Not every 80s slasher became a big franchise like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Some one-off’s, like Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, and The House on Sorority Row, found new audiences during the 2000s remake craze. Other slashers lingered in obscurity with their small but devoted fanbases. Few slashers better embody the grimy, DIY aesthetics of 80s horror quite like The Slumber Party Massacre. Anyone who strolled a video store aisle in the 1980s may remember its lurid (and very phallic-inspired) VHS cover. Outside of teen boy sleepovers, The Slumber Party Massacre was a minor entry in the subgenre. And it missed out on the initial remake wave. But someone has finally dusted this anachronistic thriller off for a modern re-imagining.
Both movies follow roughly the same formula. Depraved serial Russ Thorne escapes a psychiatric facility to stalk and kill nubile young high school girls having a slumber party.
Slumber Party Massacre (1982) Embodies Early 80s Exploitation
As the story goes, The Slumber Party Massacre’s writer, feminist Rita Mae Brown, originally intended the movie to be a parody of slashers. Clearly, something was lost in translation. What horror fans got was an ultra-cheap, grimy horror movie with plenty of exploitative violence and nudity. Whether it was intentional or not, Russ Thorne’s drill also provides plenty of phallic parallels. Nonetheless, The Slumber Party Massacre gives you exactly what it promises. Director Amy Holden Jones wastes no time with set-up and only the barest amount of character introduction. Just a few scant minutes into the movie and the drilling and killing commences.
…The Slumber Party Massacre gives you exactly what it promises.
In spite of its cheap production values and barebones approach, Jones knows how to pour on the slasher gore and suspense. While you may occasionally snicker, The Slumber Party Massacre finds something of a creepy midnight movie vibe in its third act. One scene involving Russ Thorne creeping through a window actually evokes a bit of suspense. Maybe the parody didn’t make it into this movie. Nevertheless, most of the characters are surprisingly likeable. The Final Girls also possess a little more depth than expected. If it’s not a classic, The Slumber Party Massacre is vintage exploitation fare.
Slumber Party Massacre (2021) Remake a Surprisingly Fun Update
For its first 10 minutes or so, Slumber Party Massacre takes a page from the 2009 Friday the 13th remake, opting to re-tell the original’s story in its opening scene. But with much less package with which to work, this creative decision allows director Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits Movie) and writer Suzanne Keilly to take their story in a new direction. This time around The Slumber Party Massacre finds the satire in the story originally intended by Brown. Though its characters initially play like slasher tropes, Esterhazy and Keilly subvert audience expectations much sooner than expected. At a trim 86 minutes, this still leaves plenty of time for a few more surprises.
Not all the humor works. But its mostly on point.
Much of this time is spent poking fun at the original’s misogynistic and often phallic-inspired driller violent. In addition, Esterhazy’s flipping of the male gaze as she sexualizes the boys’ slumber party taps into the movie’s more parody-inspired elements. Not all the humor works. But it’s mostly on point. And The Slumber Party Massacre doesn’t forget to include a handful of decent, gory (albeit CGI-rendered) deaths. If the humor feels like its getting old, Esterhazy finds her footing again in the movie’s final act. Most importantly, The Slumber Party Massacre never loses focus of telling the story about the commitment and friendship shared by its female characters. Like the 2019 Black Christmas remake and Halloween 2018, this is a story about women surviving.
The Slumber Party Massacre The Rare Case of a Worthwhile Remake
If you’re going to remake an old horror movie, this is how you do it. Cult classic or obscure slasher, no one was ever going to confuse the original Slumber Party Massacre as a good movie. Even if the remake falls a bit short in some regards, Esterhazy and Keilly find the originally subversive spirit in Brown’s story. While it pokes fun at the original, Slumber Party Massacre mostly balances its humor and homage with strong characters, good performances, and fun horror. Arguably, The Slumber Party Massacre didn’t need a remake, but here’s the rare case where the effort was worthwhile.