The world of horror is vast. With so many films across the spectrum of budget, studio involvement, quality, availability, and, above all else, pure scare-the-living-sh**-out-of-you-ness, it helps to have trained professionals parse through some of the older and/or lesser-known offerings. That's where Team Fangrrls comes in with Deep Cuts, our series dedicated to bringing the hidden gems of horror out of the vault and into your nightmares. Today, we're looking at Slumber Party Massacre II, a female-directed '80s schlocky horror sequel that deserves more credit than it usually gets.
I'm going to get this out of the way: Yes, Slumber Party Massacre II does have a scene where a bunch of young women at a sleepover have a pillow fight. Feathers fly. There is toplessness. A young man peers through the window, goggling at the spectacle in a boner-ly fashion: "I didn't know girls really did this stuff!"
They don't, my man. They don't.
Later, another male character — TJ, a SoCal himbo of the highest order — delivers another nugget of wisdom that sums up the film he's in quite accurately:
"Too stupid"? Yes. And bring it the hell on.
Written and directed by Deborah Brock, 1987's Slumber Party Massacre II is a sequel to — you guessed it —The Slumber Party Massacre, in which an escaped mental patient torments a group of high school girls at a sleepover. Originally written by Rita Mae Brown as a parody of slasher films—with particular care put into skewering the "overt misogyny" that plagues the genre — director Amy Jones' The Slumber Party Massacre emerged from production more as a straightforward horror film, albeit one where the largely female cast of characters feel like actual characters and not just T and A connected by a torso and some long, spray-tanned legs.
Not particularly successful upon its release in 1982, The Slumber Party Massacre has gained something of a cult following since, though I admit to not being particularly grabbed by it. It's a little bit horror, a little bit comedy, a little bit hang-out drama in a way that feels like a mish-mosh, ultimately presenting something that's neither scary enough nor funny enough to be truly satisfying.
Then came Slumber Party Massacre II. The transition between the two is akin to that of the greatest filmic duology of the modern era: Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL. Film one: Channing Tatum wants to go into custom furniture design in order to fill the gap stripping has left in his soul. Kind of a downer. Film two: Joe Manganiello just wants to make a girl smile by doing an impromptu strip routine involving Cheetos and water. Wall-to-wall fan service.
The Slumber Party Massacre gives you custom furniture design.
Slumber Party Massacre II gives you Cheetos and water.
The narrative connection between the two films is tenuous at best, and you don't need to see the first one before leaping into the second. In the first film, a teenage girl and her younger sister help kill the baddie. In the second, the younger sister — Courtney, now a teenager herself — goes with her friends (and a few boys) to an empty condo for a weekend of booze, band practice, and a truly ridiculous amount of salmon pink decor.
Courtney's older sister, scarred by her experience in the first film, is now in a mental hospital. The trauma that Courtney experienced, meanwhile, is offered as a possible explanation for her own mental break, which takes the form of a rock-n-roll-loving murderer who wields a guitar that is also a giant drill and haunts her dreams.
Is this man real? What is his name? Is he some sort of demon or supernatural creature? Why is he haunting Courtney? How much does the fringe on that leather jacket weigh? Seriously, what's with the electric guitar with a giant drill attached? The movie cares so little about answering these questions that the answers we do get literally come in the last 90 seconds of the film. They are unimportant. The plot, my dears, ain't even close to the point.
What, then, is the point of Slumber Party Massacre II? Let's blow through the contenders in ascending order, starting with the aforementioned 5) Hideous '80s Decor
Ah, yes, "FOOTBALL."
4) Really Dramatic Line Readings of Classic Rock Lyrics
3) Some Horror Stuff
2) Terrible and/or Excellent '80s Clothing
1) Dance Breaks
Clocking in at a brisk one hour and 15 minutes, Slumber Party Massacre II is less a story than a vibe, a mood, a spirit, an amalgam of goofy '80s teen movie schlock — the pillow fight, the blow-up sex doll the teens find at the condo, the soapy carwash scene, the easily identifiable character types — intercut with really quite effective practical gore effects, ramped up in the third act when the unnamed antagonist goes from messing with Courtney's head to actively trying to kill everybody.
Now, movies of the '80s — including '80s horror — aren't exactly lacking the "fun" (editor's note: it's not really fun) sort of misogyny you'll see in a film like Porky's, where female characters are defined by their ability to give the male characters, the male creators, and the (presumed) male audience a boner. A lot of the basic elements of the '80s horror sex comedy are there in Slumber Party Massacre II, but they're presented in such a way that the film just plain doesn't feel sleazy. Even the pillow fight! (Well, a little.)
What writer/director Deborah Block has managed in Slumber Party Massacre II — the same thing Jones and Brown did in the first film — is to make the female characters feel like they have real camaraderie. They don't snipe at each other. They don't compete with one another, for male attention or otherwise. They're supportive. Hell, when Courtney thinks one of their group has been murdered, instead of calling her crazy they believe she's telling the truth and stick up for her to the disbelieving boys. Female characters in an '80s schlocky horror film that actually feel like real people — the general, delicious OTT-ery of the script aside.
Slumber Party Massacre II. The singing, dancing, murdering Joseph Fiennes lookalike said it best: