31 Days of Hell: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) - Reviewed

Spurned by the success of notable slasher films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, the late '70s and early '80s were chock full of imitations attempting to ride the wave of bloody, gruesome success.  1982's The Slumber Party Massacre was no exception.  Directed by Amy Jones, this film would kick off franchise that would become notable as the only horror franchise to be helmed purely by female directors.  It's a shame to realize this trend hasn't continued.  However, horror is on the rise, and more diverse than ever before, so maybe we won't have to wait too much longer.  Anyways, Jones originally envisioned The Slumber Party Massacre as a satire that would poke fun at all the clichés and notable tropes that had formed within the slasher subgenre.  The fact that these ideas were already in the collective mindset in 1982 just goes to show how prevalent slasher films had become.  Unfortunately, the studio wanted more of a traditional horror film, which led to a final mixed bag of results.  

Throughout the film, it's easy enough to see where Amy Jones attempted to make a commentary on the formulaic nature of slasher films.  Of course, one of the notable aspects is the attention to gender stereotypes.  At this stage in horror cinema, supporting female characters were traditionally presented as dumb teenagers existing expressly for the purpose of adding to the growing body count.  They were naive and practically begging to be hunted down by the film's mysterious killer.  The Slumber Party Massacre conversely, features a wide range of female characters that actually display some sense of individuality as well as common sense.  One notable scene involves several female characters not only aware that someone is trying to kill them, but actually sitting in the middle of a room, having barricaded the exits, and armed with knives awaiting for the eventual moment they'll actually have to defend themselves.  

While the majority of female characters are presented in this manner, the male characters conversely, are displayed as the standard "cannon fodder" waiting to be sliced and diced.  Despite being a male myself, it was fun to see something different for a change.  Other enjoyable moments included a death scene cut back and forth with a death scene in a horror film some of the characters are watching.  It's incredibly entertaining and clearly the best use of editing in the film.  The funniest gag of the film involved a body stuffed in a refrigerator.  I know that doesn't sound like a great set up for comedy, but just trust me on this.

Despite such great ideas that attempt to set it apart from other slashers, The Slumber Party Massacre unfortunately contains too many clichés that keep it from realizing its full potential.  The exploitative nature of showcasing nude teenagers serves to add nothing to the story aside from attracting teenage boys to showing up to theaters.  Most of the film's dialogue is painfully wooden, making it hard not to laugh at the movie, instead of laughing with it.  The use of a drill as the primary murder weapon is far from subtle.  Of course, the use of long sharp weapons in slasher films has always had a symbolic meaning behind them.  Hot, young teenagers being 'penetrated' by the killer as a punishment for their sexual misdeeds.  Using a drill however, seemed just a little too on the nose.  The look on the killer's face when the tip of the drill is hacked off makes that painfully obvious.  Now, perhaps this was all done on purpose as a commentary for the use of such weapons.  I'm still not sure.  So I guess I can't completely write the drill off as a negative.  Regardless, it's impossible not to notice all the common tropes outweighing everything unique and different about The Slumber Party Massacre.  There was so much potential here, you can't help but wonder how it could've turned out if Amy Jones was allowed to fully realize her vision.  For now, I'd just write it off as another fun, yet forgettable slasher.

--Derek Miranda