Friday, October 24, 2014

HubrisWeen, Day 19: Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)


Making a sequel to a slasher movie is always a bit of a trick. Most slasher films end with the killer being unambiguously killed, after all, so where do you go from there? Sometimes you just make something completely unrelated that has the same title or, thanks to the advent of A Nightmare on Elm Street, you decide to bring your killer back via supernatural means.

And then there's times when you make a direct sequel that ostensibly has the final girl from the last film facing a new threat that is a supernatural greaser wielding a guitar with a drill at the end.

"Wait, what?" You read that right. The first Slumber Party Massacre was notable in that screenwriter (and famed feminist mystery writer) Rita Mae Brown intended it as a spoof of slasher films with a male killer wielding a giant drill. Its premise alone is an obvious joke, yet either the film's director Amy Holden Jones or its producer Roger Corman (yes, this HusbrisWeen is positively filthy with Corman productions and I make zero apologies) decided to film the screenplay dead serious. Near as I can tell, however, they made no actual changes to it in order to make it less comedic but merely played it straight.

When it came time to make a sequel, Corman was apparently more open to humor as this film is goofy as all get out.

[A note before we begin: The Slumber Party Massacre is unique among slasher "franchises" as all three entries in the series--I'm not counting an apparent 4th film because it does not share the title--are directed by women. Amusingly, this is no way reduces the "male gaze" you expect from a slasher film]

The film opens with a young woman (Crystal Bernard, for anyone who felt their life was sorely lacking "slasher movie where the blonde woman from Wings is the final girl") in bed dreaming in a way that seems more like a romantic film, particularly with music--until we see that her dreams include flashbacks to the first film as well as images of a woman in a mental hospital and a strange figure of a greaser in black leather fringe (the amazingly named, or pseudonymed, Atanas Ilitch) wielding a guitar with a drill on the end of it.

"I figured this way I could work construction while playing in a rock band."
We quickly find out that the young woman is Courtney Bates, the youngest of the two sisters who survived the first film. Like her elder sister she is played by a different actress and struggles with psychological issues as a result of surviving the rampage of a psychopath and subsequently killing him. Unlike her sister, she is not institutionalized--she just has horrible dreams now and then. Her mother, Mrs. Bates (Jennifer Rhodes, in case you felt your life was sorely lacking "slasher movie where the grandmother from Charmed was the final girl's mom") is concerned as they talk over breakfast, but Courtney is managing. At any rate, it's time for her to head to school.

Courtney encounters a dead white pigeon on the sidewalk as she heads to school, but her friend Amy (Kimberly McArthur, a former playmate whose "no nudity" clause in her contract almost feels like a joke the movie is playing) shows up to drive her the rest of the way so she doesn't dwell on it as long as she might have. And after school, we see that Crystal plays in an all-girl rock band with Amy, Sally (Heidi Kozak), and Sheila (Juliette Cummins). And holy crap is there a lot of late 80s fashion on display with this group. Crystal gets a little bit flustered when Matt (Patrick Lowe) shows up to watch them practice.

We then learn that all the girls have been invited to Sheila's parents' new condo for the weekend, with no parental supervision. Matt will be there and Crystal is definitely excited about that prospect. Though she's not sure that her mom will let her go. In fact, at dinner her mother tells her that they've finally been cleared to go visit her sister at the mental hospital that weekend. However, Courtney manages to convince her mother that it's important that the band practice all weekend for a talent competition coming up--plus it's her birthday that weekend, after all. Her mother buys it, though obviously she's a bit disappointed that Courtney doesn't want to visit her sister.

Oh, but her sister visits Courtney. In her dreams, that is. As Courtney dozes in the car on the way to the condo, Valerie (Cindy Eilbacher) appears to her, clearly terrified, imploring her little sister, "Don't go." When Courtney asks where she isn't supposed to go, Valerie replies, "Don't go all the way." And then the greaser attacks Valerie with his drill guitar.

