Pillow Party Massacre (2023) Review
We’ve already had The Slumber Party Massacre, The Pyjama Party Massacre, Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre, and even The Cheerleader Sleepover Slaughter and now writer/director Calvin Morie McCarthy (An Amityville Poltergeist, Conjuring: The Beyond) has given us Pillow Party Massacre. Considering the reviews I gave his previous films, I was surprised when the director sent me a screener of Pillow Party Massacre. Being the slasher fan that I am, however, I wasn’t going to question it, just hope for the best.
The film opens at a school dance where, as the last slow song plays, Carter (Sebastian Bjorn, Mutant Vampires from the Planet Neptune, The Last Slay Ride) and Ashley (Savannah Raye Jones, The Blair Witch Legacy, Unknown Heavens) sneak off for some time alone. But it’s a setup and ends up with Ashley getting humiliated. So humiliated, she leaves the dance, and returns with a gun.
Two years later Sam (Laura Welsh, Carnivorous Love, Spunk’s Not Dead), Alana (Jax Kellington, Cross Hollow, Flirting with the Devil), Mikki (Nicolette Pullen, Directed by Evil, Crystal), Miles (Allegra Sweeney, Zombiegeddon, Exorcism in Utero) and Barbra (Chynna Rae Shurts, Metal Lords, A Haunting in Ravenwood) the five girls behind the prank get together to try and resolve their feelings of guilt. But there’s going to be a sixth guest, one with their own agenda.
Despite its present-day setting, Pillow Party Massacre shows its 80s influences right from the start, not just with the title but with the faux eighties songs playing at the dance. In fact, the soundtrack, by a band called Feeding Fingers, is one of the film’s highlights. It has an authentic 80s New Wave feel to it that adds to the overall old-school feel of the film.
McCarthy’s script does a nice job of hitting the notes one would expect from a vintage slasher. There’s a house in the middle of nowhere, the escape of an unnamed inmate from the institution Ashley ended up in, characters saying how much the situation resembles a horror movie, a game of truth or dare, earnest but ineffective law enforcement, etc. And of course, he offers a couple of early kills, including one that manages to reference two of Fulci’s films, to keep the viewer’s interest levels up.
Also, to Pillow Party Massacre’s credit, the kills are mostly done on screen and with practical effects. A few do have digital blood spray though, which looks more obvious than usual next to the makeup work by Chad Buffett and Maddie Goodwin, who previously worked together on Roseblood and the FT13 fan film Vengeance. Also filling the role of cinematographer, McCarthy gets the most out of these scenes, something a lot of modern slashers don’t manage to do. There is however one death, a body split head to crotch with a machete, that feels a bit ridiculous given the killer’s less-than-Jasonesque build.
The killer’s identity is the other thing that viewers may take issue with in Pillow Party Massacre. Unlike in giallos, the identity of the killer in most slashers isn’t hard to guess. But this time it’s a bit too obvious, and many viewers will probably guess who it is even before the leads even get to the house.
Overall though, Pillow Party Massacre has a lot going for it, especially if you’re looking for the genre equivalent of comfort food. You know what you’re getting and it delivers it in an enjoyable, if unsurprising, manner. And kudos to Calvin Morie McCarthy for stepping his game up a lot and delivering a much better film than I was expecting. If he sent me the screener to prove he could make a good film he made his point, hopefully, his films continue to be on this level.