Each film in the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy shares a common bond in that they were all written and directed by women. While one would think that this would offer a fresh, feminine take on the genre, that isn't the case at all. Instead, the film's all feature even more insultingly stereotypical female victims, loads of T&A, and enough blood to quench the thirsts of even the most demanding of gore hounds. In other words, these ladies did what may have once been considered a man's job in making these exploitation gems.
All three films revolve around a group of hot late twenty-somethings pretending to be collegiate females who have sleepovers/parties that are interrupted by a killer with a big, unwieldy power drill (or, as is the case with Slumber Party Massacre 2, an unreasonable facsimile of) who inexplicably shows up and drills the gals and there guy pals, occasionally taking breaks to allow for a few breast shots, sneers, and groan-inducing one-liners.
These are the kinds of movies that give Roger Ebert night sweats.
Mainly, these films are carried along by the promise of more skin and more blood with no real sense of rhyme or reason holding any of it together, yet, somehow, keeping enough of our attention to make it interesting. It's a bit like catching a neighbor changing in their window. Look once? You're just being nosey. Look twice, you might as well pull up a chair, because you are going to stare out that window until you get some free nudity, damnit!! You’ve earned it!! Well, sitting through The Slumber Party Massacre films feels the same way. You watch at first out of curiosity, then lurid fascination, until finally, the lights go out and it goes to bed, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and ultimately cheapened by the whole experience, yet perfectly aware that given the opportunity you would do it all over. It's stupid, pointless, and oftentimes infuriating, but it's never boring, and, hell, everyone needs a cheap thrill once in awhile. And friends, thrills don’t get much cheaper than this.
Where the three films do vary is in terms of tone and production quality, with the first entry being pretty much a straight slasher; the second, a neon-drenched farce; and the third film a bit of a hybrid of the two. For me, it’s all about the bookends. I love the cheap, grungy style of Amy Holden Jones’ 1982 original and feel that it actually stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the prime examples of ‘80’s slasher cinema. Sally Mattison’s Slumber Party Massacre III (1990), while an absolute car wreck in terms of performances and dialogue, is the series’ most sadistic and violent entry, and even offers up a surprising little twist. It’s not near the quality of the first film, but it’s still a reasonably entertaining and seriously brutal example of a then-dying genre.
As for Deborah Brock’s Slumber Party Massacre II? Well, not so much.
Released in 1987, it’s obvious that the glut of slasher films began to take its toll on the quality and consistency of virtually every horror franchise from Friday to Freddy, with producers eager to cash in before the drifting public consciousness drifted away. Slumber Party Massacre 2 is an example of how low they would go. Combining elements of the first film with a hopelessly misguided attempt at taking the franchise into Nightmare on Elm Street territory and then sprinkling it with pastel colors, high hair, legwarmers, and bad eighties pop songs. Courtney, a survivor from the first film in name only since the original actress was replaced with the twangy TV Texan Crystal Bernard (Wings, Happy Days), is off for a weekend getaway with her "band", to play at a big party at her friend's condo.
Courtney begins having nightmares involving a guy dressed like the bastard child of Elvis Presley and Andrew Dice Clay (Atanas Ilitch) stalking her with a guitar/drill, who somehow crosses over into reality and slashes up the girls and their boyfriends whilst dancing around to a series of awful 80's rock-a-billy songs and cracking the lamest one-liners in history (ie: When the bit on his guitar/drill breaks, he looks at the camera and says "I can't get no......Satisfactshhhhhunnnnnnnnnnnnnn." It's at this point you want to kill him yourself.). There's nothing else to say, really, since that's pretty much all that happens. Sure, we get some nudity and gore, but not nearly as much as in the other two films. Instead we get musical montages featuring people washing cars, dancing in perfect synchronization, and bad lip synching to bad songs. If you took out the precious few breast shots and slight amount of gore, you'd basically have an episode of Saved By the Bell, with slightly better production values (only slightly).
So why no synopsis/review of parts one and three? Both of these films adhere to the Slumber Party formula (some would even suggest that the third film is essentially a remake of the first, but I don’t feel that’s the case at all), which I covered in ample detail in the first five paragraphs of this review. Cripes, weren't you paying attention? Slumber Party Massacre II, however, deviates from the formula, and encapsulates pretty much everything I hated about slashers at the tail end of the 1980's.
The trilogy now comes to DVD in a really sweet collection from the fine folks at Shout! Factory. Slumber Party Massacre and Slumber Party Massacre II each get very clean new transfers (1.78:1), while Slumber Party Massacre III looks pretty darned good as is (even if there are a few artifacts here and there). Each film gets a commentary track this time out (the previously released Concorde releases offered next to nothing by way of extras), and each disc features a chapter of a really cool three-part retrospective entitled Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres, containing interviews and reminiscences from various cast and crew members. There’s also a poster and photo gallery and the film’s original theatrical trailers.
Normally, I’d recommend avoiding Slumber Party Massacre II altogether. but, seeing as it's part of the set, give it a whirl; maybe it’s your particular slice o’ Velveeta. At the very least, you have to pop the disc in to see the second chapter of the excellent retrospective, which, alone, is worth shelling out the coin this set if you’re at all a fan of the series. Factor in the sweet new transfer of Slumber Party Massacre (a massive improvement over the grainy, artifact-ridden Concorde release), commentary tracks, and the better-than-it-gets-credit-for Slumber Party Massacre III, and, at around $20 beans, this is a downright bargain.