The slasher flick is such an ingrained part of the horror genre for modern audiences. If you ask your average Joe to name a horror movie character, most of the time they’re going to rattle off Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, etc.
Before Scream completely deconstructed horror movie slashers trope by trope, 1982’s The Slumber Party Massacre served as an early entry into self-parody. The screenplay was written by feminist Rita Mae Brown as satire and directed as a legitimate slasher by Amy Holden Jones.
Brown intended to use humor to lambast the misogynistic leanings of the sub-genre by pointing out the voyeuristic tendencies of the male gaze and how the audience lives vicariously through the killer. Urged by her producers, Jones took the script and filmed it as a straightforward slasher. Through this you kind of have the best of both worlds. You feel the peril of an actual slasher film but still enjoy some of the subversive comedy and jabs at the sub-genre that remained in the movie.
The plot is fairly simple on the surface- a group of high school girls having a slumber party are stalked by an escaped murderous mental patient. Underneath the simple veneer is something more intricate.
There is a clear implication that the killer is harboring psychosexual tendencies. He uses an almost comically large power drill to dispatch his victims. At times it hangs between his legs, making a phallic connection as he uses it to enter female bodies. This is reinforced near the end of the film when one of the girls cuts the drill bit in half, essentially castrating the killer and leaving him ineffective. The only lines that he has could be interchangeable with a rapist’s. “You’re pretty. All of you are very pretty. I love you. It takes a lot of love for a person to… do this. You know you want it. You’ll like it.”
As per a typical slasher film we are presented with a first person perspective through the camera lens, or the killer’s point of view. On top of that, we have scenes without the killer that feature lingering, long takes and a wandering camera that panders obviously to the male gaze. It feels creepy and overtly draws your attention when the camera slowly tilts down.
While the characters aren’t individually all that memorable, as a group they’re very fun. The dialogue between them is enjoyable and some of their ridiculous jokes are so absurd that it’s kind of hilarious.
If you’re a fan of the current FOX network show Scream Queens, you’ll probably enjoy The Slumber Party Massacre and be able to see some its influence on the material.