The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 22

by Jovial Jay

No one is getting any sleep tonight!

The Slumber Party Massacre is not just another in a long line of slasher murder films, but a sly feminist take on the entire genre. It also includes all the trappings of slasher movies, should you be looking for that as well.

Before Viewing

Below is a trailer worthy of the title, The Slumber Party Massacre. Presented tongue in cheek with dark humor, the narration, taken alone would sound like a film about an actual slumber party. What is shown is the gory and murderous ways people are killed. The body count looks high in this suburban slasher film.

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Slumber Party Massacre title card.

After Viewing

In the quiet, suburban community of Venice, California, a mass murderer has escaped. Oblivious to this fact is high school senior Trish (Michelle Michaels) who’s parents are going away for the weekend and decides to have some of her girlfriends over for a slumber party. At school, Trish and a number of girls shower up after the basketball game gossiping about the new girl Valerie (Robin Stille). As the group leaves campus, Linda (Brinke Stevens) realizes she’s forgotten a book and returns to the locker room. No one notices the dead, female telephone worker in the dumpster as they pass by. Linda is attacked, stalked, and eventually killed by a man with a long drill–Russ Thorn (Michael Villella), the aforementioned serial killer.

While readying for her friends to arrive Trish is startled by neighbor Mr. Contant (Rigg Kennedy) who has been asked to check on Trish by her parents. He leaves once Jackie (Andree Honore) and Kim (Debra De Liso) arrive, with beer and pot, of course. Two classmates Jeff (David Millbern) and Neil (Joseph Alan Johnson) stop by and really want to scare the girls, but catch them in the middle of changing into their nightgowns. Diane (Gina Mari) arrives last, startling all the girls. Valerie, who lives next door, spends the night with her kid sister Courtney (Jennifer Meyers) trying to ignore that there’s a party going on. She was invited but since Diane doesn’t like her she’d rather stay home and watch movies and do homework. Diane steps out to get firewood and is surprised by Mr. Contant who is hunting snails with a cleaver.  When Diane leaves he becomes the third victim of the killer with the drill.

The girls are again startled when the lights go out, but it’s just Jeff and Neil being jerks. Russ hides in the garage, waiting for one of the girls to venture through. Something keeps knocking over Valerie’s trash can out back and when she goes to investigate she is shocked by Courtney trying to scare her with a knife. Diane has invited her boyfriend, John (Jim Boyce), over and has him park his car in the dark garage. After telling Trish she’s going to get beer she returns to find John decapitated before she is drilled to death.

The Slumber Party Massacre

The gang is all here. Linda, Kim, Jackie, Jeff, Neil, Diane and Trish walk right past the first of the killers victims in a dumpster.

A pizza that was ordered arrives while Trish is on the phone with their basketball coach, Rachael (Pamela Roylance). When they ask the delivery guy “the damage” through the door he replies, “six, so far.” Opening the door, a dead pizza delivery guy falls inside the house, having been drilled through both eyes. They call the cops but the line is cut so Jeff and Neil decide to make a run for it out separate doors. Jeff finds Diane’s body in the garage and is immediately killed, while Neil makes it to Valerie’s house. Unfortunately she can’t hear his cries for help over the scary movie she’s watching. He is killed and carted away.

Courtney wants to join the party and heads next door so Valerie follows her. Hearing the neighbor girls knock, Jackie opens the front door and has her throat slashed by the killer. Trish and Kim take refuge in her bedroom but are soon attacked by the killer coming in through the window. Unable to open the door fast enough, Kim is stabbed to death. Trish hides in her parents closet. Valerie and Courtney hear sounds and come in to investigate. When the younger girl opens the fridge to see what beer they might have, Kim’s dead body slumps out.

The killer removes the dead pizza boy’s body and hides under a blanket when Coach Rachel comes in to check on the girls. She pulls the blanket back and is attacked by Russ. Trish races in to stab him, but he manages to use his drill to kill the Coach. He chases Trish outside but Valerie comes to the rescue with a machete she found in the basement, breaking the drill bit with it. She cuts off one of his hands and stabs him so he falls into the pool. Of course, he comes back for her one last time, but as he falls on top of her she points the machete at him. Trish, Valerie, and Courtney all breathe a sigh of relief.

