Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 19th, 2010
Mention the name Roger Corman and several things spring instantly to mind: boobs, blood and gore. The man has been the king of the low-budget film since the 1950’s. His movies often graced the screens of drive-ins all over the country. There wasn’t an idea in the movies that Corman didn’t try to exploit at one time or another. He also gave some of the most successful and influential filmmakers their start in the business. People like James Cameron and Martin Scorsese started in the Roger Corman factory. When you went to see a film produced by Corman, you knew exactly what you were going to get. There were no pretenses that he was engaging in some serious film contributions. He was out to make a buck, and all he cared about was that he managed to entertain a bit along the way. The one thing you don’t expect is a healthy dose of feminism. It seems kind of a contradiction in terms, but the Slumber Party Massacre films were Corman’s nod to the feminist movement.
Many of the Corman films have stood the test of time. They might be good for a few laughs along the way, but they usually entertain as well today as they did upon their release. Unfortunately, I just can’t put the Slumber Party Massacre movies on that list. I tried. I really tried to enjoy these films. I understand them for what they were, but they really don’t hold up as well as the better Corman material. Each sequel is worse than the one before. The characters are just bad, and the story is even more absent than you’ll typically find on these kinds of films. But they have their cult following, and that’s the audience that this DVD collection is tightly targeted on, to be sure. If you’re just a little curious, remember what happened to that cat. There are so many better Corman films to satisfy that morbid curiosity. This collection is strictly for the already-initiated who have developed some unnatural attachment to the material. Not so bad, after all. The set is considerably cheaper than the therapy necessary to cure that itch.
Slumber Part Massacre (1982):
The original material was written by noted feminist author Rita Mae Brown. Strange that a woman noted for doing documentaries on notable women and women’s rights issues would turn to the same exploitive material that the movement has decried for decades. I guess when it comes to making a fast buck… The story centers on a high school girl’s basketball team that holds the titular slumber party just as psychotic killer Russ Thorn (Villella) has escaped. The murderer’s favorite weapon is a long drill that he uses to put the slumber in the party for real. The movie was pretty much a knock-off of Halloween. The girls are stalked and killed one by one in a sleepy suburban neighborhood.
To keep with Corman’s feminist theme, he hired Amy Holden Jones as the film’s director. The movie placed some of the young male actors in the film in the more traditional “chick” portrayals in an attempt to reverse some of the roles in the film. But, of course, the film had to feature the Corman money shots of nudity, and Holden tries to fulfill the requirement with a school shower scene that she appears completely embarrassed to be doing. She later admits that she was not happy with the requirements. Of note as well: Young actress Robin Stille, who played the heroine of the film, would kill herself several years later at the young age of 35.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987):
This time it would be Freddy Kruger and The Rocky Horror Picture Show that would be spoofed in what is the most ridicules film Corman might have ever made. Courtney Bates (Bernard) is the sister of the surviving girl from the first film. She is having some rather odd dreams. They alternate between sexual fantasies of a hot boy in school and a new driller killer (Ilitch). This guy plays a huge red electric guitar with a giant drill bit at the end of the instruments neck. He’s turned his axe into a drill. The dude is dressed in 80’s leather rock ‘n’ roll garb and goes around singing 50’s style rockabilly songs as he chases the women around to spear with his guitar-drill. Somehow the killer escapes from her dream world and begins to kill in the real world.
There are a lot of Freddy references here, including one of the girls with a Kruger last name. To be fair, there’s a Bates and Vorhees, as well. The idea of a dream killer, however, comes straight out of Nightmare. The girls have an all-girl rock band that provide the candy pop for the film and some of the worst fake performing I’ve seen since the Partridge Family.
Again the all-female team of writer /director/producer Deborah Brock keeps the franchise focus intact. Crystal Bernard would go on from being the guitar-playing heroine of Slumber Party II to the cello-playing love interest on the comedy series Wings.
Slumber Party III (1990):
The final Slumber Party would take the film back to its roots. Another all-girl, well mostly, get together is interrupted by yet another driller killer. This is the worst of them all. The plot is about as predictable as they come, and the characters are as interesting as soap commercials. Look for another female team. This time the story was written by Catherine Cyran, and the director was Sally Mattison.
Each film is presented in its original aspect ratio except for III which ends up in full frame. None of these prints hold up very well. Shout didn’t put any of the clean-up the other Corman films saw on these transfers. You’ll witness plenty of film print specks and dirt. The picture quality isn’t an upgrade from the video tapes. There’s plenty of surface noise. Colors are muted, and black levels pretty much suck. You won’t be buying this one for the image presentation.
The PCM 2.0 tracks are as bad as the images. There is a ton of hiss and other strange noises present. The first film is in the best shape with the audio presentations getting worse with each sequel.
Each film comes with an audio commentary and stills gallery.
The first film comes with an hour-long documentary on the series that is mostly just talking heads.
I’ve been pretty much congratulatory of Shout for bringing back some of those Roger Corman classic films. Many of these films have been taken out of a long sleep for an entire new generation of fans to laugh and enjoy. But some things should remain dead. This collection is one of them. With this release, no matter how hard I try, “I can’t get no… satisfaction!”