By Melissa Como
The thing about Slumber Party Massacre II is that it’s perfect. I seldom pop in a VHS tape expecting anything more than a minimally amusing cornfest, so imagine my surprise when I rewound this movie feeling completely marked. It oozed its way into my cold, dead heart after just a single viewing. It’s not that it doesn’t have its share of flaws, it’s that every flaw somehow makes it all the more endearing. That never happens.
In a refreshing portrayal somewhat atypical of the horror genre, protagonist Courtney’s purpose is elevated beyond that of the titillating scream queen. When she heads to a condo to celebrate her birthday weekend, she does so with her best buds and all-girl band members.They use the getaway to rehearse, get drunk off stolen champagne, eat aerosol cheese, and take in a viewing of another straight-up classic, Rock’n’Roll High School (fun fact: writer/director Deborah Brock worked for Roger Corman, an executive producer on this film, after college and went on to direct Rock’n’Roll High School Forever). Oh, and they also wanna smooch some boys. Some hunks soon show up to crash the party (one of them invites Courtney somewhere earlier in the movie, but she refuses, insisting she wants to be the one asking him out instead).
Courtney has been having weird dreams for a while, but represses the urge to tell anyone, even though her female friends are notably genuinely concerned and patient with her when they eventually find out. The nightmares feature a leather-clad rockabilly man who taunts her sexual inexperience and threatens to viciously murder her with his weapon of choice, a very phallic instrument that is part oddly-shaped guitar, part drill. This greaser literally sings and dances his way through the flick, smoking cigarettes, giggling and just generally having the best time.
The dreams worsen as Courtney becomes increasingly aware of her gal pals’ promiscuity. Though they own their sexuality and do with it as they please, Courtney is understandably apprehensive to part with her virginity. The night terrors soon progress to full-fledged hallucinations. A headless chicken attacks her, her burger is made of a severed, bloodied human hand, and, in one of my favorite scenes of any movie ever, her friend’s massive zit explodes all over her face.
When Courtney and her hunk finally fool around, she attempts to confess that she’s a virgin. The line between her nightmares and reality suddenly blurs, and the driller killer comes after her in real life. Maybe this is because Courtney associates the fringed-jacket man with sex, and believes sex to be a punishable act. Or maybe it’s because this is a horror movie, sort of, and people need to die at some point.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we’ve all sampled the recipe for Slumber Party Massacre II before. It’s called A Nightmare on Elm Street and it’s pretty good. Amazing, even. Brock stabbed at the plot, injected one or two major substitutions, nuked the whole thing, and served us a final product that stands its ground, independent of its obvious Freddy inspiration. It’s still a “rubber reality” (a term coined by Wes Craven himself to describe a subgenre in which characters navigate alternate realities), but it’s no rip-off. With characters named Krueger and Craven, it’s more of an homage.
The first Slumber Party Massacre featured a similar, though considerably less goofy, satirical, feminist theme, and was also written and directed by women—a rarity in the slasher world. However, you don’t have to have seen it to follow or enjoy the sequel (Part II serves up all the insane, illogical campy goodness your pizza party or drug trip needs). You just need to appreciate a layered female lead with more to lose than her virginity.
This piece is part of Galloween, Cinefilles’ month of all-girl horror coverage. Click the image to read more.