By Jardiel Pinto
Slasher films have always been thought of as films that simply exist to rack up a body count and not much more. I’ve never agreed with that notion. There are multiple slasher films that have more going on underneath the surface. “The Slumber Party Massacre” series is no different. You could even say that there is more going on in these films than in most other slashers. Today I’m going to talk about how “The Slumber Party Massacre” series has much more to say about sexuality than it does about violence.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (Dir. Amy Holden Jones)
Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you can tell it’s trying to make a statement just by looking at the poster. The killer is depicted standing over the girls with his very large drill weapon dangling between his legs. This not so subtle innuendo is the first hint to the viewers that there is another purpose for this story beyond the normal slasher flick.
There is a slew of characters that the story focuses on, but we’re going to be talking about a slightly more minor character named Courtney (Jennifer Meyers). This will make sense later. The majority of teenage characters are having a slumber party. But there are two characters that live next door and are simply outside observers to the main plot for the first half of the film. They are two sisters. The younger of the two being Courtney.
The rest of the girls in the film are probably around seventeen, but Courtney is only 12 years old. She doesn’t have the same experiences as the other girls. She is just discovering her sexuality. As shown by the fact that she is hiding a Playgirl magazine underneath her bed. One specifically with Sylvester Stallone on the cover. Throughout the second half of the film, she sees several women penetrated by this man’s drill over and over again. This is obviously extremely traumatizing to witness.
“There are countless stories of unwanted sexual advancements from men towards women in the industry. When confronted about it the men always seem to think that the women actually wanted these advancements. This film recognizes this.”
The killer actually doesn’t get very much dialogue over the course of the film. He is often depicted as a silent predator stalking his prey. Which is what he is. Unlike other slasher films, we never flashback to his past for a sympathetic origin story. I don’t think he is ever addressed by name. The only time he speaks over the course of the film is in the third act. He tells all the girls that “They’re so pretty” and “They deserve this”. We are never meant to sympathize with him or see things from his perspective. He’s simply a predator with motivations that he can only justify to himself.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) (Dir. Deborah Brock)
In the second film in the series Courtney (Crystal Bernard) has become the main character of the story. It’s several years later and Courtney is now the age her sister was during the events of the first film. She has her eyes on a guy named Matt (Patrick Lowe). She often dreams about him. Especially with his shirt off. It’s obvious that she desires him and sees him as a prospect for her first sexual encounter. She’s gotten to the age where she has upgraded from dirty magazines to real people.
Courtney simply wants to have a positive first sexual experience. Sadly, life isn’t that simple. Every night her dreams about Matt get interrupted by the memories of the driller killer from several years earlier. The traumatic event of seeing her sister’s friends penetrated against their will has ruined her ability to have a positive sexual experience in the present.
“The Slumber Party Massacre” series is definitely a unique one. Every film in the series was written and directed by women and it shows. Women are always the main characters in these stories.”
There aren’t just memories terrorizing her. They are mixed with images of a new driller killer. This time he is a musician with a power drill attached to the end of his guitar. In her dreams, the killer often says things like “Love the one you’re with” and “I want to go all the way”. As if he’s giving her a gift. As if women are lucky to have his unwanted touch. This makes me wonder if this film is also trying to comment on how women are treated in show business. Often men are given an allowance in the entertainment industry to mistreat women due to “their talent and fame”.
There are countless stories of unwanted sexual advancements from men towards women in the industry. When confronted about it the men always seem to think that the women actually wanted these advancements. This film recognizes this. The guitar-wielding killer acts like his violent penetration is a gift that he is giving to them. In between murders he even performs a full song at one point during the film. During this sequence, he honestly comes off as kind of charming and charismatic. I assume the film does this on purpose. As if his talents make up for his actions. As we know in real life, they don’t.
“The Slumber Party Massacre” series is definitely a unique one. Every film in the series was written and directed by women and it shows. Women are always the main characters in these stories. You’re seeing everything from their perspective. The cinematography even reflects this in the second film. Multiple scenes are shot from Courtney’s point of view. Other characters are speaking directly into the camera to try and put the viewer in her shoes as much as possible. I definitely encourage horror movie fans to check this series out. I’ve enjoyed seeing the familiar story being told in a new way from a different perspective. I hope you will as well. The first two films in the series are available to watch for free on Tubi TV.