In 1982, the slasher craze was in full swing, and, as is the case with anything remotely popular, there was an extremely vocal minority who stood in opposition to everything the genre represented, especially the genre’s misogynistic tendencies. Despite the majority of slasher films ultimately revealing their heroes to be strong female survivor types who triumph over their male pursuers (aka; the “final girl), critics and feminists alike bashed the creators of these films as women-hating cavemen living out their perverse fantasies on the silver screen. One would think, then, that a film like The Slumber Party Massacre – the first slasher written and directed by women – would somehow level the playing field, offering a more feminine take on the genre. Of course, anyone who’s seen the film knows that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Slumber Party Massacre follows Trish Devereaux (Michelle Michaels), an attractive high school basketball player who invites a few of her teammates over for a slumber party while her parents are out of town. Unbeknownst to Trish is the fact that she and her friends have already caught the eye of recently escaped mental patient Russ Thorn (Michael Villella), who has managed to arm himself with an unwieldy power drill (with seemingly endless battery life), and is hellbent on crashing their party.
Like most of the slasher films of the era, The Slumber Party Massacre is light on plot and substance, but more than makes up for it with bountiful amounts of gratuitous nudity and violence that’s made all the more surprising when one considers that the film was written by noted feminist, Rita Mae Brown, and directed by former editor and Roger Corman disciple, Amy Holden Jones. Still, it’s obvious that producer, Corman, wasn’t interested in a feminist slant on the genre, and Jones goes above and beyond, here, to give the people what they want to an almost uncomfortable degree. Look no further than the film’s notorious shower room scene in which Jones’ camera lingers on a close-up of Michael’s oh-so-bare derriere, or the numerous shots of bouncing female breasts that seem to pop up in every other frame. Jones is on record saying she regretted this, especially the aforementioned shower scene, but, being her directorial debut, one can understand her desire to impress “the boss”, and, given Corman’s oeuvre, she certainly had her work cut out for her.
While the amount of nudity and level of violence was, for that time, extreme, there’s not really much else about The Slumber Party Massacre that distinguishes it from the era’s other low-budget slashers. The performances are uniformly bad, the direction is a bit clumsy, and much of the film is derivative of Carpenter’s Halloween, right down to the score. It’s a typically Cormanesque rush job, but one that still satisfies all of the requirements of a successful (if not somewhat uninspired) slasher film.
Scream Factory brings The Slumber Party Massacre to Blu-ray in a 1080p 1.78.1 transfer that retains much of the grain of its previous DVD releases, but the image is much cleaner and more vibrant than past offerings. Being an extremely low-budget, thirty-two year old flick from the House of Corman, one has to grade this flick’s overall image quality on a curve, but, for what it is, the film looks pretty damned good. There’s not a whole lot of fine detail evident, here, but I did find myself surprised by the crisp quality of a few scenes (especially the day time sequences early in the film), and, for a film in which much of the action takes place in near total darkness, obvious compression issues are few and far between.
The accompanying DTS-HD mono soundtrack features some brittle highs and a touch of distortion here and there, but it’s perfectly serviceable stuff, especially when one, once again, takes budget and vintage into consideration.
While this title would have been a perfect addition to their Collector’s Edition series, sadly it’s just one of the company’s standard releases. That being said, even their catalog releases are better than most studios’ “special editions”.
First up, we get a fun and very informative commentary featuring director, Jones, as well as stars Michael Villella and Debra De Liso (who plays the frequently topless blonde-bimbo, Kim), moderated by Slumber Party Massacre fan site webmaster, Tony Brown. This commentary, carried over from Shout! Factory’s excellent 2010 Slumber Party Collection release, makes for a breezy, factoid-packed listen, and it’s actually fascinating to hear Jones’ take on the film that she still considers a parody/comedy (which was Rita Mae Brown’s intent, but, obviously, not how Corman envisioned it. Still, it’s hard to take the film seriously when one considers the phallic nature of the antagonist’s weapon of choice).
Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre (HD) is a pared-down version of the much longer featurette from the aforementioned Shout Factory release, excising all of the bits that focused on the two sequels. This featurette offers interviews with Jones, Villella, De Liso, and Brinke Stevens (who made her debut in the film as the short-lived Linda), among others, and intersperses them with scenes from the film, stills, and more tidbits about the production.
The Man Next Door (HD), meanwhile, features an interview with actor, Rigg Kennedy, who played Trish’s eccentric, snail-killing next door neighbor, Mr. Contant.
Extras are rounded out with an extensive stills gallery (HD), as well as trailers for all three films in the series (which, perhaps, bodes well for future Blu-ray releases).
Meant as a quickie cash-in on the slasher craze, The Slumber Party has gone on to become one of the most popular films in the genre, and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is sure to please the film’s legion of fans with both its much-improved picture quality as well as a robust assortment of entertaining bonus features. Recommended.