Slumber Party Massacre

Year: 1982
Production Co: New World Pictures
Studio: Santa Fe Productions
Director: Amy Jones
Writer: Rita Mae Brown
Cast: Michelle Michaels

There's a small behind the scenes detail about this movie that's hard to ignore. Feminist author Rita Mae Brown wrote the original script as a parody of the slasher genre that was in full swing by the time this film was made in 1982, but someone – maybe the backers or producers, maybe the director (another woman, interestingly) decided to do it as a straight horror movie.

And it's actually one of the more successful examples of what would end up a very shlocky genre characterised by very low production value and at-times quite boring movies.

The story is exactly what the title promises, with a group of horny teenagers planning a sleepover, not knowing a serial killer who uses a power drill is stalking around the neighbourhood.

The movie opens with Trish climbing out of bed and changing from her nightgown to a dress, giving us a completely plot-agnostic view of her boobs, financier Roger Corman or director Amy Holden Jones adhering to the conventions of the genre (and probably to writer Brown's horror).

Trish and her friends Kim, Jackie and Diane go through their day planning the titular overnight party because her folks are away, and they only have to contend with classmates Jeff and Neil hanging around outside hoping for glimpses of the girls changing and the creepy next door neighbour Mr Contant checking in on them.

They have no idea Russ Thorne, the killer, is homing in on the house, nor that he's already showed up at their school, murdering a telephone repair woman in her back of her van as well as another of their classmates who got herself locked in the gym after hours.

Neither does the pretty, quiet Valerie, who lives across the street and intends to spend the evening studying and babysitting her precocious younger sister Courtney.

In the classic traditions of the genre, Thorne manages to skulk around dispatching victims while not giving his presence away to the other occupants of the house and surrounds.

And while it seems ridiculous on paper that it takes so long for everyone to catch on, there's actually a really good sense of geography to the characters and where they are that makes it easy to buy into the conceit – there's a dead body on the pavement outside, another in the car in the garage, etc, and nobody knows.

It's only when the girls answer the door to the pizza delivery guy and he falls inside with his eyes drilled out that the screaming and running really starts.

It loses a bit of credibility when two male high school seniors are reduced to terrified little kids. If this really happened they'd be scared, for sure, but they'd intend to find and rush the killer, not squat in the doorway whimpering like they're playing The Floor is Lava.

And when Russ reveals himself, the humour inherent in the genre appears (possibly intended by writer Brown) when he proves to be more unkillable than Jason Vorhees.

It's good fun and – crucially, given its position in the history of this movie movement – never boring.

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