The episode of Revisited covering The Slumber Party Massacre was Written, Narrated, and Edited by Mike Conway, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Let’s think for just a moment on the horror genre in the 1980s. Where does your mind take you? For me, slasher movies were the go-to genre of the decade, specifically the early years. They were flawed… yes, and mostly pretty bad, subjectively. But at the same time, they’re fun little thrill rides which deliver on the promise of the tropes and rules one would expect from these films. They all for the most part follow the same formula we are all too familiar with. You have your sex-crazed teenagers who spend their weekend fueling themselves with red cups of beer, doing drugs, and engaging in occasional premarital sex. All the while there is a crazed killer on the loose, just itching to join in on the party. And in the midst of the group, there is one who does neither of these things and ends up being the one to rise up to the title of the sole survivor. The final girl. But that’s not the only thing they have in common. Ever since the birth of the genre, he has faced heavy criticism of his hatred towards women and putting their bodies up front and center through the male gaze. These films, especially in the earlier part of the decade, are all copies and pastes of each other, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what if I told you there is one which took those very tropes, down to the male gaze criticism, and turned it on its head, having it written and directed by women? I’m Mike Conway for JoBlo Horror and today, my friends, we are revisiting the 1982 classic… and I stress classic, The Slumber Party Massacre (watch it HERE).
I’m going to go ahead and start this right off the bat in telling you I absolutely love The Slumber Party Massacre. In my ever flip-flopping top ten list of favorite slasher films, this one always has a seat in the top five. It first hit my radar at a very young age while perusing though the horror section at my local video store. Seeing that cover definitely caught my attention, to say the least. Hell, even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know the poster and maybe even the tagline “close your eyes once… and sleep forever.” However, I knew there was no way in hell I could get away with renting it. So, several years later at a sleepover with friends, we rented it along with somehow scoring some Smirnoff Ice (we thought we were so edgy and cool) and had our own slumber party. At the time, it was the absolute corniest movie I had ever seen, but we laughed so much and had a blast with it, not knowing the comedy was intentional.
The movie was released in 1982 at the very height of the slasher craze and was penned by activist and feminist writer Rita Mae Brown. She had previously worked for Roger Corman on a film, as pretty much all of Hollywood had, and when he asked her to write a horror movie, she said she’d only agree to it if she wrote it as a comedy. It then got into the hands of editor Amy Holden Jones, who took to the script’s feminine take on the genre. However, she was told to play the script straight as a horror film rather than a spoof, which in my opinion is what makes this film so special and sets it apart from most slashers and parodies. While having a very basic plot, it’s very self-aware, humorous, and dare I say suspenseful at times? Really, it has everything you want in a slasher to where you can mark everything off your checklist. Escaped psycho killer, sex-obsessed teens, drugs, booze, gratuitous violence and nudity, and false jump scares involving a cat. What more can you want? Well, like I said, this one offers just a little bit more.
It opens up with high schooler Trish, who immediately gives the audience what they expect from a Roger Corman production by being topless. While she gathers up some old dolls, we learn mass-murderer Russ Thorn has escaped from the asylum and is on the loose. Since her parents are going away for the weekend, she decides to get the gang together to have a slumber party. She then throws her dolls in the garbage, signifying she’s no longer a child. See, we’ve seen this plot multiple times, but why is it different, you ask? For starters, let’s look at Russ Thorn. In these types of films, the killer is mostly a mysterious entity hidden by a mask. We see Russ just a few minutes into the movie before his first onscreen kill. He’s just your average looking dude who sports a jean jacket, red shirt, and a George Clooney salt and pepper haircut with a crazed look in his eye and a thirst for blood. There’s no mystique behind him or some wild back story on why he kills. And really, it doesn’t matter.
We then meet the seemingly only guys who attend the high school, Jeff and Neil, who don’t pay attention to the telephone repair woman they were just hitting on getting drilled behind them and instead head in to watch the women’s basketball practice. These two are the very embodiment of sex-starved teens cliché that it’s a surprise they didn’t create some peephole in the women’s locker room. Instead, we the audience are subjected to being the voyeurs as the director focuses only on the women’s bodies while they shower and talk about boys and how kick ass they are at basketball. Voyeurism has always played a big part in horror movies and here it’s amped up even more from POV shots of Russ stalking the girls, to the boys spying on them through a window, to even lingering on a nude body for an extensive amount of time. The shower scene is played for humor, sure, but also a commentary on how women’s bodies always seem to be sexualized in horror. “More like Slumber Party Ass-acre, am I right?” It’s just an ass getting cleaned. Calm down, guys. We all have one. It is here we also meet the other members of said slumber party of said massacre: Kim, Jackie, and Diane. Diane is clearly the most party of the group and also the most judging when the other girls suggest on inviting the new girl in town, Valerie. She overhears how Diane thinks she may be too prudish to partake in their festivities and leaves, even though she is literally the girl next door, living next to Trish.
