DirectorAmy Holden Jones
Release Date(s)1982 (March 18, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
The Slumber Party Massacre is considered by many to be one of the most enjoyable horror/exploitation movies of its era. It was produced by Roger Corman and released in 1982, during the same decade with an output of cult horror classics that included The Burning, The Prowler and the absolutely insane masterpiece Pieces. The Slumber Party Massacre came along at a time when drive-in horror and home video horror were beginning to co-mingle and kept screens splattered all over the country, both outside and inside people’s home.
But, like a lot of exploitation movies, The Slumber Party Massacre is no mere horror movie. It has more to it than the blood, gore and nudity, of which there is plenty. For starters, it was directed by a woman, Amy Holden Jones (a rarity for this genre), and it seemed to throw some of the conventions out the window. For instance, we know who the killer is right off the bat without any attempt at build up or the need for a plot in which the characters discover who’s killing them off one by one in the final act of the film. It wasn’t anything new, of course, but most slasher movies at the time seemed focused on hiding their killers until the very end. It’s also notable that there are some role reversals in place. Some of the male characters, in particular, could have easily been female characters instead.
It’s also one of the few slasher movies from the 80’s to not have been hacked to pieces in the editing room in an attempt to satisfy the bitter members of the M.P.A.A., who were hot and heavy on the genre around that time (and throughout most of the 80’s). There are heaping amounts of nudity, plenty of blood and gore for gore hounds, and on-screen violence. Nothing is suggested. When the killer takes a drill to someone’s throat, you see it happen, without any cutaways. But don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a perfect horror movie by any means. A lot of the dialogue isn’t very good, there’s a lack of atmosphere at times, and a lot of characteristics about each of the characters in the movie aren’t really paid off. For example, the snobby, prissy girl of this group of teenagers never really gets any comeuppance. In fact, she becomes a bit more sympathetic before her eventual demise. That being said, The Slumber Party Massacre is still very much entertaining, and it doesn’t require this kind of critique to enjoy it. It’s just a fun movie. You can laugh at it for its unintentional (and sometimes intentional) comedy, or if you’re one of the squeamish, just hide in someone’s shirt and get scared by it. Either way, you can’t lose.
For the Scream Factory upgrade of the original Shout! Factory DVD release of the film, the company saw fit to do a brand new transfer. Anyone that has seen this over the years, especially on VHS, knows how dark and muddy it can look at times. Fortunately, this new transfer was not struck in vain. The video presentation is surprisingly strong, with a very solid picture. It still retains its low-budget look, but at the same time you can easily see what a print of the film might have looked like during its original release. The grain structure is very solid, and while the color palette isn’t perfect, I didn’t expect it to be. Blacks are very deep, and both contrast and brightness help bring out the images’ clarity even more. The most troublesome areas of the frame are during the opening credits, which stems from the title cards that were used to make them. All of the dirt and scratches from those overlays are still intact, which I think is wonderful, but it might turn off some viewers who are expecting something a little more “perfect”. The bottom line is that it was shot low budget and it still looks low budget, but with better clarity, and that’s really all I wanted from this release. The same goes for the audio, which is a single English 2.0 DTS-HD track. There isn’t much in the way of dynamic range (apart from the screams, which sometimes seem to leap out of the speakers), but dialogue, score and sound effects are very clear and audible, and don’t overlap each other to the point of things sounding muddled. It’s a fine and suitable track that goes well with the overall presentation, and there are also optional subtitles in English for those who need them.
Shout! Factory’s attitude towards the extras on this release seems to have been “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, in reference to their previous DVD release of the film. Carried over from that release is the audio commentary with director Amy Holden Jones and actors Michael Villella and Debra DeLiso; the Sleepless Nights: The Making of The Slumber Party Massacre documentary; trailers for all three Slumber Party Massacre films; and a still gallery. The sole new extra for this release is an Interview with Rigg Kennedy, which many will find entertaining I’m sure. The only drawback to this release would have been to have had the two sequels as part of the package, but perhaps we’ll see that in a double feature Blu-ray release sometimes down the road.
The Slumber Party Massacre and its two sequels all became cult classics and were all a part of the slasher shuffle of the home video market back in the 80’s, so it’s nice to see these classics get dusted off and given a bit of a spit and polish, especially for a new generation. This Scream Factory release of the film, boasting terrific picture quality and very good extras, is just what you’d expect from a company that’s quickly earning a reputation for being the Criterion of horror movies stateside.
- Tim Salmons