The Slumber Party Massacre had an odd conception. It was written by a feminist author to be a parody of slasher films, but was then produced by Roger Corman, the king of sleazy exploitation, who turned the film into the very thing it was mocking.
Parodies draw a lot from their targets, but when you take the parody element away, all you’re left with is a derivative collection of cliches. Indeed, SPM takes a lot from other slasher films, most notably Halloween. It starts with an escaped mental patient stalking our hero during the day, a party after school with our hero stuck babysitting a few houses down, and the one-by-one gruesome killings ending with the scream-filled flight for survival.
One of the elements to survive from the feminist script was the killers weapon: a large, phallic drill. While dubious as a weapon, the drill does illustrate the dynamic existing between victim and prey, at least in the eyes of the killer. It’s his symbol of superiority that he waves around at waist-level. The drill is also used to great effect in the final battle, as the would-be victim takes control.
One of the big changes from the original script is the addition of nudity. In one of the extras on the disc, the director (also a woman) talks about being ordered by Roger Corman to include some nude scenes, so she filmed them as clinically and blatantly as possible, to illustrate just how exploitative and pointless they were. The best example of this is a shower scene, where the camera starts on a girls head, then pans down her body and back up again while she’s talking, for no reason what-so-ever other than to show her naked. Ironically, or perhaps by intention, it ends up seeming a lot sleazier than it would have if she had filmed it straight.
The making-of documentary on the disc was directed by an obsessed fan of the film. It starts with a home-movie of the director as a child of 13 or so getting the movie on VHS for Christmas and going crazy with excitement. I wonder if his parents knew they were getting him softcore porn?
The kills aren’t too graphic. He mostly slashes people with his drill, which I don’t quite understand, and then a splash of fake blood. There are a lot of corpses with some pretty unconvincing drill holes in them, as well.
As a generic ’80s slasher movie, Slumber Party Massacre hits all the beats you would want it to, though it doesn’t particularly excel at any of them. The faint echos of the film’s feminist roots give it a slightly different viewing angle; if not outright parody, it’s at least a little more self-aware than most.
The new Blu-ray looks great. The video is sharp, with vivid colours. The making-of documentary was carried over from the original release, so the only thing missing is the ho-hum sequels.