Slumber Party Massacre Collection
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: 10/5/2010
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Made fast and cheap to cash in on the slasher craze that was dominating the box office in the eighties, Slumber Party Massacre from Roger Corman’s New Concorde productions proved popular enough to spawn two sequels. While these were originally released on DVD years ago by Corman’s label, they went out of print but thanks to the efforts of Shout! Factory and their line of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics special editions, the whole trilogy is back and better than ever.
So let’s take it from the top…
Slumber Party Massacre:
The first film follows an eighteen year old high school student named Trish Devereaux (Michele Michaels) whose parents are going away for the weekend and leaving her alone overnight. Trish, being an eighteen year old, does what most eighteen year olds would do and decides to host a slumber party for the girls on the basketball team. While showering off after practice (giving us ample opportunity for nudity right out of the starting gates) Trish invites her friends Kimberly (Debra Deliso), Jackie (Andree Honore) and Diane (Gina Smika) as well as the pretty new girl, Valerie Bates (Robin Stille), who has just moved to town with her younger sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers).
Valerie, who lives right across the street from Trish, opts not to go to the party, as there’s some tension between her and some of the other girls on the team. This will prove to have been a very smart move indeed when the slumber party gets crashed first by the nosey neighbor and then later by escaped serial killer Russ Thorn (Michael Villella).
Chock full of blood, gore and titties galore, Slumber Party Massacre can work as a clichéd slasher or as a send up of the genre depending on how you look at it. Directed by feminist Amy Holden Jones and based on a script by Rite Mae Brown, the film does do an interesting job with the reversing of roles typical in slasher movies. Here we see a female telephone repair person and a female basketball team, positions that would traditionally be held by men in horror films, while the male characters simply follow the girls around and dote on them – never mind the phallic symbolism of the power tool murders! If you want to read into this some sort of feminist leanings, go for it, they’re probably there if you want to dig for them (and in fact the extras do touch on this a bit).
Some of us, however, prefer the more uncivilized approach and just want to enjoy the movie for the funny, gory, sexy slasher picture that it is. Holes and all, and there are a lot of them here, this is a wonderfully entertaining film from start to finish that hits all the right notes. It delivers some solid tension, a few fun performances, some quotable dialogue, and of course, some fantastic murder set pieces.
Slumber Party Massacre II:
Made five years after the first picture by writer/director Deborah Brock, this first sequel finds Courtney (played by Crystal Bernard of Wings!), the younger sister from the first picture, the only sane survivor of the original killings. Unfortunately, while she might be sane, she’s still plagued by nightmares of that fateful night in which so many buxom teenage girls were brutally murdered. Rather than sit around and dwell on it, however, she decides to take the other members of the band that she’s in to a condo for the weekend to rock out and hang out with some hunky guys.
While Courtney is away, she has horrible dreams of her sister locked away in a mental hospital, but this doesn’t stop her from at least trying to have fun – that is, until the killer from the first movie appears reincarnated as a rockabilly guy (Atanas Ilitch) in a fringe leather outfit with a drill guitar. He runs around and sings bad rock songs and shouts off bad one liners and kills a bunch of people. Various girls get naked and die.
Not nearly as good as the first movie by traditional standards, this second film is still a pretty entertaining way to kill ninety minutes thanks to the bizarre screen presence of the overly made up Ilitch who seems unusually comfortable in his role. He prances and preens around in front of the camera, hamming it up and really giving it his all and it is his performance that makes this film stand out more than anything else. The novelty of seeing a young and future Wings star appear in a trashy gory slasher film counts for something, but without Ilitch, this one would have fallen very flat on its face. Thankfully, he’s here and the movie turns out to be a lot of fun. The musical numbers, which feature the various actresses lip synching over top of Enigma recording artist Wednesday Week (who are still around) also add some unintentional humor to the film. The marketing campaign touted this as ‘a new kind of Rocky Horror’ and it’s not, but it’s still a fun film.
Slumber Party Massacre III:
All good things must come to an end and so it was with the series when the eighties turned into the nineties and director Sally Mattison took Catherine Cyran’s script and turned it into The Slumber Party Massacre III. The film tells the story of a bunch of girls, lead by perky Jackie (Kelly Christian) who like to play volleyball and decide that when their parents go away they should have a slumber party. This slumber party turns into a massacre. At first he boyfriends show up, just to joke around and scare the girls who seem only too comfortable to hang out in their skimpy outfits (it’s a well known fact that when there are no guys around, girls WILL and DO have naked pillow fights – one day I will produce photographic evidence of this) but soon the joke turns out to be all too real as someone in the house starts murdering people with a giant drill.
This film is pretty unremarkable until the last fifteen minutes or so, at which point it makes the surprisingly ballsy decision to rub our faces in what we came to see – sex and gore. Phallic symbolism and drilling tend to go hand in hand regardless of genre but here Mattison really takes that concept and runs with it delivering a finale that is as grisly and shocking as anything else in the series that you’d care to name.
