Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

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three star

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The Roger Corman-produced “Massacre” film series, which had its origins in the not-intended-to-be-connected The Slumber Party Massacre & Sorority Party Massacre, is such an intrinsically-1980s franchise that it really had no business extending itself into any other decade. That’s why it sorta makes sense that both films individually enjoyed a last-gasp sequel in 1990, one final return to the well for a dying enterprise. Sorority  House Massacre II was a mess of a generic slasher, one that confused the origin story of its source material to the point where it was downright impossible to tell what, if any, film it was supposed to follow. Released the same year, Slumber Party Massacre III is a run-of-the-mill genre exercise as well; it’s just one with enough sense & clarity to stand as a logical disciple of its predecessors. Honestly, if it weren’t for the deliriously goofy heights that Slumber Party Massacre II took the franchise to, it might’ve even stood as one of the best of the franchise. As is, it’s serviceable.

Is there any need to go into the details of the plot of Slumber Party Massacre III? There’s a pretty solid formula to these things. Teen girls with access to an empty house decide to throw a girls-night slumber party. Horny teen boys attempt to crash the party in hopes of causing sexual mischief. A mysterious killer murders them one at a time, leaving only a few survivors to promise/threaten the potential of a sequel (despite the sequels typically abandoning characters/plot-lines from earlier films anyway). The killer in question is different in all three of the Slumber Party films, but the murderous creeps do all share the same weapon of teen destruction: a massive (& massively phallic) power drill. Throw in some gratuitous nudity & lingerie-clad lounging and you have the basic structure of any & all Slumber Party Massacre films laid out in detail. Slumber Party Massacre II complicated this set-up with some Looney Tunes-level screwball comedy & classic MTV cheese, but the first & third films in the franchise are more or less entirely straightforward. As long as you’re not looking for anything too unique or remarkable in the formula (besides the loaded imagery of that power drill) you’re likely to enjoy Slumber Party Massacre III for what it is: a no-frills VHS-era slasher.

There are a few variations that Slumber Party Massacre III brings to the table, though. The first thing I noticed was that it introduces a lot of exterior space to the equation. The film begins with the girls playing volleyball in high-waisted bikinis on the beach. Once their game is over, they’re trailed, chased, and spied on in a way that recalls a lot of traditional slashers’ mode of terror that was missing in the earlier films, setting up the voyeuristic killer dynamic that will haunt their sleepover party later. The films’ living room dance party/strip tease is nothing new, but the way it’s crashed by a bonehead gang of dudes’ Halloween mask prank is interesting. I’ve also championed this series as a whole for feeling remarkably feminine for a slasher property despite the inherent softcore porn salaciousness of their titles (going along with the franchise’s tradition of female directors this one was helmed by a Sally Mattison), but Slumber Party Massacre III stands as the first & only film in the franchise to reference both cunnilingus & female masturbation. I found that somewhat surprising.

What really makes Slumber Party Massacre III stand out, though, is the way it fully engages with the phallic imagery of its gigantic power drill murder weapon. The drill-wielding killers in the earlier films are escaped mental patients & mystical sex demons who command the phallic power of their murder weapons without much thought given to their reasoning. The killer in Slumber Party Massacre III, as a change of pace, has a legitimate reason for using the drill the way he does. He has access to an uncle’s lumber yard where he would conceivably be able to obtain a drill of that size. He also suffers from an embarrassing case of early onset impotence which makes the meaning behind the giant drill kills all the more disturbing (especially in a gruesome, climactic seduction/murder). The kills are also more sexualized in order to play into this theme, including an early murder in which the maniac moves the drill back & forth into his victim rhythmically (Gross.) and in a hilarious death involving a bathtub & a plug-in vibrator.

As potent as those predatory sexuality themes are in Slumber Party Massacre III, the movie is, of course, a largely goofy trifle. There’s plenty of campy touches to the film’s proceedings. A dressed-in-black D&D nerd described only as “the weirdo” shows up only to be creepy & promptly disappear unexplained along with at least one other potential-but-not-actual killer. When the girls arrive to party at the house, they bring along one six pack of beer to split between them that seems to last forever. The cans read “Beer” in plain letters, just like their brandless pizza box reads “Pizza”. One particularly buffoonish victim is eliminated by being impaled on a real estate agent’s yard sale sign. You get the picture. Slumber Party Massacre III is a goofy home video horror with a few gruesome kills, some deliciously corny acting/dialogue, and sexual energy that alternates from girlishly playful to deeply uncomfortable. If you’re looking for anything more than that from a film of this ilk, I highly recommend checking out Slumber Party Massacre II instead. It’s easily the most worthwhile film in the series to track down.

-Brandon Ledet

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