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Face-Off: Killer Party vs. Slaughter High

03.30.2016by: Cody Hamman
I've said it before and it's a belief I stand firm on, one of the best ways to celebrate any given holiday is to watch a horror movie, specifically a slasher movie whenever possible, that has something to do with that holiday. With April Fools Day coming up this Friday you have a few options, most of which came out in 1986. Everyone knows APRIL FOOLS DAY, but two other April Fools slashers came out in '86 - KILLER PARTY and SLAUGHTER HIGH. While viewings of APRIL FOOLS DAY are a given, let's give those other two films some time in the spotlight and find out which one comes out the victor in a Face-Off.
OPENING SEQUENCE
The double fake-out opening of KILLER PARTY may be the best thing about the film. A funeral gone wrong with comedically over-the-top performances turns out to just be a scene from a movie being shown at a drive-in. When a young girl in the audience starts being attacked by zombies, rock music kicks in and a band starts playing beside the concession stand - this second stage of the opening turns out to be a full music video for the White Sister song "You're No Fool". When the video ends, the film proper begins and 9 minutes of the running time have gone by.
18 minutes are spent on the inciting incident, an overly elaborate April Fools prank pulled on high school dweeb Marty Rantzen by the jocks and popular girls that starts off by going too far - with video taped full nudity, an electrified towel rack, and a hell of a swirlie - and escalates to Marty getting a face full of acid while being caught in an explosion. As uncomfortable as this sequence is to watch, it definitely does set the stage for the vengeful slashing that is to come. The events of this April 1st would be enough to drive anyone crazy.
FEMALE LEAD
There's almost a three-way tie for female lead in this film, as it focuses on the inseparable trio of ambitious Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes), nerdy Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch), and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson), who is the most uneasy about the dark history of the abandoned frat house that their sorority has chosen as a party venue. Johnson makes the biggest impression and Jennifer would be the obvious heroine if not for the fact that the character ends up being possessed - which allows Johnson to show off some awesome, goofy facial expressions.
SLAUGHTER HIGH's female lead has an early advantage simply because she's played by Bond girl Caroline Munro, no stranger to the horror genre with credits like MANIAC and DRACULA A.D. 1972. Being Munro is the most appealing aspect of the character, who isn't very likeable beyond that and is a rare final girl in that she likes to down alcohol and snort coke. If she regrets what happened to Marty Rantzen, the movie doesn't focus on her guilt very much. We're just meant to root for her because she's Caroline Munro, which works up to a point.
KILLER
Little time is spent building up the killer of the film, the evil spirit of a frat boy who died in a tragic guillotine accident on April 1, 1964. As the titular party comes to its end, the killer shows up to knock people off while wearing an old school diving suit. It's a nice look, but seems to have been chosen completely at random. The killer is more interesting without the costume, when he's inhabiting the bodies of characters we know.
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) has one of the most unpleasant screen presences I've ever come across. Even though what happens to him at the beginning should make us sympathetic for him, I still find him to be a very off-putting character. I much prefer it when he's silently stalking the halls while wearing a jester mask, complete with jingling bells on the hat. For a movie set on April Fools Day, the jester look is perfect.
DEATHS
If there's one thing a slasher should deliver it's interesting death scenes, and that's one area where KILLER PARTY is quite lacking. The kills happen very quickly and tend to be bloodless. When people are bludgeoned or stabbed we get musical stings and cutaways instead of impact shots.
SLAUGHTER HIGH provides some spectacular kill scenes. In addition to the usual bladed weapons, characters also fall prey to spiked drinks that cause their guts to explode, get melted down in an acid bath, are electrocuted, and - the worst death saved for the least deserving - drown in a cesspool.
APRIL FOOLISH
There's a silly atmosphere throughout KILLER PARTY and a non-stop barrage of pranks and tricks, most notably that beginning where the joke is on the audience. Think this funeral is part of the story? April Fools! Think it's about zombies at a drive-in? April Fools! Oddly, the college students do treat the day sort of like Halloween, even throwing a costume party, which is not the kind of celebration I ever heard of happening on April 1st.
The movie begins with April Fools pranks, then years later Marty gathers his tormentors together to knock them off one-by-one on April Fools Day. As the characters figure out who is after them and why, they start to believe that Marty will need to play by the rules of the day - the murders will have to stop at noon, just like the pranks are supposed to. I had never heard that rule before this film. Pranking after noon brings bad luck.
SLAUGHTER HIGH
The '80s era of slashers was coming to an end by 1986, and KILLER PARTY and SLAUGHTER HIGH are both prime examples why. Neither is a particularly great movie, and while SLAUGHTER HIGH is especially cheap and filthy, it also pulls off the win by having the more April Fools-appropriate killer and featuring much better death scenes.

Do you agree that SLAUGHTER HIGH is the better slasher, or would you rather celebrate with KILLER PARTY? Let us know your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below. Is there a certain pairing of movies you'd like to see in a future Face-Off article? You can send suggestions to me at CodyHamman@joblo.com.

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