The Slumber Party Massacre
The Slumber Party Massacre is a 1982 American slasher film directed by Amy Holden Jones, written by Rita Mae Brown, and starring Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, and Michael Villella. The film follows a high school senior who gathers her friends for a slumber party, unaware that an escaped power drill-wielding killer is loose in the neighborhood.
|The Slumber Party Massacre|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Amy Holden Jones|
|Produced by||Amy Holden Jones|
|Written by||Rita Mae Brown|
|Music by||Ralph Jones|
|Cinematography||Stephen L. Posey|
|Edited by||Wendy Greene Bricmont|
Santa Fe Productions
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
|Box office||$3.6 million|
The film was originally written by Brown as a parody of the slasher genre but was shot as a straightforward horror film instead. As a result, it contains more humor, both intended and unintended, than usual for the genre. The film initially received mixed reviews, but has since developed a cult following.
Two sequels, Slumber Party Massacre II and Slumber Party Massacre III, followed in 1987 and 1990, respectively. It is the first horror franchise in history whose films were directed exclusively by women.
Trish, an 18-year-old high school senior, decides to throw a slumber party while her parents are away. Their neighbor, Mr. Contant, is given the job of checking on the girls. She awakes and gets dressed shortly before going to school.
Meanwhile, Russ Thorn, an escaped mass murderer, kills a telephone repair woman and steals her van. Trish meets up with her friends Kim, Jackie, and Diane. A new girl, Valerie, is invited to the party but refuses to go. After school, another girl, Linda, goes back to retrieve a book but gets locked inside. She is attacked by Russ and hides in the shower room, but he finds out where she is and kills her.
As the party begins, the girls smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, while Valerie babysits her younger sister, Courtney across the street. Two boys from school, Jeff and Neil, arrive and spy on the girls. Russ kills Mr. Contant with his power drill. Courtney begs Valerie to go to the party, but she objects. Diane gets out of the car to ask permission to go with her boyfriend. She comes back to find him decapitated and is murdered herself.
The girls are on the phone with Coach Jana when the pizza guy is shown with his eyes drilled out. The phone lines disconnect and the teens arm themselves with knives as Jeff and Neil run for help, but both boys are killed. Russ gains entry to the house and murders Jackie. Courtney and Valerie go over to the house and find it empty, unaware of the horror that has happened. Trish and Kim barricade themselves in Trish's bedroom. Russ enters through a window and kills Kim as Trish flees.
Upon finding Kim dead, Valerie and Courtney hide from Russ. Coach Jana, having grown concerned over the phone call earlier, arrives but Russ murders her too. Valerie chases him with a machete out the back door. She severs his left hand before slicing his stomach open, and he falls into the swimming pool. Russ emerges and attacks them, but Valerie finally kills him with the machete. Valerie and Trish break down in tears as Courtney looks on in shock and the film ends.
- Michelle Michaels as Trish Devereaux
- Robin Stille as Valerie 'Val' Bates
- Michael Villella as Russ Thorn
- Debra Deliso as Kimberly 'Kim' Clarke
- Andree Honore as Jackie
- Gina Smika as Diane
- Jennifer Meyers as Courtney Bates
- Joseph Alan Johnson as Neil
- David Millbern as Jeff
- Jim Boyce as John Minor
- Pamela Roylance as Coach Rachel Jana
- Brinke Stevens as Linda
- Rigg Kennedy as Mr David Contant
- Jean Vargas as Mary (Telephone Repairwoman)
- Howard Purgason as Mr Devereaux
- Anna Patton as Mrs Annette Devereaux
Author and feminist activist Rita Mae Brown wrote the original screenplay, titled Sleepless Nights, as a parody of the slasher film. Producers repurposed Brown's script to make a "serious" slasher film against her wishes.
Amy Holden Jones, a film editor, wanted to direct and asked Frances Doel for advice. Doel gave Jones a number of scripts. Jones chose the script that would become The Slumber Party Massacre, then going by the title of Don't Open the Door, and decided to film the first three scenes. Her husband, cinematographer Michael Chapman, acquired equipment and film and hired actors from the University of California, Los Angeles, and they shot the scenes at their house over a weekend for $1,000. She showed the result to Roger Corman, who agreed to finance the film. Jones had to turn down a job editing Steven Spielberg's E.T. (1982) as a result. The soundtrack was composed on a Casio MT-30.
Distributed by New World Pictures, the film was screened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in March 1982, and later premiered in Los Angeles on September 10, 1982. It was given a limited release in New York City on November 12, 1982. It grossed over $3,000,000 at the box office on an estimated budget of $220,000.
The Slumber Party Massacre received mixed reviews from critics. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote of the film: "The Slumber Party Massacre is just the usual cavalcade of corpses, all of them dispatched by a maniac who wields a power drill. At the end of the movie, a woman who has miraculously survived the carnage breaks his drill in half. That's feminism for you, and symbolism too." Time Out gave the film a middling review, noting: "Despite the unlikely script credit for Rita Mae Brown, Jones's debut feature is little more than a Halloween clone, reliant on buckets of blood and sudden surprise rather than suspense." David Hinckley of the New York Daily News awarded the film 1.5 stars out of 4, noting that the performances are "uneven," and "the special effects are not special."
Variety's published review, however, praised the film: "Besides its obviously catchy title, Slumber Party Massacre is an entertaining terror thriller, with the switch that distaff filmmakers handle the 'young women in jeopardy' format." Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader also gave the film a positive review, noting its even pacing and direction by Jones. Leonard Klady of the Los Angeles Times also noted the film's pacing, writing in a retrospective that the film boasted a "darkly humorous vision and a breathtaking pace."
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 36% of 14 critics gave the film a positive review; the average ratings is 4.4 out of 10. Despite the critical reception, the film has a large cult following among slasher fans.
The film has been released on DVD three times in North America. The first release came from New Concorde Home Entertainment in September 2000. The company subsequently re-released the film on a double feature DVD alongside Slumber Party Massacre II in July 2003. Both these versions are out of print. On 5 October 2010 Shout! Factory released all three films in the series on a two-disc special edition DVD set.
In the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) re-titled the film The Slumber Party Murders, as the word "massacre" was felt to be too suggestive. In the U.K., it has had two releases on DVD, with both editions containing no special features.
There have been two sequels to the film, Slumber Party Massacre II and Slumber Party Massacre III. Jason Paul Collum directed the documentary Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres (2010).
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