As the girls leave basketball practice, another one, Linda heads back into the now emptied school to get some books she had left in her locker. A prime spot for a creepy old man to prey on a high school girl with this phallic auger. While on screen there is nothing very threatening about Russ Thorn, this scene in particular involving Linda is pretty suspenseful. Obviously, we all know she isn’t going to make that test on Monday, but there are times when it feels like she will escape by hiding and smartly wiping away blood from seeing out the bottom of a door.
Which brings me to the girls. What normally could be considered one dimensional characters, these ladies feel fleshed out, no pun intended. When you watch their sisterhood, they honestly feel like they’ve been friends forever. Nothing about them feels forced or even watered down to being the bitchy plastics of high school. They just enjoy drinking, doing drugs and talk about sex like they were just one of the guys. Speaking of just one of the guys, even though much of Brown’s script was excised to appeal Roger Corman’s rules of genre filmmaking, her feminist approach in gender swapping really comes through. Namely, the older women we see all have jobs which are considered primarily a male role. You have the one electrician who gets iced in the beginning, a carpenter installing a peephole and even the basketball coach. Something I overlooked in my earlier viewings.
As night falls and Trish is waiting on her friends to arrive her creepy ass neighbor shows up to check up on her. He seems sincere, but c’mon. He always seems to comically show up at random times to invade their privacy and provide false scares. Unintentionally creeping on these barely legals or not, am I really to believe he is out on Trish’s driveway at night killing snails with a meat cleaver without having any other intentions?
Look, I’m not bashing the guys here. In fact, Jeff and Neil are fun characters even if they are just there for the purpose of comic relief. They do get their shining moments when all hell is breaking loose. They feel it’s their civil duty to protect these women they’ve been perving on and save the day, and even suggest a pretty solid idea to leave the house from different entrances to get help, knowing full and well one of the two may not make it. For characters who seemed to be there just to ogle the goodies, their willingness to do whatever it takes to keep them safe is redeeming…even if that plan failed miserably.
Then you have Valerie. The sweet new girl who is stuck watching over her little sister while watching horror movies and also watching her peers having a hell of a night without her. Right from the jump of her introduction, we all know this is going to be our final girl while the rest of the party perish. She’s the film’s Laurie Strode. The innocent who has to stay behind to babysit only to investigate their neighbor’s house once things seem to be going wrong across the street.
The kills themselves are also great, thanks to other films before it setting the bar when it comes to gore. The first to go that night is the neighbor, soon after a snail chopping session, when Russ shows up to show him exactly what those poor snails must have felt. Diane also bites it after having quite a make-out session with her boyfriend. In a pretty cool shot Diane is framed in between Russ’ legs with the drill dangling in the middle just before he plows right into her. Next to meet the business end of the drill is the poor pizza delivery guy. We don’t see the kill itself, but his death is hilariously treated, with Jackie concerned more about the pizza itself. Eventually, Russ makes his way into the house as their coach is on the way, concerned over a phone call made earlier.
When Valerie and her sister go to check in on the party, we get a few funny moments involving Kim’s dead body in the fridge as well as a very questionable choice by Russ to hide under a blanket. Like, seriously, this is something straight out of Scary Movie. Yet, for some reason, the Coach Jana is shocked as hell when Russ reveals a person shaped person is under the blanket. This, my friends, is comedy gold. Russ eventually gives his motives for killing and it’s purely one of passion. In the film’s climax, we get a “f*ck yeah” of a moment, Valerie grabs a machete to go after Russ herself instead of running away, leading to a showdown by the pool. She ends up chopping off the tip of his tool and his hand. Just when you think she’s the sole survivor, we have two more girls to come out to help finish the kill.
While Jones may have skewed back a bit on the script’s comedic satire to play more as a standard slasher that Corman would want, it’s a choice which makes its undertones even more subversive. It’s not in-your-face to the point of being pretentious and is sure to please any gorehound out there who is only looking for boobs, blood, and partying. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. However, nowadays, a casual viewer screams to the high heavens of the internet dismissing modern horror and claiming it being too woke or complaining how the women always overpower the men. And I’m here to tell you it’s nothing new if you really look for it, because this film series solely written and directed by women has been doing it since 1982. Even the recent remake is entertaining as hell to watch while still staying true to Rita’s themes. Like I said from the start, I f*cking love this movie and that’s why I’m giving this gem an 8 out of 10. Don’t sleep on The Slumber Party Massacre.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!