The Deepest Cuts is a weekly invitation into some of the sleaziest, goriest, most under-explored corners of horror and cult film online. Every title will be streamable and totally NSFW. Whether it’s a 1960s grindhouse masterpiece, something schlocky from the 90s, or hardcore horror from around the world, these films are guaranteed to shock, disturb, tickle, or generally blow your mind.
Movie nerds of a certain age will recall fondly the days of wandering the aisles of their local video store, pondering the VHS tapes on the “Staff Picks” shelf and pining for a glimpse into that forbidden zone, the “adults only” back room. In the horror section, some of the cover art is planted so firmly in the horror fan’s psyche, it’s a wonder the films themselves aren’t viewed more often, from the painted decomposing, disembodied hand ringing the doorbell on the cover of House, or the demonic-looking monkey-and-cymbals toy of Monkey Shines. One of the most memorable, for me, has always been Slumber Party Massacre. With a title like that, and the image of scantily-clad teens cringing up at an drill-wielding killer, all in colors reminiscent of a Babysitter’s Club cover design, it should be immediately obvious that Slumber Party Massacre is not your typical slasher film.
It’s a fairly standard set up: a pretty, popular high school senior’s parents are out of town for the weekend, so she invites all her sexy gal pals over for a slumber party, with all the attendant lingerie, pot smoking, and peeping toms you’d expect. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the ladies, a maniac named Russ Thorn has escaped from the local insane asylum (every town has one!) and with drill in hand seeks bloody revenge. Will the lonely new girl next door save the day? Will the butch basketball coach make it in time? Who will survive? And will they be clothed when they do?
One thing sets Slumber Party Massacre apart: it was written by pioneering lesbian feminist Rita Mae Brown, known particularly for her participation in the “Lavender Menace” action on the National Organization of Women meeting in 1970. The script was intended as a parody of the slasher film, historically the most misogynistic of all the horror subgenres. Though directed by a woman – Amy Holden Jones – the story goes that the decision was to make the film “straight.” The tension between real suspense, bloody death scenes, empowered women and lesbian nuances makes for a one-of-a-kind viewing experience; is it intended to be funny, or scary? Who cares, because it’s enough of both to be an especially entertaining watch.
It’s hard to believe that a horror movie rife with so many winks at the audience and teaser jump scares came out in 1982, just four years after the seminal slasher, Halloween. Whether it’s the coach spilling a glass of foreshadow-red wine, Trish’s abandoned Barbie doll removed by an unknown hand from the family garbage can, or Diane throwing her own boyfriend on his back when he surprised her on the side of the road, Slumber Party Massacre is markedly prescient and wellmade. When Diane discovers her now-headless boyfriend’s corpse in the garage, her screams are masked from the girls inside by the noise of the strawberry-daiquiri-filled blender in a scene that seems like its cut from 1996’s Scream.
But it’s not just the humor, subtle feminism, and clever montages that make the film so enjoyable; there’s also the cheap and abundant gore to enjoy. Take, for example, the pizza delivery guy: when the slumber partiers answer the door, cash in hand, his eyeless corpse falls in. Clearly the drill is a versatile and effective tool – and an ironically phallic weapon for this particular film. The soundtrack is obviously “inspired” by those of Halloween and Friday the 13th and contributes to the suspense. And the fact that Thorn looks like your average, slightly creepy guy – in the way that it would be unkind to describe, say, a grocery store clerk as “creepy,” – rather than a masked monster contributes to the terror.
Is Slumber Party Massacre that rare and precious thing, the feminist horror film? In spite of the abundant nudity and high death count (both male and female), I think it’s fair to say that it is; but, more importantly, it’s definitely scary and bloody enough to make it required horror viewing.
You can find Slumber Party Massacre streaming free on Youtube.
For more insight into the best (and worst) of cult horror classics, check past editions of The Deepest Cuts here.