Four films into the Roger Corman-produced “Massacre” collection & I feel like my efforts have finally payed off in a significant way. Sorority House Massacre was a delightfully dreamlike slasher, but it was cheap & derivative in a way that kept it from achieving anything too special. The Slumber Party Massacre was a by-the-numbers genre exercise with brief flashes of feminist-bent satire that were exciting, but mostly lost somewhere in their translation from script to screen. Sorority House Massacre II bridged the two properties, mixing & confusing the plots of the two original features to the point where no sense could be made of their central mythology (which, I assure you, was never intended to be shared). Slumber Party Massacre II, thankfully, brings a sense of purpose & unique charm to the (very loosely connected, if connected at all) Massacre franchise. It’s the first film of the series I’ve seen that felt like something truly special, the exact kind of bonkers midnight monster schlock that’s so mindlessly trashy & gratuitous that it approaches high art.
Courtney, the younger sister of one of the few nubile survivors of the original Slumber Party Massacre, ditches visiting her traumatized sibling in the hospital (“But Mom! It’s my birthday! I don’t wanna go to a mental hospital!”) in order to practice for The Big Dance with her all-girl New Wave garage band an at unsupervised (and unfurnished) condo. Of course, a group of goofball boys crash the party in order to make out & cause mischief. Despite warnings from her sister (who speaks to her through nightmares) to not “go all the way”, Courtney does the deed with the hunkiest of the bonehead beaus anyway, an act that releases a killer sex demon bent on killing everyone in the condo (seriously). Before having sex, Courtney falls into a routine of seeing nightmare images that recall the loopy flashbacks I enjoyed so much in Sorority House Massacre, but pushed to a much goofier extreme (severed hand sandwiches, killer raw chicken, a mutant zit spewing a river of puss, etc.) only to have everything snap back to normal when she calls for help. Her buddy/drummer asks, “Are you on drugs or something?” and Courtney responds with a perfect, gravely serious deadpan, “I wish I was, Sally.” It isn’t until after she has sex that these horrors become “real” & Slumber Party Massacre II devolves into supernatural horror/screwball comedy antics.
Slumber Party Massacre II gets everything right on its approach to slasher-driven mayhem. The origins & specifics of its killer rock n’ roll sex demon are just flat out ignored. All you know, really, is that he kinda looks like Andrew Dice Clay (although I’m sure they were aiming for Elvis) with a Dracula collar on his leather jacket & a gigantic power drill extending from the neck of his electric guitar (or “axe” in 80s speak). He mercilessly disembowels & impales teen victims on his monstrously phallic weapon/musical instrument all while shredding hot licks & doling out generic rock ‘n roll phrases like “This is dedicated to the one I love” & “C’mon baby, light my fire” before each kill. The best part is that this irreverent killer antagonist, although supernatural & unexplained, feels clearly purposeful. He not only plays directly into the slasher genres teen sex = instant death trope in a hilariously exaggerated way, he also stands as a perfect fit for the film’s overall aesthetic of a dirt cheap MTV relic. The film’s nightmare sequences & playful girlishness intentionally mimic/mock cheap music videos (right down to the smoke machine & bare bones sets) so it makes perfect sense that the killer would be a rock video knockoff with a phallic guitar murder weapon. Early in the film the girl band dreams of big success in ambitious statements like “Some day we’re going to be in movies & rock videos & everything,” and “MTV here we come!” What they didn’t expect is that MTV would come to them, wielding a gigantic power drill & an endless abundance of cheesy rock ‘n roll one-liners. All this & the camera taking the POV of a television while the girls watch the sister-Corman production (and flawless masterpiece) Rock ‘N Roll High School & dance around the living room in their undies (or less).
There are isolated moments that made the three Massacre films I had watched prior feel occasionally worthwhile, but Slumber Party Massacre II puts them all to shame. Written & directed by Deborah Brock, Slumber Party Massacre II includes everything recommendable in the earlier films, only pushed to their most exaggerated extremes. Its kills are bloodier. Its self-parody is funnier. Its nudity is more enticing. Its characters & dialogue, although awful, are far from memorable. I even have favorite characters in this film (a power couple of the impossibly attractive/horny Sheila & the perfect cad/Adam DeVine prototype T.J.) when I couldn’t name you a single character in any of the Massacre films I had watched before. So far in this franchise I’ve been championing Sorority House Massacre as a favorite due to its surprisingly strong femininity (for a slasher, anyway) & loopy dream/deja vu imagery. Slumber Party Massacre II outdoes it on both counts. The music video nightmare imagery is far more plentiful/bizarre than anything to be found in Sorority House Massacre & its mock sexiness (although it mimics male masturbation fantasies like pillow fights & car washes for a comical effect; at one point some male lookers-on exclaim “I didn’t know girls really did this stuff!”) is far more playfully feminine in an authentically girly way. It even achieves all this without airlifting its killer from John Carpenter’s Halloween with little to no changes in his backstory the way Sorority House Massacre does, opting instead to bother creating its own monster to terrorize its buxom, half-dressed teens (R.I.P. Sheila). Barring the highly unlikely event that Slumber Party Massacre 3 is an even better turn for the franchise it feels safe to say that this film is the most worth tracking down under the “Massacre” imprint. More importantly, it’s one of the most deliriously fun VHS era slashers I’ve ever seen, within or without the franchise. I highly recommend checking it out no matter how much you care about the “Massacre” films as an enterprise.
– Brandon Ledet