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Director: Amy Holden Jones
Cast: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, and Michael Villella
Length: 77 min
Label: Shout Factory
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD
- New HD Transfer From The Original Camera Negative
- New interview with actor Rigg Kennedy
- Documentary: Sleepless Nights: The Making Of The Slumber Party Massacre
- Audio Commentary with Director Amy Holden Jones and Actors Michael Villela and Debra De Liso
- Original theatrical trailer
With the tagline, “You bring the pizza… I’ll bring the drill,” it’s obvious that Scream Factory’s latest Blu-ray is geared towards fans of campy ‘80s horror films that feature an equal amount of gore, scares, laughs, T&A, and bad dialogue. Cult favorite The Slumber Party Massacre has all of these in equal measure and intentionally straddles the line between run-of-the-mill slasher and an intentional spoof on the genre.
No one on the local girls’ high school basketball team is safe when a murderer (Michael Villella) escapes from the local prison. The killer, with a penchant for power tools, begins tracking the girls to their school and slaughtering them. That weekend, 18-year old Trish (Michele Michaels), decides to have a sleepover while her parents are out of town. All of the girls on the basketball team show up, except for newcomer Valerie (Robin Stille), who, envied by the girls, is not invited. Unfortunately, the killer crashes the girls’ pajama party just as the pizza delivery guy arrives and they must beg for Valerie’s help in order to survive the night.
Fun, but ultimately forgettable, The Slumber Party Massacre has a number of enjoyable satirical elements that would have made the film feel like a black comedy if they had just been pushed a bit further. But this was produced by Roger Corman for New World Pictures, so instead it become more like a conventional slasher film, almost indistinguishable from others made during this period, except for a few standout scenes and an almost ludicrous amount of topless teens. The focus on female body parts is a bit absurd; including a topless shower scene that’s so long it’s almost boring.
Slumber Party Massacre’s only real claim to fame is that it’s allegedly a “feminist” slasher film. It was directed by a woman – Amy Holden, writer of Mystic Pizza (1988), Beethoven (1992), and The Relic (1997) – and written by feminist icon Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle). Despite this, nearly all the victims are high school girls, which the camera spends an inordinate amount of time setting up as sexual objects. The film, outside of the typical Final Girl plot device, doesn’t do much to make it female-centric in any way. There are a few unusual female side characters – such as an electrician or repairwoman – but they remain the only nod to female liberation.Not that it does a lot of favors for the male characters either. They basically all wind up dead, from the pizza boy to two high school perverts that follow the girls around. The murderer, reliant on drills and other tools, is barely a character. His identity is not kept secret, but is revealed early in the plot. The film seems more interested in running through every existing slasher cliché than it does developing his character. In general, there are too many characters and no well-developed protagonists, making the characters feel like mere slasher fodder.
Robin Stille (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama) emerges as the strongest actor in the film, having the least amount of absurd dialogue. The fact that she’s ostracized from the other girls for most of the film is an interesting element, though she conveniently lives across the street from the party and is obliged to help them. In addition to Stille, there are a number of familiar faces from ‘80s genre movies, including: Michele Michaels (Death Wish 4), Gina Mari (The Sword and the Sorcerer), David Millbern (Sorceress), and Brinke Stevens (Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity) in her first speaking role.
The Slumber Party Massacre does have some stand out scenes, including a humorous moment where one of the girls at the sleepover uses a dead body as the resting place for a fresh box of pizza. While the gore isn’t excessive, or particularly well done, there is a high body count, almost a dozen corpses by the film’s conclusion.
The new HD transfer is taken from the original negative and is presented in 1080p HD with an aspect ratio of 1.78.1. The image is clearer than the original DVD release, though it’s far from perfect. In Shout Factory style, there is minimal digital noise reduction, leaving a fair amount of the film’s original grain. Despite the grain, the detail is sharp. Some of the dark scenes appear muddy, but the colors and contrast remain seemingly intact. The viewer is presented with an accurate depiction of the low-budget look the film was aiming for.
The lossless DTS-HS Master track, presented in mono, is nothing special, but sounds perfectly fine. Dialogue and sound effects are both clear, though not particularly robust. There’s no hissing or distortion and it seems well balanced. English subtitles are included.
There are a number of special features included, though overall they are fairly disappointing. Oddly, the original documentary, Sleepless Nights: The Making of Slumber Party Massacre, is pared down to a third of its running time (from an hour to roughly 20 minutes). Removing references to sequels Massacre II and III, the documentary only includes material about the first film. There’s an audio commentary track with director Amy Holden Jones and actors Michael Villella and Debra Del Liso, a feature that was transferred over from the original DVD release. Finally, the actor Rigg Kennedy offers his views in a 13-minute interview, even accompanied by performance art, which may please or disturb fans. Also included is an impressive stills gallery and trailers for all three films in the series.
The Bottom Line:
Thanks to the improved transfer from Scream Factory’s, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth picking up for Slumber Party Massacre fanatics, or for slasher completists. For genre fans that have never been introduced to The Slumber Party Massacre, this is an ideal place to start. It does seem to be one of those hit-or-miss films for genre fans, but it certainly has a sizable enough cult following. Hopefully, Scream Factory will be encouraged by the response to release the rest of the films in the series on restored Blu-ray in the near future.