[Fantastic Fest Review] 'Slumber Party Massacre' is a Wild Tribute to the Bleeding Heart of the Franchise
Back in 1982, horror fans got something that was all too rare (and still is, sadly), a slasher film directed by a woman…
…Slumber Party Massacre, directed by Amy Holden Jones, was a wild, nonsensical and most importantly fun flick with a theme of female empowerment in the face of a killer substituting a power-drill for his (likely) small member. The film spawned a bonkers trilogy, all of them directed by women, which is why it was so great to hear that talented director Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits Movie) would be carrying on the tradition of women behind the camera with the remake, which just premiered at Fantastic Fest.
Lucky for all of us, Esterhazy knew exactly what kind of film she was remaking, and offers up a bloody party favor perfect for any sleepover.
Written by Suzanne Keilly (Leprechaun Returns), this new Slumber Party Massacre follows teenager Dana (Hannah Gonera) and her friends Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas), Breanie (Alex McGregor), Ashley (Reze-Tiana Wessels) and Maeve’s little sister, Alix (Mila Rayne), all headed out to a cabin on the lake for the ultimate weekend sleepover. But when they get there, they discover they are being stalked by a killer thought to have died decades ago, known as Russ Thorne (Rob van Vuuren), aka, the Driller Killer. And wouldn’t you believe it, he just can’t help but flash them his drill.
Slumber Party Massacre opens strong, set in Holly Springs, 1993 and following another group of girlfriends staying at a lake house, led by Trish (Masali Baduza). Esterhazy sets a classic slasher tone with a modern look, including a fog-heavy setting and complete with a synth score from Andries Smit that’ll have you wanting to party like it’s the 1980s. And, like the original, there is a sense of humor so goofy it smacks you right in the face like a cloud of laughing gas with moments such as the girls dropping everything they’re doing to have a dance party as the Chadiest of Chads (Arthur Falko) watches from outside, then has the audacity to call ole Russ a pervert when he spots him in the opposite window.
The whole thing is reminiscent of the opening scene in the Friday the 13th remake, in which we get a somewhat mini-version of the film that pays homage to what came before, while amping up the intensity of the kills and the gore. Russ’s drill is even bigger/more overcompensating this time around and is used to full effect. Esterhazy has a knack for gore, and goes all out with a blood-soaked slumber party that you’ll need to bring extra pajamas to. Some of the effects left me cackling like the madman I am. Esterhazy knows exactly what fans want when it comes to the kills, and it’s the mayhem where Slumber Party Massacre is easily at its most entertaining.
We then meet our new cast of girls that just want to have fun, as well as Dana’s overprotective mother (Schelaine Bennett). Through this first half, Keillys script hits all of the teen slasher tropes to a T. A group of fun-loving friends on a mission to have the party to end all parties; A broken down car, a creepy gas station attendant (Richard Wright-Firth) and a crass woman lacking in southern hospitality, Kay (Jennifer Steyn). Oh, and the girls are coincidentally forced to stay in the same cabin on the lake where the 1993 murders happened, a fact which none of them seem all too worried about as they party it up.
Now, for any of you thinking “remakes are stupid, why even do this,” remakes don’t erase the original, and in this case, the filmmakers deliver something which some teens might even enjoy more! That’s because, unlike the original, which was a Roger Corman production, this Slumber Party Massacre isn’t forced to insert random shots of tits throughout, and instead it points the female gaze at men for once. The girls discover a group of guys is staying near them, and audiences wanting a little more man candy in their lives are treated to a flip of the script, with shirtless male pillow fights, guy butts and a nominee for the best steamy shower scene of the year. This Slumber Party Massacre is made by women for women and anyone else wanting to see men objectified, and I love that about it.
There’s also a few other fem-positive changeups from the original that I won’t spoil here, but trust me when I say, it’s a delightfully clever approach to the story we think we know.
Esterhazy’s film is endless fun that’ll have your head spinning, but for some, that might help it just as much as it hurts it.
Slumber Party Massacre is so intentionally “dumb”, that it rarely feels all that suspenseful. Vuuren perfectly channels the original Thorne (Michael Villella) and is as creepy and wide-eyed batshit as ever, but he is even more of a joke this time around. Portraying Thorne as a pathetic loser who can’t get his drill up works wonders thematically, but an abundance of forced dialogue and unnatural reactions to the presence of a manic with a giant drill may consistently pull some audiences out of the experience. If the first Slumber Party Massacre was drunk, and the second was on acid, this is the coked-up version, overly hyper and so frantic it’s best to give up on trying to understand what’s going and just buzz with it.
Which, honestly, is pretty in line with the Slumber Party franchise, so this really isn’t a knock on it, but a heads up to viewers unfamiliar with the tone of these movies, a tone which Esterhazy…drills? Nails? She killed it.
Slumber Party Massacre is a greasy pizza dripping in an abundance of cheese and served over a dead delivery guy. For better or worse, it’s gory and goofy to the point of the occasional eye-roll. Add in a few iconic references that had me dying and a theme of women sticking together in the face of predatory men and it’s destined to drill through the hearts of Slumber Party Massacre fans.
This is a movie that deserves to be played at sleepovers all around the world, made just for teens searching for something a little more adult that’s silly, gory and has a slight helping of male nudity that they’re totally not supposed to be watching and totally don’t care.
Now here’s to hoping the filmmakers are allowed to tackle a remake of the bonkers beast that is Slumber Party Massacre II. They’ve certainly proven they could do it.
Slumber Party Massacre comes to Syfy on October 16th at 9pm ET/PT.
By Matt Konopka