In 1982, Roger Corman decided to muster up his own spin on the emerging slasher trend. With his New World studio backing up-and-coming director Amy Jones, the first feminist slasher film was born--Slumber Party Massacre. Rather than making a straight up slasher, Jones reworked Rita Mae Brown's spoofy script (originally titled "Don't Open the Door") into a straight faced satire of the entire cinematic movement. The film, featuring a killer wielding an oversized electric drill who stalks a group of teenage girls during their slumber parties, became a major success for Corman, who followed it by green lighting two sequels and a series of spin-offs (Sorority House Massacre and its sequel; Hard To Die, Cheerleader Massacre, and more). This collection from Shout! Factory is a great way to rediscover these great 80's slasher films. Now I know that some viewers who might be tired of the cliched and formulaic style of these slasher films, but what the series does is make things more interesting and much more creative. The girls aren't you're typical slasher film victims, some of their stupid acts are usually done intentionally as a wink at the horror genre, which makes things more fun and they do usually fight back.
In Slumber Party Massacre (1982) an escaped murderer Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) targets a girls basketball team on the night of their big slumber party, as hosted by the popular-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold, Trish (Michelle Michaels). What does he bring to the party, you ask? A giant electric power drill and a taste for the Grand Guignol. As the body count rises and the girls become cognizant of how 'screwed' they really are (heh), the shy girl next Valerie (Robin Stille) and her bratty little sister Courtney (Jennifer Meyers) decide to crash the party. Despite being directed by a female director, the film surprisingly has a lot of nudity including a long shower, and the gore scenes were terrific not to mention the great humor including the scene with the dead girl in the fridge. Sure, there's some poor acting and plot holes involved in this film, but that just adds to the B-movie fun, and makes this film the most enjoyable of the series.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) we pick up with Courtney (now played by Crystal Bernard) on the eve of her 17th birthday. She's being plagued by awful nightmares, and with her band (yes, she's in a cheesy new wave rock band now) going off to a condo for the weekend, she decides to ditch visiting her hospitalized big sister in favor of partying on her big day. Of course, things go awry when her dreams of the now 50's rockabilly Driller Killer (Atanas Illitch who likes like a reject from Grease) start spilling over into reality. Things go pretty much how you'd expect, only this time there are more musical numbers and the drill doubles as a sweet electric guitar. The film did have a couple of corny scenes (the rockabilly songs were awful), it was probably the weakest film in the series and barely delivers and has no connection with the first film!.
Slumber Party Massacre III (1990) tries to bring back the respectability of its origins, but ditches the sense of humor completely, replacing it with a sort of stark mean-spiritedness that might alienate fans. The murder mystery angle orients itself toward the type of rough misogyny commonplace in rape/revenge Grindhouse greats Last House On The Left and I Spit On Your Grave, as filtered through the structure of the original Friday the 13th (which was itself an Agatha Christie-esque plot). I won't spoil the big reveal. It's pretty obvious from the get-go, but slasher fans might have a fun time playing Guess Who with all the red herrings. When the big reveal finally comes, it shifts the film from playfully cheesy early '90s slasher, to an extremely brutal assault on the glossed-over tropes of the genre. It was a good slasher, don't get me wrong but it's no where near as fun as the first film.
Shout! Factory has given these three films some love with newly remastered transfers for the first two films. The first film is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and looks to be the best of the set. There's some minor print damage, but it's not too bad. Overall, the movie looks very good. For SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II, the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer also looks quite good. Sadly, the third film is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe, and doesn't quite have the same care as the other two. All three films each get a feature-length commentary. For the first film, we get an commentary featuring moderator Tony Brown, director/producer Amy Jones, actor Michael Villella, and actress Debra Deliso. Brown also runs the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE fansite, The Old Hocksetter Place, and knows his stuff regarding the series.
The big extra is the all-new documentary on the making of all three films in the series entitled Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre. You know this one's going to be good when you start off with home video footage of a kid opening his presents on Christmas morning, and discovering that he's been given Slumber Party Massacre, much to his delight. This documentary interviews all three directors - Amy Jones, Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison. Finally, there are trailers for each film, and Image Galleries featuring original artwork and rare behind-the-scenes shots. As an extra bonus, Shout! Factory have done up an excellent retrospective essay included in the DVD liner notes by Jason Paul Collum recounting his history with the series, and kept the transparent keepcase for a double-sided cover art.