Face-Off: The Slumber Party Massacre vs. Slumber Party Massacre II

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that legendary producer Roger Corman had sold off the 270 films in his New Horizons Pictures library to Shout! Factory and Ace Film HK Company, who will be tapping into that library for new releases of older films, new content development, and to assess which properties are ripe for the remake treatment. When the news hit, one of the titles that got the most attention online was Amy Holden Jones's 1982 slasher THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE. That has inspired this week's Face-Off, in which I decided to put that film up against its off-the-wall 1987 sequel SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II, directed by Deborah Brock. Which is the more fun party to attend? Let's see here...
There's an escaped murderer on the loose, but that hasn't stopped the parents of high schooler Trish from leaving town for the weekend. Nor does it stop Trish from deciding to have a slumber party with her pals Kim, Jackie, and Diane. She considers inviting her new neighbor/classmate Valerie, but Diane ruins that idea. So while the girls hang out, drink beer, smoke weed, order pizza, and have their party crashed by a trio of guys, Valerie is stuck babysitting her boy-crazy younger sister Courtney across the street. When that murderer shows up, large drill in hand, and starts picking off the partying teens (as well as anyone else who crosses his path), Valerie and Courtney do end up getting involved, managing to attend the terrible party without even being invited.
Teenage musician Sheila's father has just bought a new condo in a desert housing development, which Sheila sees as the perfect venue for a weekend-long slumber party with her bandmates Courtney (a survivor of the first film), Amy, and Sally. They can practice their music, eat corndogs, drink champagne, dance to the radio, and lose articles of clothing while having pillow fights. Courtney sees this as a chance to have fun on her 17th birthday, to get her mind off her institutionalized sister and hopefully stop having the weird dreams and hallucinations she's been having lately. Unfortunately, those dreams and hallucinations get worse as the weekend goes on. It's not a big deal when a trio of guys crash the slumber party getaway, but it is when a supernatural driller killer shows up.
Serial killer Russ Thorn's weapon of choice is a large drill and the majority of the victims are killed with that drill, but there is still some variety in the details of how characters are dispatched. That drill goes through heads and stomachs, it slashes across throats, and it goes into throats. There's also a decapitation in the mix, and a couple of characters are even knifed to death rather than getting drilled. The kills start early (the first one happens about 6 minutes in) and are pretty well spread out across the running time, with the body count reaching the double digits by the end.
Courtney sees a lot of horrific things in her hallucinations, which have been warning her "Don't go all the way", but it takes a long time for the actual killings to begin. It isn't until she begins having sex with the guy she likes - you know, going all the way - that the driller killer emerges into our reality and starts tearing into Courtney's friends. All of the kills are packed into the last 25 minutes of the movie, but during that time there are a good number of kills, all of them utilizing a large drill in one way or another, most of them being gory impalements.
Wearing blue jeans and a denim jacket, Russ Thorn doesn't have a memorable look, he's just a crazy-eyed dude with a drill in his hand. His doesn't display much of a personality until he has substantially whittled down the cast. Then he reveals a motivation: he murders out of a twisted idea of love, believing the girls want what he has to offer. That being death by drill. Thorn is a good enough killer for an '80s slasher, but he doesn't have what it takes to join the ranks of the greats.
The driller killer is one of the most incredible elements of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II; a product of Courtney's music-loving mind, he is a rock musician who's dressed in leather, quotes classic rock songs, carries a custom guitar with a large drill bit on the neck, cackles with glee while tormenting people, and will take the time to break out into song and dance performances in the middle of his stalking and slashing. It's an amazing thing to see and hear, and I find him to be extremely entertaining.
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is a slasher set in suburban California, but composer Ralph Jones gave it a synth organ score that often sounds like it belongs to a Gothic supernatural film set in the castles of Europe. It's as spectacular as it is unexpected, and might be overdone at times, but it's a memorable element of the film and definitely adds to it in a very positive way.
The score composed by Richard Cox has its cool moments, but it's largely overshadowed by the songs the film is packed with. The heroine and her friends perform songs (which are actually songs by a band called Wednesday Week), a song plays over the climactic chase, and then there's the real showstopper: the driller killer's performance of his own, unforgettable original tune, "Let's Buzz".
Russ Thorn spends a night terrorizing teenage girls and racking up kills, but you can't say he doesn't get his comeuppance in the end. Teamed up on by three would-be victims, Thorn finds himself on defense, chased out of a house by a machete-wielding teen. He doesn't defend himself very well. His drill bit is broken, he loses a hand, his stomach is sliced open, and finally he gets impaled. And yes, the filmmakers were thinking deep thoughts when they decided to have his penetrating weapon get cut in half before he gets penetrated himself.
Did the events of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II even take place, or was it all in the mind of Courtney, who has joined her sister in the mental hospital? Or was Courtney the sister who was in the hospital all along? I couldn't tell you the answer to those questions, but I can tell you that Courtney was very lucky to find a welding torch on top of a construction site at the housing development. If she wasn't able to grab that and use it to light the driller killer's fire, the chase accompanied by the song "Can't Stop (Loving You)" might still be going on today.
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is a great, underrated slasher from that sub-genre's heyday. SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II is completely bonkers - and the fact that it's so ridiculous helps earn it enough extra points that it comes out the winner in this Face-Off. Russ Thorn gets the job done, but the rock 'n roll Driller Killer of the sequel is a joy to watch. If I have to pick which of these two parties to attend, I'll go with the goofball madness of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II every time.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you prefer the more sensible slashing of the first SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE? Share your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].



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