#MUFFApproved: The Slumber Party Massacre
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
dir. Amy Holden Jones
Written by: Rita Mae Brown
Look at this poster. Just look at it. You’re probably saying to yourself “WHAT is THIS doing in the hallowed halls of The MUFF Society?" Well the joke is on you, as The Slumber Party Massacre is perhaps the premier feminist exploitation movie of the '80s!
Just so you know where I’m coming from, I love horror films and I think most slasher films stink. STINK! Nine times out of ten I find them to be a lazy regurgitation of a tired formula: dumb teens served up as sexy murder dolls to be gutted by a lunatic. I find them boring and perhaps inherently misogynist, though that’s a debate for another forum.
Now, take a look at the fine print of the poster for The Slumber Party Massacre: written by Rita Mae Brown, and produced/directed by Amy Holden Jones. Though the film was marketed as a straight up slasher flick, it was written and directed as a feminist satire of the sub-genre.
Hopefully that’s enough to pique your interest if you’ve never seen the film, because from here on in it's spoilerific!
The film starts off as these films do, with announcements of a homicidal maniac on the loose and our lead teen Trish immediately taking off her nightie for our first dose of gratuitous flesh. I know, I know–not a great start, but in her next action–throwing out a box of toys, predominately her Barbie doll–I found hope! The slumber party is being hosted by Trish because her parents are leaving town (the one scene they had was purely there to establish this, and that her Dad seems like a helpless schmuck) for the weekend.
We head to school to witness a clueless dude trying to hit on the telephone repair woman. A woman holding a technical job in 1982 seemed very much like a deliberate choice by the director to me, as was almost immediately killing her in her telephone repair van.
Now it’s time for the classic ‘girls playing sports/girls in the shower’ scene. The basketball game features your typical girls' jealousy and cheering boys ogling, but once we get in the shower something seems ‘off’. It’s a rampant display of soapy flesh, but the camera is moving up and down their bodies in such a mechanic way that you’re forced to think "I am methodically staring at these naked girls". It’s a clinical and instructive sequence of the ‘male gaze’. Pay attention viewers, because this is what we’ve been lead to believe: that a woman’s role in these films is purely as eye candy. The scene further pushes this idea with the girls discussing the pro athletes they enjoy ogling.
So, we’re only 12 minutes into the film and we’ve already filled up the T&A quotient you’d expect and introduced the Slasher, who’s not terribly interesting at all, has no tragic backstory, and serves the narrative almost exclusively as a ‘tool’. Go look at the poster again.
We’re introduced to Valerie as the 'new girl'—whose basketball skills draw the ire of one of Trish’s friends—and her younger sister Courtney, who happen to live across the street from Trish. As the slumber party comes under the literal male gaze of a couple goofy boys peeking through the window, Valerie and Courtney watch the party they weren’t invited to from across the street, and gleefully survey a Playgirl magazine. We’re reminded again and again that these girls are being watched, crazed killer on the loose notwithstanding.
The role-reversals continue.The female basketball coach is startled by a drill thrusting through her front door, but don’t worry, it’s just the female landlord installing a peep-hole! And sure, one of the girls is hung up on seeing her boyfriend during the party, but besides the usual party shenanigans, the rest of the girls are wearing sports jerseys and debating who exactly scored during the last ‘big game’.
Surprising, in general, is how the party react to being under siege from the Slasher. Surprising in that they are not a bunch of dummies running head first into that power drill as the sacrificial lambs we’ve come to expect. Let’s face it—the teens in slasher movies do the dumbest shit to forward the schedule of murders, so it’s refreshing to see this not be the norm (except for the goofy boys who crashed the party, naturally).
In the end, our Slasher is impaled on Valerie’s machete—nay, I’ll say her powerful metal erection. Did I forget to mention the pizza guy gets his eyes drilled out? HIS EYES! There are a ton more pleasantly surprising instances in the film that display both clever humour and a satirical approach to the kind of film that surely needs it. Looks are clearly deceiving when it comes to The Slumber Party Massacre, but I’m pretty sure this slasher flick is more than meets the eye.
OH, and check out Jackie eating pizza off the dead pizza delivery guy, she give ZERO FUCKS, and that is surely #MUFFApproved!
STEVEN LANDRY is a programmer for Ithaca Fantastik, the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, and the Toronto After Dark FIlm Festival. He's tall, bald, and has never had wisdom teeth. You can follow him here.