You’re pretty. All of you are very pretty. I love you. It takes a lot of love for a person to… do this. You know you want it. You’ll like it.” – Russ Thorn

The Slumber Party Massacre

Neil and Jeff get their jollies watching the girls disrobe. What is this, “Porky’s?”

When you think of massacres, you’ve got your Texas Chain Saw, your Sorority House, and your The Slumber Party Massacre, which as my friend put it is not called “Slumber Party One Guy Died.” It’s a solid death blitz massacre! And as a slasher film it works on two levels. Primarily it’s a film about young co-eds (specifically high schoolers in this context) getting murdered with wanton abandon by an escaped maniac. In that sense it’s not different from Halloween or Friday the 13th. But there’s another side to the film, which is a little tougher to decode, and that is its reading as a feminist horror film.

The Slumber Party Massacre was the first film for writer Rita Mae Brown and director Amy Holden Jones. The fact that this exploitative horror film from 1982 was both written and directed by women ought to give the first clue about its point of view. Apparently Brown wrote the film intending it to be a parody of the genre, but when Roger Corman’s New World Pictures got a hold of it they decided they wanted it filmed as a serious horror film. Jones has said of her role in the gore and nudity of the film, “that’s what Roger Corman, the producer wanted, and that’s how it’s done, you give the studio what they want.”

The Slumber Party Massacre

The creepy driller killer Russ Thorn prepares to drill his next victim.

While it doesn’t play to the same wry wit as The Howling does, or play itself for satirical laughs like Dead Alive, The Slumber Party Massacre still exhibits unintentional laughs. The obvious moment is Courtney opening and closing the refrigerator door with Kim’s body threatening to fall out, eventually slumping to the ground in a goofy pose. It’s absurd and disturbing all at the same time. The film also appears to be more of an 80s soft-core porno than a horror film for at least the first half of the film. None of the female basketball players wear bras, bouncing the basketball across the court. Then an extended shower scene has the camera drifting in a voyeuristic way all over the nude female bodies, panning from buttocks to breast. And then the two nerdy boys, Jeff and Neil, ogling the girls as they change into their night clothes is part perverted sex comedy, and part stalker movie. It is my contention that these lingering looks were created purposefully by the female director to satisfy (possibly over-satisfy) her requirement to the studio in hopes they would overlook the following elements.

The escaped killer, Russ Thorn, uses an oversized drill as his preferred weapon of choice. A long, phallic representation of a drill. Seven of his eleven victims are women, which firmly puts him in the heterosexual killer arena. And you know he’s good with his drill by how he handles it. The poster for the film recreates a scene similar to his killing of Diane, in which the camera sees his victim between his legs, with his massive drill pointing downwards. Only later does the new girl in town, Valerie, who doesn’t go for the bitchy gossip, or the banality of slumber parties, use a machete (the weapon of a real killer) to castrate the killer; breaking his drill and removing his right hand (the hand that he uses to hold his “drill”). She then further penetrates him with her blade as he attempts to fall onto her in a role reversal. Thorn is then deflowered by the woman he was attempting to kill. But not to worry, he’s coming back in the sequel.

Overall, The Slumber Party Massacre should satisfy any fan of slasher films with twelve killings. It starts off slow, with quite a few fake-outs and fake jump scares but at only 76 minutes things take off soon enough.

The Slumber Party Massacre

Valerie and Courtney discover Kim’s body stuffed inside the fridge. Where did all the shelves go?

Assorted Musings

  • The first student victim of the killer, Brinke Stevens, is a famous B-movie scream queen with over 140 credits to her name. This was her first credited role in a film.
  • There are two sequels to this film, in 1987 and 1990, neither of which have any cast crossover. The second film follows Courtney, the younger sister in this film when the killer comes for her.
  • The film being watched by Valerie is a 1976 low-budget thriller, called Hollywood Boulevard. It was produced by Roger Corman and was Joe Dante’s first directing job.

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