from some of the other girls who will be in attendance Val declines the offer. Val who happens to live in the same street as Trish instead spends the evening looking after her younger sister Courtney. As boys drop in to crash the slumber party Courtney begins to show an interest in attending herself. Unknown to everyone someone else in town is also attracted to the scene of the party, this being escaped madman Russ Thorn who loves nothing more than dismembering nubile teens with his unique weapon of choice, a portable electric hand drill. As Thorn begins making his presence felt an oblivious Courtney’s curiosity gets the better of her and she heads over to the party herself looking for acceptance from the older girls. Forced to go after her Val soon finds herself in the middle of the nightmare as she and Trish square off against Thorn.
Good points: *The film boasts an entertaining and for the most part likeable cast of characters. The main group of four girls, perhaps Diane aside are all nice enough and easy enough to get behind and root for over the killer. Courtney was also a character full of personality and probably my favourite from the film. In more limited roles Coach Jana and the nosy neighbour David also enhance the proceedings with likeable and eccentric characters respectively. The film is also fairly unique in having double final girls in Trish and Val which makes for an interesting final portion to the film. Trish does take a bit of a backseat to Val though Val is worthy of the attention ticking all the right boxes and doing a fine job of taking the fight to Thorn in the closing scenes.
*Very minor spoilers: SPM includes a lot of false scares which maybe some people don’t like as they can be cheap devices to try and elicit a reaction but for me they play into the films charm here and add to the sense of fun. Most of them are pretty well done from the classic cat in the closet inspired by Alien to a more original one involving the busybody neighbour and a snail.
*The drill is pretty inventive as a weapon and though it is something which had been used before even in the early eighties with Driller Killer before it it’s still a relatively untapped killing method. As such it makes for a nice weapon now synonymous with the series in a similar way to Leatherface’s chainsaw, Freddy’s glove or Jason’s machete.
*Things start off pretty tamely in regards to the kills but gather momentum as the story begins to progress up to the point that towards the end we have some really gory moments. There are also some well thought out scenes where bodies are discovered in particular the famous (spoiler) fridge set piece.
Bad Points: *The only real problem with this which I’m sure is something that most would agree with is that the killer Russ Thorn is a disappointment. He looks very normal so no attempt at a costume or mask of any kind nor does he look particularly intimidating so he doesn’t project a sense of menace or fear. It isn’t all bad news as at least he has an interesting weapon in the drill and decent mannerisms (apparently based on a peacock). This isn’t enough though to make up for his bland appearance and comical looking denim outfit. For me ultimately it’s the lack of an iconic mask or defined look for the killer to go along with the drill that prevents the franchise from joining the elite or at least the most well-known franchises such as Halloween, Friday the 13th etc.
They also don’t provide us with a backstory for Russ Thorn. Mild spoiler: It would have been a welcome addition to have learnt about what led to him being locked up. Seeing that he was mentioned on the radio some of the surviving characters could have surmised that the slayings could be the work of Thorn once the pizza boy was discovered dead. Those left could have suggested Thorn as the possible killer stating they had heard about his escape on the radio which could have led to someone piping up with the story they had heard that had led to Thorn being committed. I think it was a missed opportunity not to have done something like this.
*I also noted two other small things that could have been improved upon. Firstly it was unrealistic that Linda’s absence wasn’t discussed more. They did justify it early on by saying that she may not be able to make it anyway but they later could have had someone say “Where’s Linda. It’s a shame but I guess she couldn’t make it”?
More of an issue is something that happens later when Val and Courtney investigate Trish’s house. Val finds a pool of blood at the backdoor but then doesn’t mention it to Courtney though she does mention the house being in darkness and the lack of people, two things less noteworthy than the blood.
Verdict: This is very good I thought and more than worthy of its status as one of the more recognisable titles of the slasher golden era. It’s a film which is a lot of fun and is buoyed by an interesting and largely likeable cast of characters. Some good set pieces and gory moments towards the end add to the appeal and make for an exciting climax. The killer not being very scary at all does hinder things but that discrepancy aside the film works very well.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Female TV/telephone worker: Pulled into van and presumably drilled in the head though camera cuts away so we don’t see specifically what happens.
2)Linda: Sustains wound from drill which bleeds heavily. Is later killed off camera in the school. Note: This character actually returns in Cheerleader Massacre played by the same actress so in the world of that film she didn’t die here.
3)David: Drilled through the neck.
4)Diane’s boyfriend: Discovered by Diane beheaded.
5)Diane: Killed with drill offscreen. Body later found hanging up.
6)Pizza boy: Found dead at the door with eyes drilled out.
7)Male: Drilled in the garage. Survives this and later crawls to the back door but is finished off there with the drill.
8)Male: Stabbed repeatedly with knife.
9)Jackie: Throat cut with drill.
10)Kim: Stabbed in the stomach and body later found stuffed in the fridge.
11)Coach Jana: Stomach split open with drill.
12)Russ thorn: Hand cut off and eventually impaled on a machete.