The Slumber Party Massacre Blu-ray Review
Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Written by Rita Mae Brown
1982, Region A, 77 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on March 18th, 2014
Michele Michaels as Trish
Robin Stille as Valerie
Michael Villela as Russ Thorn
Andree Honore as Jackie
Debra Deliso as Kim
Gina Mari as Diane
Jennifer Meyers as Courtney
Brinke Stevens as Linda
Ryan Kennedy as David Contant
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) is a tongue-in-cheek movie that follows all of the established clichés of the slasher film and somehow manages to keep things fresh. There is nothing particularly original about the plot in which a group of teenagers are terrorized by a psychopath with an industrial power drill, but it remains entertaining upon repeat viewing. Our heroine Trish (Michele Michaels) has the house to herself for the weekend and invites her friends Jackie (Andree Honore), Kim (Debra Deliso) and Diane (Gina Mari) over for a slumber party. Russ Thorn (Michael Villela), a psycho previously convicted of at least five murders, has recently escaped from prison and begins stalking the girls. Carnage ensues until Valerie (Robin Stille), the “new girl” at school, intervenes and gives Russ more than he bargained for.
The 1980s were a spectacular decade for the horror genre, ushering in a wave of slasher films, each following the basic blueprint established in earlier titles like Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). The design went something like this: an unseen or masked psychopath is stalking and killing a group of unsuspecting teens, possibly as punishment for their delinquent behavior. The kids that misbehave meet a violent end and the villain is usually thwarted by an unexpectedly resourceful yet virginal final girl. Friday the 13th (1980) kicked the formula into high gear and soon every calendar holiday or school function was the setting of the next high school slaughter. Legendary producer Roger Corman added his own twist to the routine and encouraged his filmmakers to include either blood or nudity every seven minutes to keep audiences entertained.
Originally lauded as a feminist take on the subgenre with a script by novelist Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle) and directed by Amy Jones (writer of Mystic Pizza), the content is interchangeable with countless other slasher flicks of the period. Yes, the female characters are stronger and smarter than their male counterparts, and yes the guys are pretty worthless when it comes to heroics, but this is not a preachy message movie. While the original screenplay may have had different intentions, the finished piece is more memorable as an opportunity for women behind the camera. There is more on- screen nudity than blood, as Jones follows Corman's stipulation to the letter and includes not one, but two nude scenes (including a laughably gratuitous shower sequence) within the first 8 minutes of the picture. These and other lingering voyeuristic shots add an additionally creepy level to the proceedings.
The Slumber Party Massacre franchise remains the only trilogy written and directed exclusively by women, but the sequels are not as entertaining as the original. Brown's script brings a dark humor to the material missing from other horror series and the choice of weapon is hilarious as Michael Villela menacingly swings his pseudo-penis across the screen. One nice touch to this film was the decision not to hide the villain in the shadows or follow the popular whodunnit approach of the general slasher formula. Jones keeps things moving without feeling rushed during the brief 77-minute running time. Not all of the performances are terrific, but the cast is solid enough to get the job done. Genre fans will undoubtedly enjoy an early appearance from the always welcome Brinke Stevens (Haunting Fear) in a small role that should have been larger. The film is more fun than it has any right to be and if you haven't seen it before, then it is time to invite some friends, put on your pjs, order a pizza and snuggle up with this forgotten gem!
Video and Audio:
The Slumber Party Massacre is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty good for its age and low budget. The transfer is consistently strong, but consequently reveals some of the limitations of the original source material. That being said, the film has never looked better and likely never will. Colors are consistent but not very vibrant and flesh tones appear natural. Nerds will be happy to note this print features the original title card missing from the previous DVD release.
The mono audio is nicely preserved in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix that adds a long-absent kick to the film's soundtrack. Music cues are simple and effective and dialogue remains clear and free from distortion. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Scream Factory has carried over the previous commentary track featuring director Amy Jones, cast members Michael Villela, Debra Deliso and moderated by super-fan Tony Brown who runs the film's website. He keeps things entertaining by asking questions and pointing out favorite moments along the way. Jones is instantly likeable as she reflects on the history of the production and Villela shares an interesting motive for the villain.
The previous DVD release included an hour-long documentary on the trilogy called Sleepless Nights, but included here is only an abbreviated version running 23 minutes that focuses exclusively on the first installment. With luck, this title will be a successful release and Scream Factory will unleash a double feature Blu-ray of the sequels with the rest of the doc.
New to this edition is an interview with actor Rigg Kennedy (13 minutes) who, using the alias Ryan Kennedy, played David Contant, the awkward next door neighbor. What starts as a standard stroll down memory lane quickly takes a bizarre turn, as the actor is also a poet/ performance artist and someone had the good sense to allow him to perform some of his work. This is an awesome piece that should not be missed.
A photo gallery offers a collection of behind-the-scenes stills and marketing materials.
Trailers for all three films in the series round out the special features on this disc.
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.