…but how is it a feminist slasher?
The Slumber Party Massacre is a satirical slasher about some girls at a sleepover being killed off by a guy with a reliable power drill. It goes through all the motions of every typical ’80s slasher, but for some reason it’s been frequently interpreted as a “feminist slasher.” I never understood this reading of the film, since it includes as much gratuitous nudity and girls sucking at basketball as any other entry in the genre. I dig its moments of satire, but much of those aspects get lost in its overall genericness. Some of the shots (the locker room scene especially) even seemed overtly blatant about being gratuitous, like the female director was simultaneously giving audiences what they expected while showing us what misogynist pricks we are.
Thankfully, the new Scream Factory Blu-ray clears up some of these questions for me. It turns out the gratuitous nudity was required under the watchful eye (and wallet) of Roger Corman. According to director Amy Holden Jones (Beethoven), the Corman banner demanded a certain amount of T&A within the first act of the film to keep bros’ asses in the seats.
That completely explains away the juvenile ass pans in the locker room (and I honestly admire her “fuck you, here!” approach), but I still don’t get the feminist readings of this flaccid slasher. The killer’s weapon is a not-so-subtle phallic symbol, I get it. So why not turn it on him in the end to subvert that big ol’ drill dick? There may be some subtext at play, but whatever connotation there is never gets fully developed. If Slumber Party Massacre was directed by a man, chances are it would be read as misogynistic.
The story follows bouncy high school student Trish (Michele Michaels), whose parents have left town for the weekend. She takes advantage of their absence to hold a slumber party with her teammates from the basketball team. Also invited is a new girl from school, Valerie (Robin Stille), who declines after overhearing some nasty murmurings about her from the other girls.
Shortly after we’re introduced to Trish, the killer’s identity is revealed. This completely drains the suspense from the film before the audience can even begin to start accusing any of the characters. Once it’s set up that there’s an escaped convict on the loose with a huge drill targeting women, the rest of the movie is simply setting up situations for them to be slaughtered. And most of these scenarios involve them being in their underwear.
Even when you look at Slumber Party Massacre as a straight up slasher with no intended feminist leanings, it’s still a drag. There are a few decent set pieces put into play during the titular sleepover, which lead to some fun moments, but the bulk of the story plays out by the book. The film simply brings nothing interesting to the table and loses all tension within its first act. At times the satire does shine through, particularly in one scene where two girls are ambushed in a bedroom by the killer – there’s no way they wouldn’t have heard him lugging that impressive drill in. Overall though it’s a drab slasher that no one should be losing sleep over.
At least fans of the film can revel in the impressive video presentation from Scream Factory’s new 1080p transfer. This brand new transfer was sourced from the original camera negative and it’s a clear step up from the former DVD release. The DTS-HD Master Audio is presented in a mono that suits the film perfectly fine.
“Sleepless Nights: The Making of The Slumber Party Massacre” is an edited down version of a longer doc about all three SPM films. It’s about 23 minutes long and features interviews with many of the principal players. This is where I learned about Amy Holden Jones’ requirements under Corman.
The interview with Rigg Kennedy, who plays the killer, is pretty fun. He talks about his method acting (that creeped out the girls) and his performance art.
The commentary track featuring Jones and actors Michael Villella and Debra Del Liso has also been carried over from the DVD release.
If you’re already a fan of the film, this Blu-ray upgrade is a must-own for the fantastic transfer alone. But if you’re new to the film, you’re better off renting it.