Years before the successes of Blue Ruin and Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier made a quiet debut with Murder Party, a horror comedy that saw a handful of midnight screenings on October 12, 2007, before releasing onto DVD on October 16, 2007. Without any fanfare or buzz upon release, Murder Party slipped by unnoticed for years before amassing a cult following. Which meant that Saulnier never earned back the money he put into making the film, and went back to his day job before amassing the funds to make Blue Ruin. Since Blue Ruin was a completely different type of film, Saulnier and star Macon Blair understandably distanced themselves temporarily from their comedic first feature, further relegating Murder Party to the shadows. Murder Party may not have the nail-biting intensity of its later siblings, but it’s twisted sense of humor, balls to the wall climax, and its holiday theming makes for a fun modern Halloween classic.
The plot is simple; milquetoast Christopher finds an invite on the street entitled “Murder Party.” With no other Halloween plans, and his cat Lancelot hogging his favorite chair, he constructs a knight costume out of cardboard and bakes pumpkin bread with raisins as a gift to the host and heads on his way to Brooklyn. He finds himself at a nondescript warehouse on a deserted street, and is greeted by a group of art students, all shocked that anyone bothered to show up to their party. Why? Because the sole reason for this particular Halloween shindig is to murder the unsuspecting guest for the sole sake of impressing a wealthy art patron into gifting them with a grant.
The art students go all out too, in terms of both murder preparations and Halloween costumes. There’s Paul the gothic vampire, Macon the werewolf, Sky the undead cheerlead, Lexi as Pris from Blade Runner, and Bill dressed as a Baseball Fury from The Warriors. If the name Macon gave you pause, it’s because he’s played by Macon Blair, already showing promise of stardom as the lovelorn fool with an obvious crush on disinterested Lexi. In fact, nearly every single character on screen borrows their actor’s moniker. It’s the first overt sign that this was a film fueled by blood, sweat, and tears among friends and family.
Everyone on screen pulls double duty in some way, with Macon Blair and Chris Sharm, the lead actor, also serving as executive producers. Sharp is also credited as a costumer for his cardboard knight. Well deserved, too, I might add. Murder Party is one that became a regular Halloween watch for me, and I’ve spent enough of those viewings wondering if I could construct a cardboard knight costume nearly as well made (I doubt it). The low budget also meant some ballsy moves during production. Like the needles used in the scene of ultimate truth or dare involving shots of Sodium Pentothal? Actual hypodermic needles filled with saline were used. Talk about taking method acting to a new level.
What Green Room did for the underground punk scene Murder Party does for pretentious art students. Saulnier always seems to be able to keep his finger on the pulse of a subculture, and his debut was no different. Save for some extremely comical situations, like Sky’s severe non-organic raisin allergy, the movie almost lulls you into thinking you’ve put on a sort of mumblecore comedy. That is until near fatal accidents pile up, harmful truths are revealed, the dog gets ahold of the drugs, and someone finally reaches their homicidal mass murder breaking point- all while poor Christopher is caught in the middle.
Hyper-violence and a glorious bloodbath make for one of the most fun final acts, with a satisfying conclusion to Christopher’s venture out on Halloween night. I’m with you, Christopher, perhaps staying home with horror movies and candy corn is a better plan.