Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Distributed by Scream Factory
When this writer was just a burgeoning teenage horror fan, I absorbed as many genre flicks as humanly possible (usually in the presence of friends, likely hopped up on Mountain Dew and stuffed full of pizza – ah, my misspent youth). Be they classics or trash, franchise installments or one-offs, youngster Jinx did his very best to work his way through every scary title he could find in every nearby Mom ‘n Pop. But somehow, one title that always managed to elude me was The Slumber Party Massacre, for any number of reasons. While I was always aware of the film and its follow-ups, I’ve never managed to sit down and take in this well-known 1982 slasher flick. That is, until Scream Factory saw fit to bring it to Blu-ray.
And now that I’ve seen it, I realize what a bullet I’ve been dodging all these years.
The film concerns one Russ Thorn (Villella), a power drill-wielding psychopath who escapes from prison and sets about doing the one thing that makes this leering nutjob happy – killing nubile young ladies with (you guessed it) a power drill. Fortunately for him, teenager Trish (Michaels) has decided to celebrate her parents’ out of town trip by throwing a slumber party for her friends. With little to stand in his way save for a nosey if well-meaning neighbor and a pack of teenage boys, Thorn begins to pick off his targets one by one. However, this psycho killer has no idea that the greatest threat to his evening of fun will come in the form of Valerie (Stille), the new girl at school who lives just right across the street. Blood and boredom ensue.
…look, I’m no snob. I love a good slasher movie the same as the next guy, I do. The criteria being that they either have to be just that (good), or at the very least they should be fun. Slumber is neither. It represents the very worst of 80s horror, what with its eye-rollingly gratuitous nudity and awful gore, its terrible dialogue and cardboard characters, and its steadfast refusal to tell a decent story or do anything other than badly ape the conventions of this (at the time) relatively new subgenre.
And I don’t care how many times I’m told in the bonus features section that the film is meant to be a feminist parody of the slasher genre, or that Thorn’s power drill is meant to be a phallic symbol (therefore lending the movie what’s supposed to be a great deal of subtext, one supposes) – I have to judge the movie I see, not the intentions that went into making it. And the resulting film is utter dreck.
There are a couple of bright spots, though. Robin Stille gives a solid performance and makes for an interesting final girl, and the film has a few bits of decent dialogue. And…actually, I guess that’s it. Unless you’re a diehard fan of slashers or 80s horror (or 80s slashers, for that matter), I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that there’s likely little of interest here for you. There certainly wasn’t for this writer.
Nevertheless, Scream Factory has gifted the film and its fans with a nice Blu-ray presentation, giving it a high def transfer, decent audio, and a nice collection of bonus features. The image is mostly sharp, though the print does bear some speckling throughout. And, high def or not, there’s little to be done about polishing the image that was captured, because make no mistake – this is a bland, borderline ugly looking film (and as such, perfectly suits the story it’s telling).
Faring far better is the bonus features section. Included with this release is an audio commentary with director Amy Holden Jones, Russ Thorn himself Michael Villella, and actress Debra De Liso. Moderated by uber-fan Tony Brown, this track will likely be of interest to fans of the film, as will Sleepless Nights, the twenty-three minute making-of documentary on the film’s making and its legacy. Nights was directed by Jason Paul Collum, who directed the fun scream queens doc Screaming in High Heels, and features a fun opening moment with Brown as a youngster receiving a VHS copy of Slumber for Christmas.
There is also an interview with Rigg Kennedy, who played nice guy next door neighbor Mr. Contant, which is a brief but interesting talk. Finally, there is a still gallery and a collection of theatrical trailers for the Massacre series. And, I must say, as bad as I found the original – the sequels actually look rather fun and interesting. Perhaps some Dread readers will let me know in the comments section if they’re worth checking out.
Look – I’m certain there are folks out there who adore this film. Great, that’s awesome. This Blu-ray is for you, no doubt about it. But I can’t in any good conscience recommend this film (or this Blu) to anyone, so badly did I hate it. For those who haven’t yet seen the film, if the provided synopsis and the prospect of unbearably cheesy 80s horror sounds right up your alley, then please – embrace the drill and give this thing a look-see. All others, though? Best just to run away screaming.
1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5