Thursday, March 20, 2014

Scream Factory's SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) Blu-ray: Get Drilled In HD At This Killer Sleepover!

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD

The Movie

If you grew up in the 1980s and spent your free time roaming the aisles of your local video store, then you know the cover of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE VHS tape. In fact, you probably snuck more than a few glances at it while your parents weren't looking. Attractive women in their underwear piled up on the floor while an unseen man with a drill looms over them ominously... There's something powerful - and very phallic - about that image, and it's not one easily forgotten. But, does that mean that the movie itself is an iconic slasher film worthy of a place in the pantheon of classic horror cinema? Not necessarily... Nonetheless, even after thirty-plus years, THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE does indeed hold up as a very entertaining film with more than a handful of creepy moments, and now, thanks to Scream Factory, we can relive it in HD; in all of its gory glory.

The film's plot setup is very simple; as witnessed in it's official synopsis:
When Trish (Michele Michaels) decides to invite her high school girls’ basketball teammates over for a slumber party, she has no idea the night is going to end with an unexpected guest– an escaped mental patient and his portable power drill – crashing the party...
What's interesting about the film is that, even though it really is an exploitative slasher of the basest nature, it was written by noted feminist Rita Mae Brown as a satire of the genre. Whether or not it actually achieves that is up for debate, though. Filled with slow panning camera shots that seem to revel in the naked female body, many have argued that it actually is nothing more than the other films that it set out to satirize. However, there is still something below the surface that suggests otherwise and manages to allow the film to stand apart from the pack. There's certainly symbolism in the form of the aforementioned phallic imagery; and there's also the fact that the men in the film seem much more helpless and aloof than the female characters. While the concept of the "Final Girl" was certainly nothing new at the time, it feels undeniably different here.

Still, there's no arguing that the the film's setup and scenarios are, in many ways, the darkest male fantasies. What guy hasn't had the urge to peep in on a girls' sleepover, or their locker room, in hopes of catching a glimpse of something forbidden? Yet, what should be playful and titillating is actually much more sinister here. High school showers become deadly, and sneaking to a windowsill to leer can get you killed.

Yet, the film still relies on the standard mechanics of "cheap" horror throughout its running time. Jump scares abound here. In fact, they almost litter the film like an old unattended roadside. However, their presence is less of a nuisance more like a running joke. You know, the kind that's funny at first, overstays its welcome, but then becomes even funnier than it originally was because it keeps hammering away at you... And maybe that's the point. By hitting all the tropes of 80s slasher films, and hitting them hard, the movie becomes something of an oddity in that it embraces its ridiculousness and you just can't take your eyes off of what's happening on screen.

However, despite all of these things, THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE does become intensely creepy at times. This is very much a result of Michael Villela's performance as Russ Thorne, the escaped maniac hellbent on drilling the girls to death. While most of the other killers in the slashers of the era hid behind masks or elaborate makeup, Thorne is simply dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a denim jacket; and his face is clearly visible the entire time. And that last point is the key because the look on Villela's face, and the disturbing emptiness in his eyes is haunting. In fact, to this day, I very much remember the final sequence of the film because of this, and revisiting it just solidified things for me. I would not want to run into homeboy in the street; at night or at any other time.

Oh, and I haven't even touched on how great the music is here. Ralph Jones' pulsing synth score, while derivative of films like HALLOWEEN (the king of effective use of minimal scoring) and the 1980s Italian horror films, is a wonder to behold. It's prominent in just the right places, building to a climax and then suddenly dropping out like a needle being lifted from a record player (coincidentally, you can buy the vinyl soundtrack from Death Waltz Recordings right now). There are also times when the film also uses music from televisions and radios to score sequences, and it works great

At the end of the day, THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is an oddity in that it never truly hits its intended mark, yet its misfires work almost perfectly. Somehow, it manages to be sleazy while at the same time condemning its own subject matter. It's never "so bad it's good" - it's simply good - and its mixture of black comedy, creepy moments, sleazy set pieces, and strange feminist sensibilities make it a film that is both familiar and bizarrely unique. And for that, I applaud it.

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

As usual, Scream Factory delivers THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE in great package. Though it's not a "Collector's Edition," there are still a handful of good extras. The A/V presentation is very good, and the original key art is featured on the disc's cover, with some alternate art and still on the reverse side.

Video Quality (4.5/5)

The transfer on the disc is a new HD remaster from the original camera negative, and it shows. The picture quality here is the best this film has ever looked on home video, and for the most part, the print is free of dirt and debris. The AVC encoded track weighs in at around an average of 32Mbps, and it shows. While not perfect, this is much better looking than I ever thought it would be.

Audio Quality (4/5)

The disc's audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, with an average bitrate of 2Mbps. I don't think that a 5.1 mix would add much, so I am perfectly happy with this. It should keep purists very happy.

Extra Features (3.5/5)

Scream Factory carries over all of the extras from their old DVD, which was part of a 3-disc set with all of the films in the "series," along with a newly filmed interview with Rigg Kennedy (one of the actors in the film).

  • Sleepless Nights - The Making Of The Slumber Party Massacre (23 min): A part of a longer documentary that was originally spread over the discs of the three films on Shout!'s SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE COLLECTION DVD set. A very entertaining watch, and a lot of good information on the film and its origins.
  • Rigg Kennedy -  The Man Next Door (14 min): An interview with the actor who plays the girls' neighbor in the film. The end gets pretty weird... Exclusive to the Blu-ray release.
  • Still Gallery (3 min): Exactly what it sounds like.
  • The Slumber Party Massacre Trailer (2 min): Exactly what it sounds like.
  • The Slumber Party Massacre II Trailer (2 min): Exactly what it sounds like.
  • The Slumber Party Massacre III Trailer (1 min): Exactly what it sounds like.
  • Audio Commentary with Amy Holden Jones, Actors Michael Villella and Debra Del Liso: This commentary is also carried over from the old DVD of the film. Moderated by "Superfan" Tony Brown. Not the greatest commentary ever, but a fun listen, for the most part, and Jones gives a lot of great information on the project and her involvement.

Final Thoughts

Scream Factory is without a doubt one of my favorite home video releasing companies. They truly are fans of the films that they release, and the care they put into their releases shows it. Though there are not a ton of new extra features on the new SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, the video and audio are HUGE upgrades, and the extras that are included are wonderful (especially the Making-Of Doc). If you are a fan of the film, then this is a no-brainer. Add it to your collection today.

Highly Recommended!

Blu-ray Score


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