The Films (3.5/5)
I came to discover the horror genre as a child in the late 80's/early 90's. This was in the middle of the slasher film boom, and as such, much of my horror education were relegated to the latest psycho killer in a mask slaughtering sexual promiscuous teenagers type of films. This is fine, I was young and it sort of what I was looking for in the films I rented. My friends and I would devour stacks of films every week, and of course, we did watch the Slumber Party Massacre films. Being that the video stores we went to had limited selections, I came to this series for the first time with the second installment. The cover of which featured a rock guitar player with a drill as a weapon preparing to slaughter a group of slumber partying teenage girls. Needless to say I judged the book by it's cover, and my 13 year old self had a blast.
A few months later while shopping for 9.99 videos (I couldn't afford much else) I stumbled on the first Slumber Party Massacre, remember how much fun the 2nd one was I promptly snatched it up, and bussed home as fast as I could. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but when I watched it that night with my group of friends, I found myself largely disappointed, and I chalked it up to being one of the few cases where the sequel was better than the original. That video collected dust on my shelf for about 8 years, before I gave my VHS collection to a friend. I had amassed quite a large collection of DVD's, and felt that I didn't need the tapes anymore. It wasn't until Shout Factory recently reissued the Slumber Party Massacre films that I had the urge to revisit them. Not only viewing my beloved Slumber Party Massacre 2, but finally reevaluating the first film, and giving a first time viewing to the largely unnoticed Slumber Party Massacre 3. So how do they hold up? Read on to find out
Slumber Party Massacre (4/5)
Allegedly, a satire of slasher film conventions, the first Slumber Party Massacre can also be viewed as the first feminist take on the slasher film genre. It was directed by Amy Holden Jones, and written by notable mytsery author Rita Mae Brown. The film introduces Russ Thorn, an escaped lunatic with a special love for his power drill with 24 inch drill bit. Upon escape Russ decides to stalk the local high school basketball team. As for his reason, there does not appear to be one, but lucky for Russ his job is made easy by the fact that the girls have decided to converge on the home of head cheerleader Trish, whose parents happen to be out of town for the weekend.
One would think that a film being billed as a feminist slasher film, would feature less nudity and more violence. This is not the case here, Slumber Party Massacre offers both in spades. The film is pretty much a mix of bad acting, extreme violence, and gratuitous nudity. The first film provides the template for the rest of the series and the various spinoffs (Sorority House Massacre/Hard to Die).
The first film is definitely the best of the bunch, and the script which was rewritten by Amy Holden Jones from Rita Mae Brown's screenplay (previously called Don't Open the Door) had a lot of satiric humor. This is a film that does not take it's subject all too seriously, and as such makes a very fun film. The film definitely has the look of a low budget slasher film, made by a group of rookie filmmakers, and a cast of inexperienced actors. They make up for it with a good high energy feel, this is not a slow film. It has something to keep you watching every minute of it's short running times (Not one of these 3 films exceeds 90 minutes).
Slumber Party Massacre II (3.5/5)
Slumber Party Massacre II begins 5 years after the events of the film film, and focuses on the main character of that films little sister, Courtney, who is not little any longer. Courtney is played by a young Crystal Bernard (ugh Wings), a girl who decides to take her rock band out to a beach side condo for the weekend and have ,you guessed it, a slumber party! She almost immediately begins to have horrible nightmares about her sister, who has been locked up in an asylum since the end of the first film drove her mad. She then finds that her friends are being stalked, and slashed by the reincarnation of Russ Thorn. This new incarnation of the driller killer in a Doctor Who-esque way is entirely different from the first, this time appearing as a leather wearing rockabilly guitar player, whose drill is built into the head stock of his guitar. He proceeds to kill the girls off one by one using his guitar, while serenading them with his horrible sounding vocals.
Most sequels do not have the appeal of their predecessors due to a bit of the been there, done that feeling. Slumber Party Massacre 2 for the most part tends to avoid it, by taking the most boring looking killer in slasher history, the denim clad Russ Thorn, and turning him into an 80's looking rock star. Sure, the general premise is the same, but the overall feel of the 2 movies could not be more different. The characters are pretty much cardboard one dimensional slasher film victims, and the story is pretty much an excuse to get us from one kill to the next, but really is a good story really needed for a film called Slumber Party Massacre 2. The filmmakers knew exactly what type of film they were getting into with this, and appeared to revel in it.
