The Body Count films became a staple of the cineplex in the ‘70s and ‘80s. No place was safe from a mass murderer wielding a machete, chainsaw, ice picks or a glove with knife fingers. Kids found themselves being massacred at summer camps, high school proms and small Texas towns. Roger Corman wasn’t going be left out of the teen slaughter genre. Film critics often refer to these movies as misogynistic for the glee which the male director takes in snuffing teen girls. Roger did the smart move by having women writing and directing his trilogy. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: The Slumber Party Massacre Collection brings a feminine mystique to psycho killer cinema.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982 – 76 minutes) starts the body count out fast. Without much delay, the ordinary life of teens is shattered. A woman working on the phone lines at a high school gets pulled into her van. Her screams go unnoticed by boys too focused on their lame conversation. Inside the van, the killer claims his first victim using her huge drill. Not to get too bogged down on blood, the action shifts to the high school’s girls basketball team in the shower room. It is here that the slumber party plan is revealed. The guy from the van turns out to be Russ Thorn (Michael Villella), a recent escapee from prison. He’s not looking to keep a low profile as he terrorizes the teens with his drill. The boys seem to get die from being clueless. Thorn is relentless. There’s little comically about his attack. He’s not trying to be a cute character with a prop. He’s Norman Bates scary.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987 – 76 minutes) brings an ‘80s rocker vibe to the blood bath. Courtney Bates (Crystal Bernard) is supposed to be the related to of the girls from the first film. She’s haunted by nightmares of her sister’s fate. But this is not a sad sack tale. She’s part of an all girls band. They’re ready to party at a condo far from her mother’s eyes. There’s talk of wine coolers. She dreams of demonic rocker (Atanas Ilitch) that looks like an opening act for Billy Idol. He wields an electric guitar topped off with a giant drill. This metal drill is the ultimate connection to the original. She thinks this is only a bad dream. With no real answer; the rocker steps into reality and hunts down the folks at the party. This is an amazing artifact of the ‘80s with the hair, fashions and tunes. It’s demonic vision of a John Hughes film.
Slumber Party Massacre III (1990 – 87 minutes) changes up the formula by not identifying the killer. There’s plenty of suspects as the mysterious driller killer returns. Once more a group of girls have a fun slumber party when someone’s parents go away for the night. There’s plenty of creepy guys lurking around the house including the boyfriends eager to see the girls in their nighties. The girls get wild dancing to music and stripping down to the beat. Eventually they make the shocking surprise that an uninvited guest snuck inside. While sometimes a murdering movie series gets boring, SPM III keeps up the mayhem without being merely another trace the original entry in the series.
The Slumber Party Massacre Collection deserves to be enjoyed like the numerous splatter-fests of its time. The films don’t over complicate themselves with explanations of the killers. Ultimately these films are about chills and blood spills. There’s a little focus on what girls like to do when they don’t think the boys are around. These films aren’t trying to be art house charmers. It is strange to think that each film had women calling the shots.
The video for all three films is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers look good for low budget slasher flicks. You’ll get a nice detail of the props they used for the mayhem. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The mix kinda reflects the budget. There’s nothing too delicate about the mix. Mostly it’s all about screams and drill shrieks.
Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre (60:40) opens with an excited teen boy on Christmas morning unwrapping the VHS of Slumber Party Massacre. While this could be staged, we meet this boy later in life in his role as historian of the film series. All the directors appear to discuss how they got involved with the driller killer. Many of them didn’t know Roger was renaming their film to be part of The Slumber Party Massacre. The first film was supposed to be Sleepless Nights. Director Amy Holden Jones gave up a chance to direct E.T. to helm her first film. While it sounds insane, it’s a risk you have to take. She went on to write the scripts for Mystic Pizza, Indecent Proposal and Beethoven. She directed Maid to Order. All the directors touch upon keeping the budget low.
Still Gallery includes plenty of pics from the set and the numerous VHS boxes. There’s an section dedicated to the poster shoot for SPM II. There’s so many ways to hold a drill guitar around three women in their underwear.
Commentary with Cast and Crew are on all three films. SPM gives us director Amy Jones, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso, and Brink Stevens. SPM II lets director Deborah Brock, Don Daniel, and Juliette Cummins remember the most dangerous guitar ever strummed. Shame that Crystal Bernard couldn’t make it down to remember her timeSPM III gathers up director Sally Mattison with Hope Marie Carlton and Brandi Burkette.
Trailers (5:01) for all three films.
The Slumber Party Massacre Collection brings together three drilling spectacles in a deluxe edition. Each of these low budget films has a goofy charm seeping up from the extreme gore. This trilogy deserves to be appreciated like the numerous body count films from its era. The numerous bonus features will put a Christmas morning smile on anyone that owned the VHS all those years ago. SPM didn’t have the cute killer that inspired Halloween fashions, but you’ll never walk by a drill display at the hardware store without breaking into a sweat. The price is right if you’re eager for a marathon Halloween fright festival.
Shout! Factory presents The Slumber Party Massacre Collection. Directed by: Amy Jones, Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison. Starring: Crystal Bernard, Michael Villella, Brinke Stevens, Atanas Ilitch, Yan Birch and Brandi Burkett. Boxset Contents: 3 Movies on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: October 4, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.