The Slumber Party Massacre (Blu-ray Review)

Slumber-Party-MassacreScream Factory is upgrading their 2010 Roger Corman Collection DVD entry of The Slumber Party Massacre with a wonderful new Blu-ray.  They had once said that the DVD edition was the best it was going to get, but times change, new things spring up and they were able to develop a new HD transfer from the film’s original negative.  There were some a bit perturbed by this who had bought the DVD set, but I say “wah wah” that came out 4 years ago.  And I’m never going to whine about upgrading a favorite to Blu-ray.  They ported over the entire array of bonus features and added a new interview to the mix to give this release some new flavor.  I think it’s great that they’ve been able to upgrade some of the older Shout! Factory titles to Blu-ray (last month saw the upgrade of Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours double feature).  And once you see the video transfer on this sucker, you’ll be pretty ecstatic you double dipped.

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On the final day of the high school girl’s basketball season, Trish’s parents take a trip out of town.  So, she decides to have a slumber party at her house.  She invites all her friends and wants to invite the new girl Valerie, but Valerie overhears some of Trish’s friends talking rudely about her and declines the offer.  Meanwhile, a maniacal killer, Russ Thorn has escaped from prison and begins hounding the girls of the high school.  Thorn also has a fondness for power drills, as it’s his serial killer weapon of choice.  Thorn crashes Trish’s slumber party and begins killing the guests one by one.

By 1982, the first wave of the slasher film (the “golden era” as you hear me refer to it so often) was probably at its peak or on its way down as the following year was when things were calming down.  In this particular year came one of the most known of the era, The Slumber Party Massacre.  It featured the directorial debut of Amy Holden Jones, who turned down the job editing E.T. (yes, THAT E.T.) to take on the shot of directing her first feature film.

The Slumber Party Massacre is probably one of the most misunderstood slasher movies of all time.  I think more people understand the film now, thanks to plenty being written on it and having interviews explaining things and the like in an era with more public access and interest.  The film is a comedy that very much parodies the slasher genre that was pretty much owning the movie screens week to week.  But, it’s also directed with such competence that it plays very much as a straightforward slasher film too.

This film had minimal theatrical run and was mostly discovered in the advent of VHS where it just lay as another one of the films in the “horror” section.  Throughout the 80s and 90s renting this thing, I think a lot of audiences took to a lot of the humor in this film as just part of being a cheap horror production and didn’t really see or appreciate it for what it was.  Due to the more satirical approach, it kind of tricks you into thinking it might be playing things straight.  There was also the mistake later that it was written as a comedy but, when Holden Jones came into direct she wanted a straight horror film.  Not true, Holden got behind the comedy 100% and made it as intended.

Today, I think we have a more refined audience, or one that knows better going in, that can appreciate this film what it really is.  And I think it’s actually really funny, but also totally works as a drive-in/grindhouse horror film.  The sexual exploitation in the film is so straightforward and “here you go” that you can’t help but smirk about its forced way and pointlessness into the movie.  Also, the over the top “virgin scared of a penis” metaphor the film has between the victims and the drill is so over the top and ridiculous at “drilling” its point home, you can’t help but get a chuckle.  One of my favorite things though is the role reversal between the girls and boys in the film.  The girls are the ones more confident, cocky and arrogant, plus they are constantly talking about sports and statistics while the boys are worry warts and just kind of bimbo fodder.

The film is pretty humorous, but it also delivers masterfully in its horror elements too.  There are some really bloody kills in this, and they aren’t afraid to shy away from showing them.  They also realize they have a power drill as a tool of destruction and get the most of it too.  The score is also that minimal Carpenter-esque synth type that creates a great mood.  Also, the film’s lighting is pretty dynamite.  It really sets a good mood for dread and fear.  Director Amy Holden Jones also has the rare feat of setting up a clear and concise geography for the film to play out in.  As a viewer, your mind has the location and space clearly understand the layout of where this is going on.