So Courtney's weekend is off to a shaky start. Still, that night the sharing of corn dogs and some champagne stolen from Sheila's father's "booze closet" and Rock'n'Roll High School on the TV (though, unsurprisingly, the music coming from the TV is not The Ramones) helps Courtney to join in the frivolity. Soon it's all pillow fights, flying feathers, spraying champagne, and Sheila topless. (She is, interestingly, the only one to get naked in any way--not sure if by clause or by design) About this time, the other guys who were invited, Amy's boyfriend Jeff (Scott Westmoreland) and Sheila's boyfriend T.J. (Joel Hoffman) show up and peek in the windows, remarking, "I didn't know girls did stuff like this!"

Predictably, they try to false scare the girls by sneaking in the unlocked back door and having Jeff play dead with a kitchen knife tucked under his arm. There's the expected reactions of disgusted annoyance, followed by laughing it off. And for Courtney's benefit it's confirmed that Matt will arrive sometime tomorrow.

The next day, as the group hangs around the pool, Courtney is feeling terrible and trying to shake off a headache. Seeing her hamburger turn into a severed human hand does nothing to improve her outlook. T.J. claims he can fix her headache, but what he actually means is that he wants a chance to do an impression of a fire-and-brimstone preacher healing a rube and then throws her into the pool. She promptly loses consciousness, is overwhelmed by visions of the greaser, and only Jeff's quick action saves her from drowning. T.J. is apologetic, but understandably the group is annoyed with him.

They remain remarkably patient with Courtney, though, especially given how few of them know her history. So when she opens the fridge and is attacked by an animate raw chicken (!) that gushes ichor from its neck stump, they try to assure that she only thought she was attacked by the now utterly immobile chicken because it fell out too fast. Then Courtney hallucinates her bath overflowing with blood, and then when Sally comes to check on Courtney she sees the pimple that Sally is complaining of consume the girl's entire face before she explodes. When Courtney claims she just saw Sally die, the group gives her claim a surprising amount of credence.

Of course, it helps that Sally is no longer anywhere to be found, the cars are all accounted for, and the garbage compactor that nobody can recall turning on is crushing something that crunches loudly. Rather than stopping the compactor and checking to see if it's just chicken bones, they call the cops. Officers Kreuger (Michael Delano, who took over the Dick Miller role in the Jim Wynorski remake of Not of This Earth) and Voorhies (Hamilton Mitchell), are less than impressed by Courtney's story. (And yes, those are their names and spellings of same) They're even less impressed when Sally walks in the door, having apparently just walked to the store to buy zit cream after Courtney interrupted their conversation by having a screaming fit.

Naturally, this means the cops are going to be less than receptive should anything actually happen. Courtney is up in her room, worrying about her mental state, when Matt comes in with a birthday cake. After some conversation, the two apparently have sex--and it will surprise nobody that this is the "all the way" that Valerie warned of. This somehow makes the greaser take corporeal form and he immediately drills Matt through the chest. When Courtney insists he isn't real, that he's just a dream--the greaser decides that waving Matt's severed arm in her face and dropping it on the birthday cake should vouch for his "not a dream" credentials.

Well, that's pretty compelling evidence: you gotta hand it to him.
When Courtney runs down the stairs, the greaser follows and attacks the group. T.J. is injured by the drill and he and Sheila flee out the back door. Sally was behind the drum set and finds herself trapped, while Courtney, Amy, and Jeff hide in the kitchen and Jeff tries to use the wall phone to call for help. Unfortunately, Sally manages to escape the drum set only find herself pinned against the wall by the kitchen door--and that's the wall the phone is on when the drill comes through the wall, covered in Sally's blood.

The three flee, but the keys to the cars are in the kitchen and they forgot them. So they have to go back. Meanwhile, Sheila and T.J. go to an occupied house for help, but the greaser finds them and advances as the person inside is playing classical music too loudly to hear their frantic pleas. Sheila gets her arm slashed and is forced to leave T.J. to be killed. The owner of the house finally sticks his head out and then grumbles about "damn kids" after he sees nobody because T.J.'s body is just out of sight.

Jeff, Amy, and Courtney find the keys--and Sally's body. They take one of the cars, but it won't start. It finally does start and they drive off...but nobody checked the backseat. Jeff helpfully hits the brake instead of the accelerator as the drill tears through his guts, and it's back to the condo for Amy and Courtney, who barricade themselves in a bedroom by putting a dresser in front of the door. Sheila finds her way back as well, but only just ahead of the greaser. The greaser then...launches into a rock song / dance number. Yes, really.

