Before you R.S.V.P. to this sanguine soiree you should know one thing going in. Director Jeremy Saulnier’s debut feature won the Audience Award at the 2007 Slamdance festival. If you need a clarification on that distinction, let me offer you my sage-like take on the matter. An Audience Award generally goes to the film that leaves its viewers the most freaking apeshit after having sat through literally dozens of dull festival fare. In the simplest of terms, the Audience Award is going to AMERICAN PIE over THE QUIET AMERICAN almost every time. It’s the great equalizer in a sometimes pretentious cinematic environment—and the audience is almost never wrong.
On a quiet Halloween eve, everyday loser Chris (played by the film’s producer, Chris Sharp) is on his way home from work, when a gust of wind sends a mysterious black lace envelope sliding across the cold concrete and directly into his path. Upon inspection Chris discovers an invite to what appears at the outset to be a private Halloween party. Quickly fashioning a knight costume from a roll of duct tape and a corrugated cardboard box, our intrepid schlep heads out for what will inarguably be the night of his life. What he could have never suspected is that he is the guest of honor at a celebration solely deigned to sacrifice his life in the name of art—and money—as five college kids vying for a quarter-million dollar grant plan the ultimate bloody bash.
Let’s be clear from the get-go, MURDER PARTY is all comedy. It’s a bit like THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets ROPE. In fact, director Saulnier pays homage to both films buy utilizing an ice chest to dispose of a body before a benefactor arrives, and later during an absolutely fantastic game of sodium-amytal-inspired truth or dare.
It’s clear that Saulnier has a deep love for referential-style cinema. But to his credit the film never feels like an inside joke. The writing is sharp and even though the budget is well under the Hollywood radar, the filmmakers utilize the space of the film—which, like RESERVIOR DOGS—is set inside a single room in a deserted warehouse. There is plenty of blood for the gorehounds but this is first and foremost a film of slapstick circumstance, and one that exists exclusively due to the antics of the cast.
Everybody wants their share of the loot, but most of them have almost no artistic talent. They’re coked up, drunk, brandishing bats and ready for action. Some are just plain psychotic and all of them wind up being woefully inadequate when it comes time to take poor Chris out.
MURDER PARTY really rallies against conformity. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and filled to the brim with a cast of assorted characters that you can’t wait to watch kill each other. A few choice revelations throughout the film help keep the humor fresh and the plot moving forward, and at a brisk 80 minutes, it never has time to sag. It’s just an onslaught of strange sex scenes, surprising deaths, shredding chainsaws and shocking confessions. A midnight movie classic in the making that virtually demands to be seen with an audience, some beer and maybe a shot or two of truth serum to even things out.