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Friday, 21 February 2014

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (Amy Holden Jones 1982): Successful Parody, Or Just Redundant?

Suggestive... That’s an understatement.

4 stars

No doubt this film is cramming slasher conventions down our throats. We have:

Unsupervised teens
Sexualizing of young girls/nudity
Breakdown of communication (this always carries fatal ramifications)
Suburban setting (in the tradition of Black Christmas or Halloween)
Inept Authorities
Bloody murders

But the question is, is this film actually parodying these conventions? Notoriously this has been considered a feminist slasher because of its parodic tone and the “masculinized” girls who are all on the high school basketball team. More significant perhaps is that it was written by a famous feminist Rita Mae Brown, and directed by another woman, Amy Holden Jones. The women have repeatedly defended the film as poking fun at the misogyny of the slasher genre. Suffice it to say then, if you read the slow pan across the naked bodies, slumber party antics, and drill wielding killer as crude, you have missed the point. Well, that or your standards for irony are much higher than Brown’s and Jones’s, which would also be fair. 


I’ve watched this film a few times, and as much as I enjoy it, my opinion of it has often flip flopped. I recognize and appreciate the effort, but sometimes I feel like it fails to deliver its message. In trying to point out how silly these conventions are, SPM is often just as guilty of them. Much of the film is still ridiculous, and making the girls athletes hardly detracts from the fact that their running around the house half naked. I mean really, who are you trying to impress in that lingerie during your casual girls night in? 

It’s clear that Brown had a bone to pick with the genre, but it doesn’t seem like she knew exactly how to convey that bone. So maybe it is a parody, but it’s not as thought-provoking as she likely wanted it to be. Still, even after over-using every convention, the film does have a great finale. 3 Final Girls! I did not see that coming. Most people, even today, expect one girl to live and maybe even defeat the killer while she’s at it. But, especially in the 80s, three is a real shocker. The final girl convention is arguably the genre’s most valuable asset, no one tires of it and yet when it gets played with, everyone gets excited. In SPM, not only do three girls live, but one in particular kills the assailant... But not before castrating him...

Ok, ok, she only chops his drill in half - but come on, close enough!

I may not be able to decide how successful this film is at parodying, but I can say with certainty that it’s always fun to watch it try. Even while exaggerating conventions, it still manages to have surprisingly fresh moments. And if you are NOT tired of slasher conventions, there are ton to indulge in here.