The Slumber Party Massacre
Slumber Party Massacre has become a favorite among lovers of cult classics, especially those with an interest in slasher movies. This is with good reason: the film is a smart and subversive take on what can often be a tired and rote genre. Released in 1982, during the Golden Age of the slasher film, Slumber Party Massacre takes an interesting approach to the material, making it atypical of most slasher films. This should be no surprise, with the pedigree of the writer and director involved. Noted writer, feminist, and activist Rita Mae Brown penned the screenplay, while Amy Holden Jones directed at the young age of 27, after having worked for Roger Corman and been Martin Scorsese's assistant on the set of Taxi Driver.
Being a product of the early 1980s, the film is littered with nostalgia bombs for viewers of a certain age. In one scene a character makes Kool-Aid and the entire movie stops dead to focus on it, in loving detail. We watch her pour the sweet red magic dust into a giant pitcher of water, then dump an absurd amount of sugar in on top of that. And then she stirs. It's like an ASMR video, before such things existed. What does this have to do with the impending massacre? Nothing! But it's a fine example of Jones taking her time with the film, lulling us into a false sense of comfort before the impending horror will shock us back to reality. More '80s cliches abound. The girls smoke Maui Wowie. An issue of Playgirl features Stallone on the cover. One character is dressed suspiciously like a Hooters Girl, nearly a year before Hooters even opened. Someone at the restaurant chain must've been a fan. Don't forget the requisite scenes of the girls changing in the school locker room and of two teenage boys giggling while looking through the window at the girls undressing inside the house.
Brown's screenplay is full of fun and even occasionally witty dialogue, a cut above the usual fare for the teen death movie. The actors do well with both Brown's playfully written scenes and during moments of shocking horror. Originally intended as a parody of the genre, the film instead plays it straight which only strengthens the impact of its humor. Jones directs the film with confidence and does a masterful job of building suspense while the girls hang out at their slumber party. We already know there's a killer on the loose (we've seen him in action), and we know the girls are in danger, but we don't know when that danger will strike.
Brown and Jones inject a good deal of female empowerment and feminist ideals into the film, a departure from the usual women-as-victim films. Several of these girls are still victims to the slasher and there are the required camera shots lingering on the female form (see the scene mentioned earlier), but the film itself is decidedly not misogynistic. Slasher films often ooze contempt for teenage boys and girls, and especially for sexually active ones. Slumber Party Massacre is different, and by making the killer's choice of weapon a drill—which he often holds down by his crotch—they're skewering the usual horror film tropes related to gender. Late in the film the killer even says to one of the girls, "You know you want it." Her response, "I don't even know you," is a firm rebuke to that sort of toxic masculinity. In the cathartic final scene, the film provides us with not one, but three Final Girls, another testament to Brown's and Jones's unique twist on the slasher film.
So this Halloween, invite over several of your closest and sassiest girlfriends, stock up on Maui Wowie, order in a pizza, and watch Slumber Party Massacre with the lights off. Maybe lock the doors, though.