Since its inception a few years ago, Shudder has done right by horror fans. Its ever-growing catalogue includes horror movies from just about every subgenre imaginable. Moreover, the horror-streaming platform has shown a commitment to a diverse range of original content. While it’s not new per se, Shudder’s recent Austrian slasher import, Party Hard Die Young, likely flew under horror fans’ radars. Over the last decade, foreign slashers like Cold Prey and Lake Bodom have proven that Hollywood doesn’t own the subgenre market. With its young, attractive cast, remote island setting, and rave-soaked visuals, Party Hard Die Young promises a ‘Spring Break’ slasher vibe.
School’s out for Julia and her graduating class. To celebrate the end of high school, they head off to a remote Croatian island for alcohol-soaked raves at X-Jam. During the days, the teens bask on the beach, and at nights, they party into the morning. But Julia’s friends start disappearing one by one. And someone is sending her Snapchat photos of her missing friends with their faces ‘X’d’ out. A masked killer is crashing X-Jam and targeting Julia’s class for something in their past.
Party Hard Die Young a Lukewarm Retro Throwback to Classic Slashers
Party Hard Die Young offers both good and bad news for slasher fans. On the plus side, director Dominik Hartl isn’t interested in making another hip meta-slasher that’s too smart for its own good. Since Scream laid out the rules of horror movies, we’ve seen multiple movies – from Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon to Cabin in the Woods – deconstruct the subgenre. As for bad news, Hartl doesn’t do much new with the slasher either. In fact, Party Hard Die Young would the perfect retro horror movie if it didn’t skimp on some of the slasher ingredients. It all but literally name-checks I Know What You Did Last Summer. Though Robert Buchschwenter and Karin Lomot’s screenplay contemporarizes the 1997 movie’s story, and Hartl dangles the mystery out in such a way to keep you engaged, it’s still an Austrian I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Despite a large cast – including several characters with no connection to ‘past misdeed’ – Party Hard Die Young is a pretty lukewarm slasher.
Yes, some slasher ingredients are here. For instance, there’s the ‘past misdeed’, a few red herrings, and the masked killer. What’s missing is the actual slashing. Don’t go into Party Hard Die Young expecting a body count or creative kills. Despite a large cast – including several characters with no connection to ‘past misdeed’ – Party Hard Die Young is a pretty lukewarm slasher. Hartl’s good with the neon-soaked rave scenes, but struggles to craft much, if any suspense, or jumps. A couple of death scenes are well-executives, if not particularly memorable. But the climax nearly veers into ‘Torture Porn’ territory, albeit with no explicit gore.
Engaging Mystery and Dull Killer Offer Mixed Results
As mentioned above, Party Hard Die Young teases out its mystery quite well. You know it’s not going to be earth-shattering, but it sparks enough curiosity to keep you hooked until the end. Neither the ‘past misdeed’ nor the killer are handled well. In terms of aesthetics, the killer is pretty unremarkable. Even less remarkable is the killer’s reveal. After all the hints and red herrings, the killer’s identify can’t help but feel like a cheat. And Party Hard Die Young’s ‘past misdeed’ is uncomfortable and feels brushed aside by the movie’s conclusion.
After all the hints and red herrings, the killer’s identify can’t help but feel like a cheat.
Amongst the large cast, Party Hard Die Young checks off most of the slasher tropes. There’s a couple of obnoxious ‘dude bro’s’ and a promiscuous blondes. Fortunately, Elisabeth Wabitsch’s ‘Julia’ is an extremely likeable protagonist who’s joined by a handful of other general affable characters. Party Hard Die Young even includes a ‘body positive’ thread though it largely wastes the character in a superfluous role.
Party Hard Die Young a Watchable Straight-Up Slasher Lacking in the Slashing Department
At this point, slasher fans should probably just be relieved that Party Hard Die Young isn’t another ‘meta’ horror movie. With so many of those movies out there, it’s hardly innovative anymore. Of course, this straightforward Austrian slasher doesn’t actually serve up much in the way of slashing. Given the large cast and number peripheral characters, the body count is surprisingly low. And the lack of real scares and bloated runtime don’t help either. Still Party Hard Die Young benefits from good production values, a likeable cast, and an engaging mystery. Nothing here is game-changing, but it’s a watchable horror movie for late-night viewing.