Trish's slumber party is about to be crashed by creepy neighbors, the new girl next door, horny boys, and a drill-wielding killer in SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, out on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
When her parents go off on a business trip for the weekend, pretty Trish (Michelle Michaels, HERO AND THE TERROR) decides to throw a slumber party with her basketball team chums Kim (Debra De Liso, DR. CALIGARI), Jackie (Andree Honore), and snobby/slutty Diane (Gina Smika Hunter, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER). Not invited to the party is pretty new girl Valerie (Robin Stille, SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA) who lives next door with her kid sister Courtney (Jennifer Meyers). Also uninvited but making an appearance are horndogs Jeff (David Millbern, SORCERESS) and Neil (Joseph Alan Johnson of the slasher video duo ICED and BERSERKER), as well as Diane's lug of a boyfriend John (Jim Boyce, CRIMSON TIDE). The biggest party crasher of all, however, is escaped homicidal maniac Russ Thorn (Michael Villella, WILD ORCHID) who wound up at the high school by stowing away in the van of a comely telephone linewoman (Jean Vargas) and has already done away with pretty Linda (Brinke Stevens, HAUNTING FEAR) who couldn't make the party anyway because she had to study. Soon the power is cut, the phone is dead, kindly creepy snail-hunting neighbor Mr. Contant (Rigg Kennedy, GIRLS ON THE ROAD) is dispatched, the girls and horny boys begin disappearing one-by-one; and their only hope might be neighbor Valerie if Coach Jana (Pamela Roylance, TV's LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) can't get there in time.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is a rare slasher film directed by a woman: Amy Holden-Jones – whose subsequent career has included screenplays for more "feminine" features like MYSTIC PIZZA and LOVE LETTERS, the family-friendly BEETHOVEN, as well as adaptations of INDECENT PROPOSAL and THE RELIC (lest one interpret the remark about her subsequent career as a slight, one has only to listen to the commentary track to hear the flack she received for making this her debut). Phallic readings usually go into slasher film villains' wielding of weapons, but Thorn's drill is pretty blatant and it's quite obvious from a few compositions – including one re-enacted on the poster art as well as the reshot ending – that Holden-Jones knows it and is having great fun with it regardless of the venom directed at the genre. Although there is a sexual component to the killer's dispatching of the female casts, it is actually the murders of the male characters here that are the most graphic; there are some onscreen wounds for the females but the camera lingers longer on men (the killing of one of the males is actually intercut with the screams of a female victim on Valerie's television showing scenes from Joe Dante's HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD which Holden-Jones edited). It's less of a parody than a comic take on the material that manages to be amusing without dissipating the suspense, so we still do care about the survival of the cast (at least the female characters). Although SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE spawned two direct sequels, footage from the film was also used by Corman to illustrate the backstory of Jim Wynorski's SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II rather than footage from that film's 1986 predecessor.
In 2010 (the pre-Scream Factory days), Shout! released all three SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE films in a two-disc set as part of the "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line with anamorphic transfers of the first two films and a fullscreen transfer of the third along with extras for all three films. So far, Scream Factory has only upgraded the first film to Blu-ray in a new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 encode mastered from the original camera negative. I haven't seen the older transfer, but the Blu-ray has a very "theatrical" feel about it with a clean colorful image and a haze of grain evident in the darker areas of the frame without being overwhelming. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track isn't particularly bold apart from the Casio score, screaming, and the killer's drill. The optional English subtitles (which I assume was not on the DVD) could have used some proofing with a spelling error here and there.
Carried over from the DVD set is a highly listenable audio commentary with director Amy Holden-Jones, actors Debra De Liso and Michael Villella, and moderator/franchise fan Tony Brown. Despite addressing the flack she took for making her directorial debut with a slasher film, Holden-Jones is very forthcoming about her association with Corman (via Martin Scorsese for whom she had worked on TAXI DRIVER), the changes she made to the shelved screenplay "Don't Open the Door" by feminist author Rita Mae Brown, her conservative filming choices she made as a first time director, her affection for the cast, fulfilling the slasher conventions (including the nudity), and concessions as to what does not work in the film. Villella talks about his acting choices here, basing his movements on those of a peacock, and his interpretation of the killer's motives and the use of the phallic drill. De Liso is a bit squeamish about her nudity, but fondly recalls the shoot and her reactions to the first screening (as well as anecdotes about her USC students' reactions to her character bringing Maui Wowie to the party). De Liso has remained friends with co-star Johnson and mentions that he wrote her a part in ICED as well as mentioning that he went to Italy to make a few films (Lucio Fulci's dire GHOSTS OF SODOM and Umberto Lenzi's HOUSE OF LOST SOULS, the latter being one of two Lenzi entries in the "House of Doom" TV series that also included two Fulci entries). Brinke Stevens also briefly pops in during her death scene. The commentary is held together by moderator Tony Brown, extreme fan and historian of the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE and SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE films who supplies trivia, asks questions about cut scenes, and provides background on the actors including the late Stille (as well as those who have disappeared from the business or are ashamed of the film).
The Blu-ray also carries over the documentary "Sleepless Nights" by Jason Paul Collum (SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS) but it only runs twenty-three minutes as opposed to the fifty-eight minute version from the DVD set because this version focuses only on the first film rather than the trilogy (although it still features some early input from a couple sequel participants). Holden-Jones recalls dusting off the shelved Rita Mae Brown screenplay and shooting and editing the prologue as an audition for Corman (Joe Dante provided her with Pino Donaggio THE HOWLING temp tracks). De Liso, Villella, and Brinke Stevens also appear and express their surprise that the film has such a cult following and that they still have fans (under the end credits De Liso recalls the first time her daughter saw the film after all of her friends had told her about it). The Blu-ray adds a new interview with actor Rigg Kennedy (13:21) who vaguely recalls details of the plot and the shoot, but he does mention appearing in a Linda Ronstadt music video with Brinke Stevens. He also regrets being billed as "Ryan Kennedy" for the film since he learned that Quentin Tarantino likes the film. The latter half of the interview is actually an avant-garde performance of one of his poems. The disc also includes the film's amusingly-narrated theatrical trailer (1:58), a stills gallery, and trailers for the two sequels. (Eric Cotenas)
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