Review: Slumber Party Massacre (2021)
Horror movies and remakes go hand in hand and throughout the years they’ve ranged from solid updates and additions to an existing franchise to blatant cash grabs that fail to update the original property in any meaningful way. Enter “Slumber Party Massacre,” the 2021 film that serves as both a remake to the 1982 original “The Slumber Party Massacre” but also a homage to the franchise and the slasher genre. Featuring sharp writing that constantly subverts expectations and brings the franchise into the modern age, callbacks to the iconic villains of the original franchise, plenty of great kills and an emphasis on providing social commentary that really elevates this above most remakes that don’t even attempt to critique the original films pitfalls.
Opening with a flashback scene set in 1993 that features the return of the driller killer, Russ Thorn, to terrorize a small group of girls before being seemingly dispatched by the last survivor. Even in this opening sequence there’s already an emphasis on social commentary as the girls are being spied on by one of their boyfriends who looks on with a predatory gaze before noticing Russ and calling him out for being a pervert even if the one truly being a pervert was him. It’s a good opening that tells the viewer the minimal backstory and gives us our first look at the killer who will be terrorizing the main cast of the film.
After the opening sequence it fast forwards to the modern day where the daughter of the sole survivor of the opening attack is off to a cabin where she’s going to spend the night with her friends. It’s a story we’ve seen a million times over the years but it works here because one of the main thematics of the movie is the almost passing of the torch between generations, whether that be the passing of the franchise to the new generation or the characters themselves taking it upon themselves to fix the past generations mistakes. Once arriving at the cabin is when things get really interesting because gone is the predatory male gaze of the original film which is now replaced with the male counterparts at the cabin nearby being the ones objectified.
Writer Suzanne Keilly (Leprechaun Returns, Ash vs Evil Dead) and director Danishka Esterhazy inject this remake with the vision the original filmmakers (Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown) seemingly were going for before the interference of the studio and specifically Roger Corman who was known for inserting gratuitous nudity into his movies. This remake almost seems like it finally got the opportunity to showcase the original vision to a modern audience and in that way it completely improves upon the original framework and is one of the finest examples of a remake surpassing the original.
Of course what would a slasher movie be without a plethora of kills and this movie definitely delivers on that front as well. Once we settle in with the main cast of girls and are introduced to the male cast who are a group of true crime podcasters that are aware of the story of Russ Thorn who of course didn’t die in the opening and returns to torture this new generation of victims is when things really start to take shape. This is when the writing really starts to pull the rug out from under you and starts playing with the perceptions that come with the genre and I was extremely pleased with the second act and how smart it was and how seemingly ready the characters were for their clash with the driller killer.
Just because they’re ready to fight back doesn’t mean they’re going to be all that successful in doing so and it’s not long before the blood starts to flow and the bodies start to pile up. Rob van Vuuren injects Russ Thorne with just the right amount of personality through his facial expressions and his performance definitely is a highlight of the film. The kills themselves are also memorable and the iconic drill weapon of the original film is put to good use along with an incredible prop cameo that is sure to excite fans of the franchise. The cinematography also was a bit of a surprise with a real attention to detail and making a movie that’s set in a rather ordinary locale visually interesting and there’s definitely one moment in this movie that I want a framed picture of on my wall.
I watched this movie on Syfy so I’m not sure how much of the gore and violence was cut and there’s definitely a few scenes that were censored for the television airing but I’m sure there’s an unrated cut somewhere that alleviates this issue entirely. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of gore and violence because there definitely is and there’s a particular kill involving a vehicle that was a particular highlight. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s an extended cut down the road that completely removes the shackles and cuts loose free from the restraints of cable television.
While I did thoroughly enjoy the first two acts of this movie the third act while not bad I wish packed a little bit more of a punch. In a movie that is so fresh it’s a shame that the ending seems to wrap everything up so nicely and because of that feels a bit anticlimactic. It doesn’t completely crash and burn tho and I do like certain elements of that final act but I can’t help but feel like there could have been a bit more of a unique ending to an otherwise unique movie.
As far as modern remakes go this is one of the better ones I’ve seen in recent years and it’s definitely one I highly recommend to both fans of the franchise and fans of the slasher genre. From the way it subverts expectations and shows you things from a viewpoint you normally don’t see to the ways it executes the things you do expect to see this movie is definitely a standout in the seemingly crowded re-emergence of the slasher genre over the past couple years. If I learned one thing from this movie it’s that Director Danishka Esterhazy and writer Suzanne Keilly are two people to keep my eyes on over the coming years and I can’t wait to see what they both do next.
Overall: 4 out of 5