The Slumber Party Massacre is one of those horror movies whose title is also its synopsis, alongside Night of the Bloody Apes and Death Bed: The Bed That Eats.
The 1982 film cuts as quickly to the chase, the first murder-by-power-drill taking place within five minutes of its 76-minute runtime, five of which are spent playing basketball for the sole purpose of a group shower scene. If only the movie was as effective as it was efficient, it might be remembered for something other than the novelty of a female writing/directing duo amidst the male-dominated slasher cycle.
With a satirical script by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, you would expect the film to embrace what makes it different, but seldom in slasher movies does common sense prevail. Instead the Roger Corman-produced cheapo runs away from its feminist elements and winds up a worse offender than the flicks it was designed to skewer, as indistinguishable from the pack as its characters are to each other.
What’s actually quite sad is that the OTT nudity doesn’t even read as parody. In the context of slashers it is wallpaper, totally normalised by Amy Holden Jones’ decidedly un-comic direction. Jones would go on to create the Beethoven franchise with John Hughes, and here provides some indication of the hilarity to come.
This dull direction renders the comedy and themes impotent. You don’t have to be Carol J. Clover to identify the killer’s oversized drill bit as a phallic symbol, which was more interesting to the genre as subtext anyway. It does raise a semi-serious point about the threat sexualised women (rather than the usual virgins) pose to men, but does nothing Black Christmas didn’t do a million times better back in 1974.
Whether hijacked by Corman or just poorly executed, The Slumber Party Massacre ends up in a compromising position. Considering a return on their investment was virtually guaranteed (two sequels and the Sorority House Massacre trilogy followed), they might as well have made the film they wanted. It is hard to believe this is it.