Hearing Sheila's screams, the other two begin unbarricading the door. However, as the still-singing and dancing greaser decides to advance on his victim, they realize he's also there and put the dresser right back. (Interestingly, a sequence where the protagonists debate saving a victim before deciding on leaving them to die happens in all three films, though at least here they can't see the victim to know how easily they could have saved her as in the third film) The greaser drills through Sheila--and through the dresser. Courtney and Amy flee through the window onto the roof. The greaser is also on the roof behind them (!) playing his guitar and cackling, but not actively pursuing them.

The two survivors make it to a construction site, and evade the greaser's drill by inches during one of his attacks, where he growls, "I can't get no...satisfaction." However, as they weave through support beams and such, the greaser slashes Amy's back with the drill. So even though they successfully flee from him, he's able to follow the blood and find them again. Amy falls off the near-top floor of the building, and as Courtney tries to pull her up the greaser slashes at her--and Amy falls to her death.

Courtney cries over her friends' deaths, but then sees the greaser watching her and dragging on a cigarette. "She broke my heart so she had to die," he says, resignedly and then repeats, "She had to die." Courtney has had enough of this leather clad greaseball and finds an acetylene torch at the top of the structure and lights it. When the greaser lands on the platform before her, she touches him with the flame--and he bursts into a huge fireball, before plunging to his death. Man, don't use napalm for hair gel next time.

The next morning, there's the usual ambulances and police. But as Courtney examines Amy's body being carried off on a stretcher, Amy's eyes pop open and she laughs with the greaser's voice. Courtney wakes up in bed with Matt. It was all a dream! Except, when she kisses him with relief, he turns into the greaser...and Courtney wakes up in a mental hospital room. As she screams, a giant drill bit tears through the floor of a blatantly obvious miniature of the room. The End.

Wow. Wow. There are very few slasher movies who so relentlessly refuse to make sense as Slumber Party Massacre II. I don't know whether to call it dream logic, sloppy filmmaking, or both. I mean, for starters, there are not many slasher films where the killer doesn't actually claim any victims until the third act. For another, who the hell is the killer supposed to be? Or what, for that matter?

The greaser here playing The Driller Killer, per the credits, bears no resemblance to the mental patient who drilled his way through the first film's cast. So he's not some kind of "vengeance from the grave" killer, like Freddy Krueger. He's not some copycat killer because he plainly does not exist in reality until Courtney somehow calls him forth by losing her virginity--if he ever actually does exist, that is. That double-dream twist at the end is like something from Phantasm, but, you know, extra stupid.

Honestly, I have not watched the commentary track for the film as yet so maybe I'm just stating precisely what the intent was--but the Driller Killer here seems more like a physical manifestation of female sexuality anxiety, particularly around losing her virginity. I mean, he appears by literally destroying the man who took her virginity and taking his place--and I do know, thanks to the IMDb that Matt and the killer were initially going to be the same actor--and then destroying all of her friends. He's an exaggerated representation of a man getting what he wants from a woman before calling her a slut and driving away her friends by making them think the same way. And his weapon is a drill, which wasn't exactly a subtle Freudian gag in the first film--but add it to the end of a guitar, wielded by an obvious "cock-rocker" (he quotes The Rolling Stones, for fuck's sake), and I'm unable to think of any intention other than a psychosexual one.

Or maybe I'm giving the film too much credit and it just wanted to be a silly, goofy movie that people would go see or rent and then tell their friends, "You have to see this shit, man!"

It also may not be immediately obvious that I love this goofy ass film. And the lion's share of that love rests at the feet of Atanas Ilitch, who is having such a blast as the greaser version of The Driller Killer that it might be illegal. He chews the scenery and cuts a rug, usually in the same shot. He's never honestly menacing, but he's so damn much fun you don't care.

Deeper meaning or not, this film is a blast and at about 75 minutes it really doesn't wear out its welcome. Plus, how many other movies feature someone attacked by a raw chicken?


Thus concludes day 19 of HubrisWeen. Check out the other "S" reviews by clicking the banner above.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting!! It’s really unique slumber party. Anyway, my sister is making plans for a surprise party on our parent’s wedding anniversary. I have got the responsibility of making a list of the best party venues in Chicago. Can anyone please help me in creating this list?

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