Movies

Amy Holden Jones’ Slumber Party Massacre (1982): Killer Comedy

It usually comes as a shock to slasher fans who first discover the little 1982 gem Slumber Party Massacre (or SPM) that the director is a woman, Amy Holden Jones, and that the screenplay was written by feminist Rubyfruit Jungle author Rita Mae Brown. Originally titled “Sleepless Nights” by Brown and intended as a spoof of the rapidly booming splatter genre, the film’s humor couldn’t have been more spot on, and while it isn’t exactly scary, it is exciting, clever, hilarious, gory, and features a delightfully twisted performance by Michael Villella as the villain you can’t help but love; in short, SPM is an all-around blast! At 73 minutes, it has a breakneck pace and — unlike a lot of low budget, early ’80s slashers — leaves the viewer wanting more. But never fear — there is more, as SPM spawned two direct sequels, both of which have a similar sense of fun and humor and were produced on stretched budgets. It’s a perfect slasher film to sit back, crack a few beers or bowls and enjoy with friends, but it’s just as entertaining for the solitary viewer.

The thin plot of SPM concerns carefree 18-year-old Trish Devereaux (Michelle Michaels), whose parents go on a business trip and leave the whole house to her for the weekend. Naturally, our heroine does the expected and invites some of her hottest friends over to the house for an overnight slumber party, and they come prepared for the occasion with some Grade-A Maui Waui and beer. Next-door neighbor Mr. Contant (Rigg Kennedy) has been informed by Trish’s parents that they’ll be away and to keep an eye out for Trish, but he’s quickly drilled through the throat by Thorn while hunting for slugs in his garden with a cleaver.

Meanwhile, horny practical jokers Neil (Joseph Alan Johnson) and Jeff (David Millbern) learn about the history party-to-be and decide to crash it after spying on the girls changing through the living room window. What the cavorting teens don’t know is that they’re being stalked by an escaped and very deranged mental patient named Russ Thorn (Villella, who looks remarkably similar to the killer in He Knows You’re Alone), who picks them off one by one with the aid of an electric saw, meat cleaver, and his favorite weapon — a buzzing power drill! While the attendees of the slumber party become fewer and fewer, across the street from Trish’s house the gorgeous and athletic new girl at school Valerie (Robin Stille) is stuck babysitting her bratty 14-year-old sister Courtney (Jennifer Meyers), having not been invited to the bash. But after hearing strange noises emanating from Trish’s house throughout the night, Valerie and Courtney decide to investigate and come face to face with bloodthirsty maniac Thorn.

Slumber Party Massacre was made on a tight budget of only $250,000, but features an impressive amount of gore and a fun score that was actually composed completely on a Casio synthesizer! There’s a fairly high body count, with Thorn drilling and slashing his way through our lovely and likeable cast with perverted glee, and Thorn himself has what is possibly the film’s most gruesome death scene in the frenzied poolside climax, which has terrorized and bloody Valerie slashing off our villain’s hand and slicing him across the stomach with a machete.

There’s no actual sex, but there is lots of nudity in SPM. The acting would never win an award, but it’s not bad for such a low-budget slasher film, and I can easily say I’ve seen much, much worse. B movie scream queen Brinke Stevens has her first major role in this as a doomed teen who is chased with a drill and murdered by Thorn. The late Robin Steele and Jenifer Meyers are standouts as the terrorized sisters, as you can’t help but believe that they are sisters. Michael Villella (who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth after this) used some method acting for his role and studied the novel Helter Skelter and kept a distance from the other cast members while filming. Interestingly enough, he originally read for the part of down-to-earth neighbor Mr. Contant!

Slumber Party Massacre has its hokey moments, but it doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s an asset. Extremely entertaining, it’s worthy of a 7.5 of 10 IMO and is one of the most enjoyable slasher films ever made. If you enjoy it, you should definitely check out its sequels as they’re similar in tone and entertainment value.

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