The performances are fairly vacant and not all too memorable but the film does manage to build some really strong tension as it reaches its climax. The direction isn’t fancy nor is the camera work but it gets the job done and ferocious finale really sticks in your craw once it’s all over. If you want blood, you got it. This may not have been the cheeriest note to ‘end’ the series on but it hits an interesting crescendo. Ignore the massive, gaping plot holes and enjoy the wacked out set pieces that this one ends up delivering.
The first film is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks the best of the bunch. Colors are nice and strong without looking too pumped up and detail is also quite good. Flesh tones look nice and natural and only minor print damage is there to contend with. Some grain is present, but that’s not a bad thing and overall the movie looks very good.
Slumber Party Massacre II is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen and it too looks quite good. You’ll really appreciate the colors during the more fantastic scenes involving the driller killer. Detail is fine, print damage held firmly in check, and again, skin tones (important in a series like this!) are nice and natural looking.
The third film is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe and it too looks pretty decent. Compositions are fine and there are no problems with compression artifacts. Some of the darker scenes lose fine detail and this is a darker looking film than the first two in general but it looks fine. Colors are generally nice and bright and while detail isn’t quite as strong as I & II, it looks alright.
Each of the three films is presented in English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. There are no alternate audio options provided nor are there any subtitles. The quality of the audio is fine across the board. Dialogue is always easy to follow and the levels are well balanced. There aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion to note. These aren’t particularly fancy mixes but they don’t need to be.
Here’s where this set really shines. The biggest and best of the extras is an all new feature length documentary on the making of all three films in the series entitled Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre (60:40). Affectionately done, this documentary interviews all three directors – Amy Jones, Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison – each of whom shares some interesting stories about working with Roger Corman and some of tactics. There are also a load of cast members included here, each of whom has a story to tell about being involved with the film. We also get some interesting fan footage of some of the locations used in the movie and we learn what happened to the drill guitar used in the second film. The documentary has a good sense of humor about it, never taking things too seriously but at the same time taking them just seriously enough and anyone with a passing interesting in the series will enjoy sitting down and watching this one from start to finish.
The first film features a commentary track with moderator Tony Brown, director/producer Amy Jones, actor Michael Villella, and actress Debra Deliso. Brown runs the Slumber Party Massacre fan site, The Hockstatter Place, and knows his stuff and as such is able to keep the discussion moving fairly well. Jones has more to say than the other participants and is keen on telling her side of the story, but all involved share some good stories. Jones seems intrigued by many of the sets and props, even pointing out a lamp that was used in the movie she made after this one and pointing out various crew members who pop up in the film in small roles. There are spots where they clam up a bit and seem more interested in watching the movie rather than talking about it but for the majority of the time they there’s no shortage of things to talk about here and this commentary is a nice companion to the documentary.
Disc one closes out with a pretty massive still gallery of home video releases, poster art and promotional stills, trailers for all three films in the set, static menus and chapter selection.
The second disc in the set contains both of the sequels. The extras for the second film start off with a commentary track, again moderated by Brown, with writer/director/producer Deborah Brock, producer Don Daniel, story editor Beverly Grace, and actress Juliette Cummins who plays Sheila in the film. Not surprisingly, Brock has the most to say here as this was really her project. She talks about working the music into the film, the evolution of the driller killer character, and about working with the various cast members in the film. Daniel points out a lot of ‘what was shot where’ type of information, discussing how and why they wound up using many of the locations that they did, and there’s a fair bit of discussion about Atanas Ilitch’s performance and about some of the Pepsi product placement that is so obvious throughout the movie.
Aside from that, the extras for the second film are rounded out by another large still gallery of promotional materials and a second still gallery featuring different shots from the poster shoot.
The commentary on the third film, once again moderated by Brown, features director Sally Madison and actresses Brandi Burkett, Hope Marie Carlton and story editor Beverly Grace. Madison talks about how and they used the photos in the opening credits, how the film is such an obvious product of its time, about casting the picture, and of course, about working under Corman’s notoriously tight schedule and on such a low budget. Those involved talk about how certain scenes tend to go on a bit too long but also point out what it was like working with some of the effects and make up needed in the picture and about what it was like shooting some of the more intense set pieces that make up the latter half of the picture. We also learn why certain people were cast in specific roles, some of the changes that the story went through, and about how they feel about the film in hindsight. Rounding out the extras for the third movie is a still gallery of promotional materials and video art.
Inside the keepcase is a full color booklet of liner notes written by DVD co-producer Jason Paul Collum that add some welcome context to the three films and relay some interesting trivia about them.
The Final Word:
Shout!’s line of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics continues to impress and this release is no exception. The movies remain a lot of fun and the extras in this set should please even the pickiest of fans.