Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

JUNE 29, 2011


I had heard that Slumber Party Massacre III was more like the original, which is true for the first half or so, which feels like a remake at times (again with the guys playing pranks to worm their way into the party!). But as the film goes it gets kind of dark, with a pseudo-rape, a surprise/sort of unnecessary kill near the end, and a killer who is more of an angry jerk than a creepy stalker (or a singing rockabilly dude). Not that I minded this in theory, but it’s a little awkward when the movie starts off with goofy sight gags and the usual silly, borderline parody approach to slasher movies that the previous two films explored, and then dips into what feels more like a takeoff on the Richard Speck case, as the killer makes his presence known to the girls when most of them are still alive, terrorizing them in the house that they can’t seem to escape. Plus, unlike the rather quiet (silly) nature of Russ Thorn, he’s constantly yelling profanities and throwing the girls around, which isn’t as fun.

He has a drill though, just like his predecessors – in fact it’s pretty much the only tie to the others that I can find in this one. It takes place in the same sort of vague Los Angeles neighborhood as the original (and first 10 minutes or so of the 2nd), but Courtney and Valerie aren’t mentioned and there doesn’t seem to be any legend in the town of the bad things that happen to girls when they have slumber parties in this part of town. Also, it’s actually kind of a whodunit at first, with a few red herrings and kill scenes where we don’t see anything but the murderer’s hands (later he dons a creepy mask; sadly they drop this idea not too long after that). Also, it’s sort of a half-assed approach to a whodunit, as his identity is revealed somewhat unceremoniously long before the film concludes. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

The body count also seems to be higher than the others (especially if you go with the theory that II was all in her head), with a couple rather anonymous victims and more girls to boot (more guys too, actually). And while the drill may be getting a bit old, there are still a few new gags with it, such as when a girl grabs it while it’s turned off and then he revs it and chews the shit out of her hands. He also employs other weapons besides the drill; one girl is electrocuted with a vibrator (one that plugs into the wall, for some reason), and he takes out another guy with the stake part of a “For Sale” sign. But of course all of them are still symbolic of the penis (the vibrator obviously much more blatantly so), and speaking of his phallic weaponry, as with the others this was written/directed by women. However the guys are slightly less obnoxious this time around, making it feel a bit less “feminist” (using the term very loosely here). It’s also unintentionally anti-environment, as none of the movie would have happened if one girl hadn’t gone back to the beach and picked up some trash that they had left behind after their volleyball game (as she drops her address book in the process, which the killer finds).

It’s also anti-police, with the cop they call refusing to believe that they are in any trouble. Hilariously, his partner is sort of taken aback by his behavior, and thus offers to check in on the girls “in an hour or so” when he gets off his shift. I love that – he’s pissed that his partner won’t do his job but still doesn’t really think it’s worth dropping everything to investigate. It’s the opposite of the girls’ responsibility; perhaps I wasn’t the only one to notice that the girls were total slobs in the previous film – there’s a lengthy “subplot” about one of them dropping a slice of pizza on the carpet, and not only do three of them sit around trying to clean it, but the others watch them clean as if the entire night’s enjoyment depended on them getting it cleaned. I’m sure it’s supposed to be irony (as the place will be covered in blood later) but it’s ridiculous to see a bunch of teenagers sitting around looking at someone apply Resolve instead of dancing or fucking or whatever.

As with the other films, a commentary with the director and a couple of the cast mates is included, once again moderated by the guy who runs the website. Look, I’m certainly not one to complain about moderators, but after three movies this guy has really gotten on my nerves; constantly asking the directors to acknowledge their continuity errors and correcting their fuzzy memories on cast members’ whereabouts (and HE’S wrong on one of them, when they discuss Marta Kober he goes on and on about how she’s been missing for years, even though she did a convention in New Jersey the year before this DVD was released). I mean, obviously he’s an expert, so why not just let him do his own commentary and let these other folks have one to themselves? It’s also annoying how they are recorded, with the movie on mute for them but not for us. So at times we hear them try to remember what is going on in the movie, who is saying what, etc, even though we can hear it perfectly well. And once again there are long gaps of silence at times, which I assume means another person got edited out? But it’s a decent enough track when they’re talking; I particularly like how they explain that some necessary reshoots (movie was too short and too not-nude for some of the producers) introduced plot holes – not something you hear too often on a commentary.

Likewise, there’s also a 15 minute interview piece featuring whoever they could find/get (the director and I think maybe four of the actors), which inexplicably has a credit sequence that runs longer than the one on the actual film (and unlike the other two, doesn’t have outtake interviews running along with it). But it has Brandi Burkett, who is one of the prettiest girls in the series and still looks terrific. Obviously I have about 20 minutes’ worth of nostalgia for the film instead of 20 years, but it’s always a disappointment when an actress you were smitten with as a young lad turns out so ghastly, usually due to bad life (or bad doctor) choices. So it’s nice to see when one of them is still all together and hasn’t let bad plastic surgery or what appears to be a drug-filled lifestyle ruin their appearance (which, for an actress, more or less means their life).

Interestingly, this film actually played theatrically and did quite well, grossing well over a million bucks despite only playing on 80 or so screens. However the DVD is full-frame, because I guess that was the only way to get it with all the uncut footage (I assume it was wider for theaters, anyway?). At any rate, it's a shame that these sort of movies would never get real theatrical play anymore - it's rare I get to see a new slasher movie with a theatrical crowd, and thus I am jealous of the folks who were able to go buy a ticket for Slumber Party Massacre 3 back in 1990 at the same time movies like Ghost and Presumed Innocent were cleaning up at the multiplexes, and didn't have to pretty much rely on midnight revival screenings to get that experience.

Now, the question is – do I seek out Cheerleader Massacre, the unofficial “fourth” film in the series? It’s from Jim Wynorski but does NOT have killer robots in a mall, so I have little faith in its potential to be any good.

What say you?


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