The cinematic achievement of a triple cheeseburger wrapped in bacon buns.
By Chuck Francisco
July 24, 2013 Source: Mania.com
Copious are the instances where the urge to devour atrociously unhealthy food overcomes the very human desire to "eat better". America's gut busting obesity epidemic assures me that I'm not the only one who struggles in this mental martial arts match. The bout occurs when selecting movies as well. Let's throw away the streamed chicken and rice of Oscar bait like Lincoln, and instead belly up to the bar for the highly caloric Slumber Party Massacre. Adhering to the gourmet analogy which I've crafted, The Slumber Party Massacre is the cinematic artery clogging equivalent of a triple cheeseburger wrapped in buns made out of bacon, then deep fried for that perfect cardiac crunch.
On the surface this 80's slasher from Roger Corman's New World Pictures would appear to have been picked off the vine of similar gruesome fruit. As we pull back the covers, the scantily clad story beneath the story is fascinating when considering the context. The screenplay was written by Rita Mae Brown, a noted early civil rights activist, feminist, and a member of the Gay Liberation movement. Possessed of degrees in cinematograph and English, she also attained PH.D in Literature, and a doctorate in Political Science. From this brilliant and enlightened mind sprung the organized scripting which would become The Slumber Party Massacre. If that scenario sounds about as likely as Jason Vorhees being reanimated by nanites to murder teenagers aboard a spaceship in the far flung future, then you understand that the best schlocky entertainment can originate from the unlikeliest of beginnings.
The original intention of the film then was to satirize the hedonistic misogyny of the the slasher genre (a lambasting which it admittedly needs). Think of it like a an early 80's Cabin in the Wood, attempting to reset the scales and move forward in a new direction. The obvious tropes are entrenched here, but where the writer intended scathing irony, director/producer Amy Holden Jones (who also wrote Mystic Pizza and The Relic) approached the project as serious slasher fare, inserting the requisite nudity characteristic of all Corman films of the time. The 2010 Shout! Factory release of Slumber Party Massacres 1 through 3 includes an informative interview with Jones where she notes that the shower scene near the beginning of the film is purely there to fulfill the nubile requirement insisted upon my New World Pictures. She admits to shooting it very clinically, ticking off a checklist of bare apple bottoms and perky breasts. Small glimpses such these allow us a brief peak behind the curtain of Corman, a subject which I'm an enraptured student of.
The end result of this cross purpose approach is an amusing, campy, schlock fest; the perfect Sunday night fodder to unwind with. The paint by number plot follows a group of high school betties planning a debaucherous sleepover populated by booze, boobs, pot, and pizza. Before long some of the local guys try to crash the party armed with their throbbing love doves, while simultaneously an escaped murderer begins mutilating them with his hyper phallic portable drill. Plenty of messy killings follow as the kids disappear one by one, our mentally unstable mad man always managing to be one step ahead of them. That is, of course, until one of the girls stands up to him with a mixed bag of improvised weapons. While this all sounds very pedestrian, the execution is above average and the unintended humor is off the charts.
At no point can I defend The Slumber Party Massacre on artistic merit, cultural grounds, societally importance, or groundbreaking cinematic achievement. Sometimes you just want a bacon cheeseburger though, and I'll be driller-killered if this film doesn't fill your cinematic tummy with greasy regret. Gather your crew, pop the corn, dim the lights, and indulge your sleazy side. I won't tattle on you.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
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