31 years later, I think The Slumber Party Massacre still holds up gorgeously in comparison to a lot of its fellow slashers of the time.  Most of that, I believe, is due to the film not taking itself seriously and being a comedy.  It’s a fun movie to watch because it sends you through a gamut of feelings from laughter, to shock to the jumps you have a whole range making it “fun”.  Plus, if you’re into vintage low budget horror productions this one is perfect.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: I am shocked at how good this film looks.  Scream Factory has done it yet again with a film that many would feel doesn’t deserve to look this good and then turns out amazing.  The image was sharp and very clean.  It also gives what I would probably not be assuming too much, the idea of what this thing looked like in theaters in 1982.  From the court markings on the basketball floor at the beginning to scuffs and scratches on windows, this thing is littered with incredible detail.

Depth:  Depth is quite good here, especially looking 3 dimension is the garage and also the basketball court scene in the beginning.  I expected a much flatter picture, but was given one that looked nice and lifelike.

Black Levels:  Blacks were impressive here as they were able to get quite dark, but you could easily make out different shades and areas while almost at pitch black levels.  There’s a little crushing in super dark scenes, but that’s to be expected.

Color Reproduction:  The colors on this thing sure popped.  Blue shirts, green grass, lavender see through tops and the gushing red blood all were quite bold and well saturated.

Flesh Tones: Well, there’s plenty of young flesh to feast your eyes on with the film.  With the age and cheap stock of this one I was surprised that the skin was good warm natural colors and consistent.  No flickering at all.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice light layer of grain that enhances your nostalgic entertainment.  Early on there is some specs and a little bit of damage to the print, but its stuff that only enhances that grindhouse quality of the film.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This track is a bit standard and kind of dated sounding.  There was a kind of vinyl hiss that was present throughout the film.  It wasn’t a bother and I kinda had a nostalgia for that, but super technical purists may be bugged by it.  The score sounds really nice as well as a lot of the effects, especially the drill being nice loud and clear.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s some good natural stereo movement between the 2 active channels.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is a bit rocky.  Many of the S’s in the film are met with a hissing sound and it sounds very dated and analogue.

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Most of the extras here have been ported over from Shout! Factory’s previous release of the film.  No complaints about that one bit.  To make this not just a straightforward upgrade, they’ve also go an additional new interview they’ve added.  The cover insert also has a reverse side with some stills and alternate poster art.

Audio Commentary With Director Amy Holden Jones, Actors Michael Villella And Debra DeLiso – This is the commentary that was recorded for the 2010 Shout! Factory release of the film.

Sleepless Nights: The Making Of The Slumber Party Massacre (HD, 23:04) – The first part of the incredibly fun and insightful documentary chronicling the production and legacy of this series.  This is the one of course that focuses on the first film.

Interview With Rigg Kennedy (HD, 13:22) – A new interview for this release, and it gets quite wild as the actor at one point starts doing an overly dramatic poetry reading for something I think he wrote about for the film.  It’s a bit strange, but you can’t help but keep watching.

The Slumber Party Massacre Trailer (HD, 1:58)

The Slumber Party Massacre II Trailer (HD, 1:48)

The Slumber Party Massacre III Trailer (HD, 1:05)

Still Gallery – 38 stills, promotional images, lobby cards, posters and VHS cassette tape cover art for the film.

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The Slumber Party Massacre’s adventure from DVD to Blu-ray proves to be a pretty good success.  While the audio was a little rough at times, the video transfer on this one was jaw-droppingly good for anyone who has seen this film’s lifeline dating back to VHS.  It’s another one of those “this movie does not deserve to look this good” titles that dominate the Scream Factory library.  The transfer is impressive enough in its own right, but the bonus features also handsomely enhance the release as well.  The Slumber Party Massacre is a film that I’ve found myself to appreciate more and more over the years and one I’ve also grown to love.  I’m hoping this title does really well in sales, because I’d love to also see them port over The Slumber Party Massacre II and The Slumber Massacre III (also fine in their own right) into one of their ongoing series of Blu-ray double features they’ve been doing to complete this set.  Horror and slasher fans, you NEED to pick this one up!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “The Slumber Party Massacre (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    I’m jealous!

  2. Aaron Christensen

    Great write-up, Brandon! Just finished watching it this weekend, and loved it as well.