Sunday, July 23, 2017

Slumber Party Massacre

Well, here's to waiting and waiting. I first heard about Slumber Party Massacre in the early '80s, possibly when Rita Mae Brown made an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. As I recall, when the film came out, she disassociated herself from it. But, it appears all of these statements are bones of contention because when the film appeared on the NFT 3 screen on Friday, there was her credit as screenwriter. It really boggles the mind. Rita Mae Brown of Rubyfruit Jungle and Lavender Menace fame writing a screenplay for a slasher film? But, it appears she had ideas about refreshing the genre, making it feminist. And on this viewing, possibly making it queer, as well.

But, the finished film, reworked by director Amy Holden Jones, is far from those heady heights. It is a scream, in every sense. Viewing it with S., we both laughed, gasped and issued those well-known exultations of the horror genre. Something on the order of "Uh-oh" or "Oh, No!!" or "Ack!" many, many times. The film works brilliantly as both a send-up and an exemplar of slasher cinema: teenaged girls trapped in a house by a maniac try to survive and then fight back. Brown may well have had plans for sporty Trish and new girl Valerie, but the finished work leaves their relationship dangling, as both lie panting next to the bloody pool that contains their nemesis the Driller Killer. Ah, well.

The film and one of its sequels, Slumber Party Massacre II, were screened courtesy of The Final Girls, a group linking horror and feminism, which I heartily endorse. Their conversation between films touched on such topics as the nudity in the film (a requirement of producer Roger Corman), the relationships between the characters, and their means of fightback, which included a baseball bat, a drill and a large machete. I popped out for some air, so missed the end of the chat.

And then it was back for the sequel, making its UK premiere. It is truly batshit cray-cray. The original killer is now a leather clad, black-booted facial-haired singing and dancing rock god driller killer, something on the order of a hillbilly George Michael. What's more, he's touting a guitar-shaped drill, which in no way highlights the whole phallic symbol thing going on in these films. Oh, No. It was all fun and games until the last shot, which kind of undermined the whole film and left us all going, "Oh, really?" Nevermind. The girls had a band in this film! And they practised in a garage!

The backstory of these films is really fascinating and the way they have sort of crept into the mainstream via much better known films such as Scream and Scary Movie is pretty much par for the course. Female-written and -directed horror films have never got the credit they deserve. SPM is worth making an effort for. And whatever happened to Rita Mae's screenwriting career?