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Movie Review: XX
Shout! Factory packs in the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Trilogy in this 3-disc set. In the first film, Escaped murderer Russ Thorn targets a girl's basketball team on the night of their big slumber party. It's up to Valerie and her little sister Courtney to save the girls. In the second, Courtney is now older but still tormented by nightmares of that night. With her band going off to a condo for the weekend, she decides to not visit her hospitalized big sister in favor of partying. Things start to go awry when her dreams of the Driller Killer from the first film start spilling over into reality. In the final film (and reboot), Diane invites her girlfriends to a sleepover. Unbeknownst to the group, a new killer is lurking about, with a slasher mystery ensuing.
Part cash-in on the slasher craze of the 80s and part satire, I've never been privy to the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE series until now. Why? Probably because I just couldn't be bothered when there were better films out there. Don't get me wrong, having some ladies up against a maniac with a power drill does have some appeal for me, but when you have so many choices of better slasher films, why go with the bottom of the barrel first? After sitting here for four hours watching the series, have I changed my mind? Sort of, but rather than do an overarching review, I'll break it down by film.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Probably the most inventive of the series, I do like the various ways you can look at the film as a feminist critique on slasher films, seeing as it was written by feminist activist Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones. Bear with me for a moment, folks. Rather than having women just lined up as cannon fodder, these ladies are somewhat competant and more than just boobs and butt, especially in comparison to the male characters. Where else can you find a film where female roles supplant the male traditional roles? In other words, instead of having a male basketball team, we get a female one. Instead of having girls trying to win favor with the guys, it's the guys doing all the sucking up. And then there's the obvious overcompensation by the killer for his inadequacies. I mean, a giant power drill? Sounds like overcompensation, don't you?
Getting away from the feminist critiquings, there's plenty of skin and gore for those who aren't don't care for reading into things, as well as humour. Sure, there's some poor acting and plot holes involved in this film, but that just adds to the B-movie fun, and makes this film the most enjoyable of the series.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II Well, that was fast. After the fun times of the first one, along comes this disaster to ruin the series, and that's saying a lot. None of the original actors are back, and instead of the original Driller Killer from the first film, we get some reject from GREASE who frankly doesn't deserve the sweet-ass guitar/drill hybrid he's been given. Sure, the overacting by Atanas Illitch in this role is somewhat enjoyable, and kind of 'saves' the film (if you can do that). If that's not insult to injury, we're privy to some truly bad rockabilly songs and even worse dialogue and acting. Hell, even the camera work suffers! Unless we're having dream sequences, no shots should be as out of focus as some of these scenes were in the film. The good part at least was the gore, which was somewhat inventive. Other than that and Illitch's performance (which has to be seen to be believed), this is weaksauce.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III Saying 'F*ck you!' to the second film (who wouldn't?), this is essentially a reboot of the series. However, instead of the humour that was present in the first two films, we get a mean-spirited affair with scenes and subplots about sexual abuse that characterizes the film taking itself far too seriously. Don't get me wrong, this is the best script out of the entire series, but alienating fans of the first two is a no-no, and really, you feel kind of dirty after watching this one. Not the good kind of dirty, the kind of unsettling dirty that you get from reading about rape/sexual abuse cases in the news. Again, gaping plot holes are abound here, and the performances are kind of 'meh', but the saving grace is the last 15 minutes, where boobs and blood are rampant. Still, since this film was released in 1990, it kind of missed the boat on the slasher craze, as indicated by the largely lackluster stabbings in this one. So much for the inventive gore from the first two films. This entry is better in some ways than the second film, but worse in others.
Overall, the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE series has B-movie exploitation written all over it. There are some fun things to glean from this (the over-the-top acting, the sometimes inventive plasma sheddings, the skin), and some stuff you'd rather gloss over. While some may want to stick with the cream of the slasher crop, those looking for a bit of satire and humour in their slasher films should check this series out.
Video: Shout! Factory has given these three films some love with newly remastered transfers for the first two films. The first film is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and looks to be the best of the set. Colours are nice and strong, and detail is also quite good. There's some minor print damage, but it's not too bad. Overall, the movie looks very good.
For SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II, the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer also looks quite good. The colours are again quite strong, especially during the scenes with the Driller Killer. Again, there is some minor print damage, but considering the quality of the film, it's not something you're overly concerned about.
Sadly, the third film is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe, and doesn't quite have the same care as the other two. Colours are still good, but detail isn't quite as strong as in the first two films. This is also a darker-looking film overall, so there's your reason.
Audio: Unlike the video, the audio wasn't given the same treatment. All three films get a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, which reflects the budgets of each films (read: not exactly high quality). There's nothing too delicate about the mixes, as sound effects and dialogue battle over who can sound the loudest without much consistency. Hissing and crackles can be found throughout, but at least dialogue is clear.
All three films each get a feature-length commentary. For the first film, we get an commentary featuring moderator Tony Brown, director/producer Amy Jones, actor Michael Villella, and actress Debra Deliso. Brown also runs the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE fansite, The Old Hocksetter Place, and knows his stuff regarding the series. Jones is the main participant, focusing on the technical stuff, but once things get going, everyone chimes in with stories.
For the second film, Brown returns again and in this track, we get commentary by moderator Tony Brown, writer/director/producer Deborah Brock, producer Don Daniel, story editor Beverly Grace, and actress Juliette Cummins. Brock has quite a bit to say about this one, going over the film's conception as well as behind-the-scenes stories. It kind of feels pretentious, given the fact that the film stinks, but it's more laid-back than the first one.
Finally, for SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III, there's commentary by Brown, director Sally Madison and actresses Brandi Burkett, Hope Marie Carlton and story editor Beverly Grace. This one feels a little more awkward, given that Madison is defensive about the film, and really doesn't feel like being there (as do many of the participants in each of the tracks). However, she does share a lot of stories and info about the film, as well as being open and honest.
The big extra is the all-new documentary on the making of all three films in the series entitled Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre. You know this one's going to be good when you start off with home video footage of a kid opening his presents on Christmas morning, and discovering that he's been given Slumber Party Massacre, much to his delight. This documentary interviews all three directors - Amy Jones, Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison - each of whom shares some interesting stories about working with Roger Corman and others. There are also a load of cast members included here, each of whom has a story to tell about being involved with the film. We also get some interesting fan footage of some of the locations used in the movie, as well as the fate of that awesome drill guitar used in the second film. The documentary has a good sense of humor about it, never taking things too seriously, but at the same time taking things seriously just enough. Very entertaining.
Finally, there are trailers for each film, and Image Galleries featuring original artwork and rare behind-the-scenes shots.
As an extra bonus, Shout! Factory have done up an excellent retrospective essay included in the DVD liner notes by Jason Paul Collum recounting his history with the series, and kept the transparent keepcase for a double-sided cover art. This one's not quite as good as the GAMERA double-feature DVD, but it's still nice to have, even though my copy once again has holes punched into the UPC, just to piss me off. I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU ASSCLOWNS TO STOP THAT!
Overall, I have to give Shout! Factory a lot of credit for putting as much effort as they did into giving fans of this series something to enjoy.
It's not for everyone (including some slasher fans), but SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Collection is just good ol' B-movie exploitation fun that deserves at least one viewing, inebriated or otherwise. Fans of the series will enjoy the effort put forth by Shout! Factory in the transfers and extras.