Slumber Party Massacre III (4.5/5)
OK, so I will admit on a technical level the first Slumber Party Massacre is the best film of the bunch. However, Slumber Party Massacre 3, which I had not seen prior to this DVD release is my favorite of the trilogy. Whereas the 2nd installment tried to go in a slightly different direction, Slumber Party Massacre 3 is essentially a remake of the first film. This film pretty much hits on every slasher movie cliché, and is pretty much actually one big 80's slasher movie cliché. It's the type of film, where you can pretty much create a check list of expectations for a slumber party slasher film, and get everything checked off. It's because of this that I had such a great time with it.
Slumber Party Massacre 3 tells the story of a group of girls, led by Jackie, who after a long day at the beach decide to go back to her house for a slumber party. Her parents are gone for the weekend, so they can go completely wild. It isn't long before their boyfriends begin snooping around, and not long after that the body count begins. As I said this film pretty much hits the same beats as the ones that came before it, however, that does mean it cannot be fun. The film features an abundance of gory death, and gratuitous nudity.
Slumber Party Massacre 3 also features one of the most creative deaths I have seen in a slasher movie. Most of us have seen the electrocution in the bathtub schtick, normally this involves the killer throwing a radio, or some sort of similar object in the tub to electrocute the victim. In this film, the killer uses a giant vibrating dildo, that is plugged into the wall to accomplish the kill. And while I say this film is quite cliché throughout most of it's running time, the film absolutely picks up in the third act when the killer is revealed, and the girls must band together to stop him. This sequence takes the film from absolutely predictable to absolutely bugnuts fucking insane. It was at this moment, I knew that the four star review from Joe Bob Briggs was entirely well earned.
Shout Factory have done their usual fantastic work on this release of the Slumber Party Massacre Collection. The first 2 films are presented in their original 1:78:1 and 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers respectively. The third film is presented in a 1:33:1 full frame transfer, which comes from the best available source. The first 2 films look excellent, black levels are solid, details are strong, and flesh tones are accurate. There is some minor scratching and print damage throughout, but these overall do not take anything away from the fantastic work done here. The third film also for the most part looks good, print damage is there, but once again not really substantial. The black levels are still solid, but some of the darker night scenes do have a bit of film grain.
The audio for all 3 films are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English stereo tracks. The audio is generally good, dialogue is audible throughout, and the music and sound effects are mixed well. There does not appear to be any hissing, distortion, or background noise anywhere on the track. Overall, all 3 films have very good audio tracks.
This set is absolutely packed with extras, and is well worth the price (which is already quite affordable) for the extras themselves. The set kicks off with a 60 minute documentary called Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacre. The disc interviews the directors, cast, and crew of all 3 films. They all have really interesting stories about working on the film, working with Roger Corman, etc. The opening of this documentary featuring a real little boy receiving a VHS tape of the first film during Christmas 1996 is worth the price of admission alone. My wife and I replayed this bit multiple times before even watching the actual documentary, it had both of us in absolute stitches.
All 3 films feature commentary tracks, they are moderated by Tony Brown who runs a Slumber Party Massacre/Sorority House Massacre fan site, and as such has a lot of knowledge of the series, and is able to keep the commentaries flowing at a solid pace. The first film features commentary by director Amy Jones, and actors Michael Villella, and Debra Deliso. The second commentary track features director Deborah Brock, produced Don Daniel, actress Juliette Cummins, and the story editor Beverly Grace. The third film once again features story editor Beverly Grace, this time accompanied by director Sally Mattison, and actresses Brandi Burkett, and Hope Marie Carlton. All 3 commentaries are quite informative, and the participants seem to have a good repertoire with each other. The director's of all 3 films seem to have the most to say in regards to their specific entries. The extras for the Slumber Party Massacre Collections and rounded off by extensive promo/still galleries for all 3 films in the series, and liner notes by DVD Co-Producer/Slumber Party Massacre fanboy Jason Paul Collum.
Going into this release, I did not know what to expect. I was disappointed by my initial viewing of the first film, and had quite enjoyed the second. With this run through of all 3 films I found myself quite enjoying all 3, especially the third entry in the series. The A/V work on this release is absolutely fantastic, and the extras are in depth, interesting, and informative. Overall, this is another superb release from Shout Factory, and an excellent addition to their line of Roger Corman Cult Classics, and comes highly recommended.