High school senior, Trish, is planning a private party at her house for her teammate friends while her parents are out of town. Unfortunately for them (and other members of the populace), a local psycho has just escaped the confines of his cell and he’s got his heart set on crashing their little shindig.
On the surface, Slumber Party Massacre is your typical 80’s slasher/exploitation film. There’s blood, there’s guts, there’s horney teens and there’s nudity run rampant. But it becomes a lot more interesting once you read a bit of the film’s backstory.
The movie is based on a screenplay by Rita Mae Brown, a feminist author whose original story was meant to be parody of the horror genre. But sometime between finishing the script and making the movie, the decision was made to film the story as a straight horror film. This is a bit of a disappointing fact to learn, because had the movie followed through with the scripts original intentions, than Slumber Party would have beaten both Scream and There’s Nothing Out There to the metaphorical meta-punch by 14 and 9 years, respectively.
However, that doesn’t mean that all the humor and feminist intention from the original script was completely lost. In fact, knowing more of the films origins helps to explain much of the final product. And much of the humor in the dialogue is left largely intact. Unfortunately, this back and forth between the original intent and the more serious changes also means the film suffers from a flip-floppy tone even though, thinking back on it, the choices made were likely completely intentional.
I mean, come on now, you all know what that drill’s supposed to represent.
For instance, one of the very first scenes in the film involves a large gaggle of girls in the school showers. Needless to say, there’s nudity everywhere, and it’s not even cleverly or artfully filmed by any stretch of the imagination. This is just long, lingering panning shots while the girls soap up. It’s so slow and deliberate it’s actually a little uncomfortable. Why would a movie that was both written and directed by a woman (I probably should have mentioned that second part earlier, oops) choose to objectify woman in such a way? But after watching the rest of the movie, I realized that objectification (ie, the nudity) was kinda a central element in the story.
The shower scene isn’t the only time the girls are treated as objects. There are several moments where the girls are being spied on, like the killer watching from a distance, the boys leering at them during basketball practice, or even the neighbors watching them through the window. The nudity isn’t so much for the sake of seeing them naked, but more of a visual representation of how these girls are the target of a looming voyeuristic threat. The film focuses multiple times on the killer (and others) knowingly watching (ie. objectifying) the girls, while the ladies themselves remain blissfully oblivious. What the movie is doing, is taking your for a ride through the lens of the male gaze, and the slow panning shots force the viewer along for the ride whether they want to go along with it or not.
And then the movie decides to further play with that idea in the form of excluded teammate Valerie, and her younger sister, Courtney. Except in their case, the movie chooses to flip the male gaze on it’s head. Valerie is another one of Trish’s teammates, but due to some clear hostilities from the other girls invited, Valerie decided not to attend the slumber party from hell (She is clearly the smart one). We never once see Valerie or her sister naked and neither even garner the attention of the killer until the last five minutes of the movie. Why? Because unlike Trish and her friends, Valerie and her sister are the one’s doing the objectifying. They unabashedly stare at the naked pictures in the Playgirl magazine, and Valerie spends a decent chunk of time watching her own violent horror movie on the tv in the comfort of her own house, all while similar events play on just outside. They are, in essence, immune to the killer (and viewers) objectification. It’s no wonder that they end up being the true heroines of the film.
Although, I personally shudder to think of Sylvester Stalone in Playgirl.
Of course, all of that up there makes the movie sound like a great big social commentary when, lets face it, it’s really not. It certainly has it if you’re willing to look for it, but, as mentioned, the movie was filmed as a straight-up slasher. So one could completely ignore it if they so choose. There’s plenty of blood and guts to keep the slasher fans happy, and as previously stated, the movie also has an amusing sense of humor. There are several scenes that stick out, including one of Trish’s friends eating pizza over the poor, dead delivery boys body and talking about how life must go on (how ironic?) Or, my personal favorite, the one where Courtney keeps trying to sneak a beer out of Trish’s fridge, but keeps getting distracted by her sister and completely misses the dead body that’s been stuffed in there…twice.
What I want to know is where the hell did the killer move all
the damn shelves so that she’d fit in there?
In the end, I found the movie very amusing, but I’m left lamenting the fact that the final product didn’t take full advantage of the original script. The parts we did get out of it were pretty great, so one can only wonder what the film would have been like if the same attention to detail had been paid to the original in full. Still, it ends up still being a very entertaining piece, even with the tonal shifts and the kinda lame killer. The characters are amusing, and not completely dumb as bricks, and it’s got a good sense of humor. If you like slashers, feel free to give this one a go. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.