Released in 1982, the original Slumber Party Massacre is one of the iconic titles in the long list of slasher films that decade gave us. One of the few films with a female writer, Rita Mae Brown, and director, Amy Jones, it managed to poke fun at the genre’s more sexist elements while still being an effective film.
Now, almost forty years later two new women, director Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16, The Banana Splits Movie) and writer Suzanne Keilly (Leprechaun Returns, Killer High) have delivered an updated version. This brings up the usual question, can it compare to the original?
Slumber Party Massacre opens in 1993 with, you guessed it, a massacre at a slumber party. Driller Killer, Russ Thorne (Rob van Vuuren, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell) crashes a graduation celebration at a lakeside cabin in Holly Springs leaving only one survivor.
In the present, her daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera, Spell) is heading out to party with her friends Breanie (Alex McGregor, Blood Drive), Ashley (Reze-Tiana Wessels), Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas, Order of the Dragon). And a stowaway, Alix (Mila Rayne) Maeve’s younger sister. When they run into car trouble they find themselves spending the night in a lakeside cabin in Holly Springs.
Esterhazy and Keilly keep to the basic slasher formula for the first act, the many years ago prologue, car trouble, creepy locals, etc. But, after Alix discovers a fresh corpse with its eyes drilled out the film takes an unexpected turn that I won’t spoil.
I will tell you however that there’s another cabin on the lake, and a group of guys are partying in it. Which lets the film flip a lot of the genre’s tropes. This will be particularly pleasing to those who would rather see guys having shirtless pillow fights. And infuriating to those who get upset over the ladies being better than the men at taking on the killer. Though I doubt many of them will watch this anyway.
The result is not so much an actual remake as an updated sequel. They could have as easily called this Slumber Party Massacre IV and it would have fit right in with the franchise. Like The Town That Dreaded Sundown, it shares a title and inspiration with the original but is clearly its own film. It may not be as meta as The Town That Dreaded Sundown beginning with a showing of the original film, but the nod to Slumber Party Massacre II’s killer guitar was an inspired link back to the originals.
However you want to look at it, Slumber Party Massacre is an energetic and reasonably bloody slasher that takes inspiration from not just the other films in the franchise but Friday the 13th, Madman, the original Toolbox Murders and even Nail Gun Massacre. It’s a fun, genre-literate film. It may have a message but it doesn’t take it, or the film itself, too seriously.
Slumber Party Massacre was filmed in South Africa like many films from SyFy, The Asylum and Warner’s Home Entertainment. There’s a lot of talented technicians and performers there but, as is the case here, it frequently fails to be convincing when they try to pass it off as anywhere in North America. This isn’t as bad as the whitened sand dunes being passed off as snowbanks in Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, but it is noticeable in several shots. Still, that’s a fairly small complaint about a film that could have been an absolute trainwreck.
Slumber Party Massacre is available via SyFy’s website and in Canada on the streaming service Crave. Shout Factory! Was involved with the production so it’s probably safe to say there will eventually be a DVD and Blu-Ray release.