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Review: Slumber Party Massacre, The (1982)

Writer: Tanner Barklow


This may be the greatest slasher title ever. With a name like The Slumber Party Massacre, you know what you’re getting into: the girl’s basketball team throws a slumber party for “old time’s sake.” There’s the requisite drinking and drugs, then the kids get massacred by a lunatic. And don’t worry – there’s plenty of skin.

The cover art touts The Slumber Party Massacre “the first slasher written by women, directed by women,” but what would have been more accurate is “written by women, directed by women - produced by men.” Originally titled Sleepless Nights, The Slumber Party Massacre was written by prolific feminist Rita Mae Brown as a parody of the misogynistic slasher genre. The male producers completely disregarded Brown’s feminist overtones and comedy and instead forced director Amy Jones to film it as a straight slasher.

Let me say what needs to be said: Russ Thorn is one of the weakest killers in slasher history. Neither Russ, nor the audience, is given any sort of tragic back-story to feed off of. The only thing we know about him is that he’s a psycho killer who just busted out of the loony bin. That fact is shoved down our throats three or fours times through a lame gag that was a likely remnant of the original Sleepless Nights treatment. A great killer must be wronged by society; Jason was left to drown, Freddy burned to death, Angela was psychologically castrated, Cropsy burned in a prank gone wrong. Thorn is just crazy, which doesn’t work in comparison.

The other problem with the film is Thorn’s physical appearance. We’re shown all of Thorn’s face and body in the first five minutes of the film. If you were expecting a masked killer, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Even a brown paper bag with an angry face drawn on would have been more exciting. Instead we get a killer in tapered stonewash denim – a choice of haberdashery that, while creepy, is anything but scary. But, as the saying goes, “the man makes the clothes.” Unfortunately actor Michael Villella isn’t imposing enough to make his denim tuxedo frightening. With a lack of a hulking frame or horrible rotting wounds, he could pass for a Wal-Mart greeter. A short, graying, middle-aged guy under six feet with a tan that would make George Hamilton cringe has no business playing the killer. Not only does Thorn look and dress like your buddy’s dad, but Amy Jones does nothing to hide that fact. And we don’t just see him, we see him in broad daylight. With a killer as weak as Russ Thorn, he should have been hidden in darkness to preserve some semblance of horror.

To be fair, these problems may have stemmed from the transition from the original script to the produced concept. It’s easy to see that Thorn as a regular joe may have been intended as satire. The same can be said for some of the corny lines and situations. I won’t spoil all of them, but I have to mention the 15 year-old girl – who is the spitting image of Joanie Laurer (female wrestler Chyna) – who casually reads Playgirl magazine as her sister threatens that she told their parents about catching her “jerking off.”

Don’t get me wrong; while I thought Thorn was a shitty killer, The Slumber Party Massacre delivers enough good-badness to make it a classic. Thorn using a giant drill to off theses “young” ladies is brilliant. While it no doubt served as a phallic symbol in Brown’s satirical script, it carries over well for the same reason. The scene where one of the helpless girls gets down on her knees as the drill dangles between Thorn’s legs is definitely one of the more memorable kills in slasher history. Aside from the iconic pose, the drill is used to create a couple other interesting kills. One of the kills is later copied in Scream 2, so keep your eyes peeled.

Early in the film there is one of the most gratuitous nude scenes you’ll ever see. The girls take a group shower that lasts a couple of minutes; plenty of T&A; at one point the camera pans up and down a showering honey. The shower scene segues into a locker room scene with more tits. And since it is a slumber party, after all, there is a titillating scene where the boys watch the girls change into their pajamas causing one of them to remark “I didn’t know girls actually did this.” They don’t, which is why this flick is so mint.



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