Retro Review: ‘The Slumber Party Massacre’

By 1982 audiences were already becoming familiar with the tropes of a slasher movie where the deranged killer pursues poor young coeds. Feminist activist and screenwriter Rita Mae Brown decided to have some fun with this with her screenplay for The Slumber Party Massacre. She guessed that with a title and premise like this, it would clearly establish a tongue-in-cheek tone for the final product, but she was mistaken as the final product took a bit of a turn. Director Amy Holden Jones, loved the script and set about putting her own spin on the final product.

The plot is straightforward and uncomplicated. A group of teenage girls hold a slumber party on the same night a murderous lunatic escapes from prison. Naturally, these young women end up in the path of this psycho and his phalic power drill. This is a no-muss, no-fuss kind of 80’s horror films. While the opening scenes of the film so much gratuitous nudity is thrown at the viewer it ventures into ridiculousness. Which is no doubt what many in the audience expected, once it is out of the way in the first few minutes what follows is a straightforward horror flick, and for my money this is a clever bit of rug-pulling on the part of the movie. Despite the suggestion of the movie poster, the women in this movie are far more than mere sex objects waiting to be slaughtered but are actual characters who are more than a match for the killer. That being said the narrative takes its sweet time before arriving at anything of substance. In this regard the Slumber Party Massacre features pacing which seems more akin to a 70s exploitation film than an 80s lasher flick. Sure, there are a plethora of attempted jump-scares but after the 27,493rd time they pull one the viewer has already come to expect it. But once Slumber Party Massacre does hit the good stuff it becomes pure cheesy horror movie fun enough to satisfy anyone looking for it. Frankly seeing a violent horror film which was written by a woman and directed by a woman must have been incredibly refreshing as it brought a whole new perspective to the genre.

As said before, the screenplay of this film was written to be satirical of slasher movies. Slumber Party Massacre takes the already established tropes of the genre and cranks them up to the max. There are naturally elements like the killer continuing to pop-up at the end when they thought he was dead. The villain of the film, is even as clichéd as you can get as an escaped lunatic armed with a power drill (which may not be the most effective of weapons). Somewhere in translation from page to screen the tone of the movie became more serious as the director Amy Holden Jones seems to play things straight. That being said, there are some elements of the script where the humor still shines through. Things like; the Driller Killer struggling to hide the bodies of his victims in a trunk or the body stashed in the refrigerator, which keeps popping out, do bring out a great chuckle. The sequel, Slumber Party Massacre II, does a far better job of conveying this tone, mainly because the killer becomes an undead rockabilly greaser.

While the Slumber Party Massacre, is a perfect example of “what you see is what you get” it is definitely plenty to be entertained by. When the humor of the script comes through it comes through great. As unlikely as it may seem, the girls being preyed upon by the Driller Killer are all individually likable in some way so you are more than willing to root for them to stop the mad man on the loose.