F*CK, SCARE, KILL: An Autopsy of Teen Horror THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

F*CK, SCARE, KILL: An Autopsy of Teen Horror THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on May 22nd, 2020 | Culture | Slasher, Serial Killer, Teen, Party

Welcome to F*ck, Scare, Kill, my brand new column! Once a month, I’ll be dissecting movies of the Teen Horror persuasion, which all follow a similar formula: teenagers scaring each other, having sex, and a kill-or-be killed mantra. Through in-depth retrospectives, I’ll look at the movies that have had impact, both on culture and on horror itself. I thought I’d kick it off with a cult favorite: 1982 teen slasher The Slumber Party Massacre.

Close your eyes for a second... and sleep forever.

Four years after John Carpenter’s Halloween changed the course of the genre, Amy Jones’s The Slumber Party Massacre received a theatrical release. Though it made a profit at the box office, it received mostly negative reviews from the press - though most critics did note that it has great pacing, and the fact that it got reviewed at all by top publications is evidence of how popular slashers had become in the early 80s.

As with most films released in that time frame, SPM is much more ridiculous now than it was to viewers when it opened. The classic 80s bad acting and impracticality plays a huge part in the fun you’re bound to have while watching. There are a couple of intentional - and plenty of unintentional - laughs to be had, and it’s rich with one-liners. Jackie eating a pizza on top of a corpse was an outrageous scene for a film that was billed as serious horror - my favorite example of one of many scenes that keep the storyline utterly insane.

Due to its over-the-top nature in so many ways, Slumber Party Massacre has become a cult classic. To say the nudity is gratuitous is an understatement, and it never has any purpose. It’s hard to decipher whether this was to make fun of the unnecessary nudity that accompanies most slashers, or if it was because producers pushed for it in order to play to a certain audience. They did, after all, force feminist novelist Rita Mae Brown to restructure her parody script into a serious horror film.

Any horror fan will notice several - and I mean many, many, many - Halloween associations throughout, most of which made no sense for the plot. Some of the scenes are nearly shot-for-shot ripoffs, and much of the score is oddly familiar. Carpenter put slashers on the map, and Slumber Party Massacre took that map and copied most of the landmarks.

The drill-wielding maniac baddie Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) is so underwhelming, it’s comical. (And though a drill is   a great weapon alternative, it was already done in The Driller Killer in 1979.) He looks like a deranged version of Fred   Armisen - maybe the most unassuming-looking serial killer in all of horror. As with Michael Myers, he has escaped   from a mental institution after committing murder. But we never get any backstory or any hint of his personal   motivations. This may be intentional - that he really represents all men, or at least, all bad men - voyeurs of the female   form, whose power is held in their metaphorical drill, as they pressure women into having sex. When the source of   their power is demeaned, suddenly, they hold no power over women. The case for the drill reflecting a penis isn’t   made totally clear until the end, when we finally get to hear Thorn speak.

For all of its Halloween references, there is plenty of uniqueness to be found. At the time, it was rare for a woman to   be involved in a horror film, and to have both the script and the direction by women (with Brown as a member of the   LGBTQ community) was uncharted territory. Val has a Playgirl under her mattress, and her little sister, who is going   through puberty, is overtly interested in her blossoming sexuality. With women at the helm, this storyline was able to   be portrayed without the risk of getting creepy. Women are sexual too, and they are not punished for it here as they   are in other horror films. The “final girl” trope was demolished in this film, because more than one girl makes it out. Working together, helping each other, and following their instincts, women triumph. I can’t say the same for the men. 

Val (Robin Stille), the beautiful new girl and one of our heroines, was probably the best actor in the film. But as with most films that achieve cult status, it was not given proper acknowledgement for many years, and she never got to see how much fans have come to adore it, as she passed away in 1996. The only actor from this who went on to have a successful career in film is Brinke Stevens, who became a Scream Queen in tons of B horror.

Though it wasn’t critically acclaimed, that didn’t stop its influence on future B horror movies. It got two of its own sequels part 2 and 3, and spawned Roger Corman’s Sorority House Massacre series and Cheerleader Massacre series - though none of them ever achieved the same status as the original.

What makes The Slumber Party Massacre so watchable all these years later is that it never took itself too seriously. There’s a layer of fun and goofiness beneath every classic low-budget Corman scene, and it allows the viewer to have as much fun with it as Brown had always intended.


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