Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Do you hate pretentious art school types? You know, the ones you overhear in coffee shops talking about how “banal” representational art is, and how well their video installation piece incorporating their own shit is coming along? If you’ve ever fantasized about taking a chainsaw to a room of these circle jerking, self congratulating “artistes”, then I suggest you attend director Jeremy Saulnier’s Murder Party; he’ll do it for you.
On his way home from work, a nebbish dweeb named Chris finds an invitation to an exclusive party. It’s Halloween and he’s planning on kicking back and watching a few videos and eating an entire bowl of candy corn to himself, but can’t even get his cat, Sir Lancelot to make room for him on the lazy boy. In an attempt to escape total social retardation, Chris cobbles together a cardboard and duct tape knight costume and hops the subway to find the party.
Upon arrival he’s greeted by a bunch of grant hungry, art school grad students. The “collective” has concocted a plan to kill their party guest, and to capture the gory results in their medium of choice. As the charismatic leader Alexander says: “The coroner’s report will read: cause of death … Art!” But mostly they just sit around doing drugs, screwing, and talking about making stuff rather than actually doing it. The filmmakers clearly despise the pretentious art school scene, but the idea isn’t developed much beyond the initial setup.
That’s okay, though, because Murder Party isn’t really about making any sort of deep commentary about art or artists anyway. The whole premise exists to construct a scenario in which the film can end in a splash of gory violence. There are a few funny comedy set pieces along the way, including one in which the collective injects sodium pentothal as a recreational drug, but mostly the film is just biding its time before firing up the chainsaw.
When the violent last act finally does arrive you’ll likely be ready for it, not only because it puts an end to all the wanky art school talk, but because the film is a bit of a one trick pony, and it’s only funny to laugh at a bunch of pompous jackasses for so long. Rest assured that the red stuff doth flow in the finale. Serbian drug dealers shoot people in the head, faces are fused to flaming Halloween masks, cranked out dogs chew faces, and last, but not least, the corded, electrical chainsaw, “Old Painless”, will see more than just its usual hedge trimming duties.
Writer/director/cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier is to be commended for making such a crowd pleasing, tight little film. At a brisk 80 minute running time, and taking place almost entirely in a single warehouse location, Murder Party is an exercise in rip roaring simplicity. It’s likely to become THE film to watch when stuck home alone on Halloween.
3 1/2 out of 5
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