Mike’s Review: Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

★.5 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Danishka Esterhazy.

Alright. Move along. Move along. There’s nothing to see here. Really, there’s nothing to see. A sad commentary on what should have been one of the most celebrated films this side of Halloween Kills. But, it’s true. The reimagining of the Slumber Party Massacre is a dull and uneven homage to its predecessor. 

It’s not entirely clear who was pulling for the return of creepy driller-killer Russ Thorn, but apparently someone in Hollyweird just couldn’t leave well enough alone. In fairness to 2021’s Slumber Party Massacre, there were three Slumber Party Massacres (1982, 1987, and 1990), so it’s not as if this was the first time writer-types went back to this dark and dank creative well. 

Much ink has been spilled over the original Slumber Party Massacre and, in fact, the Scariest Things Podcast even weighed in by opining that “…Slumber Party Massacre is a trope-setter and a genre-definer.  Allegedly, the film was original conceived of as a parody of the emerging slasher genre, but in the end opted to play it straight. What emerged was a rather self-aware, humorous, but chilling little piece of slasher lore.”

That’s precisely the problem with the 2021 reboot of the Slumber Party Massacre — it’s self-aware, but frankly way too self aware. Whereas its perfectly constructed progenitor showed you female empowerment and contrasted it against clumsy male decision-making, the 2021 reboot feels compelled to tell you over and over about how bad ass women are and the pitfalls associated with male toxicity. Good messages to be sure, but the subtly of 1982’s messaging is lost to direct and fussy character development.

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Are we really in this movie?

The film goes so far as to make this the plot center point. A young woman in 1993 is the unlucky victim of auger-wielding Russ Thorn, and her daughter and her pals hatch a wildly implausible plan to exact revenge for her Mom 28 years later.

While it’s entirely unclear if the daughter, Dana Deveraux (Hannah Gonera), has coerced her slumber party pals in to this ghoulish scheme or their just doltish teens, none of it really makes a lick of sense. Dana has a fairly antagonistic teen relationship with her Mom, Trish Deveraux (Schelaine Bennett) and there’s little done to explain why she’d be so obsessed with hunting down Russ Thorn and killing him, again, 28 years later. 

Along the way the lady slumber party comes across a dude slumber party conveniently placed across the lake. These aren’t any dudes, they’re the worst kind of dudes, they’re true crime podcasters! Setting out the uncover the dark but true story of Russ Thorn and the area killings, the slumber parties collide and the film takes a stab at a series of ill-timed and flat bits of comedy. 

In addition to its informalities, what made the 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre so enjoyable was that Russ Thorn was somewhat of an enigma. He was all mystique and not to be bothered with tired exposition. All he needed was an auger, a jean jacket, and a menacing smile. A rather simple plot device that has been bastardized, complicated, and sadly made rather dull. 

If you’re a regular listener to the podcast you’ll know that we don’t dislike reboots. We cherish them. Their ability to reimagine loved characters and franchises. Their ability to breath life in to the dead and add to the chilling provenance. That said, it must be done correctly and with ample care. The Slumber Party Massacre seemingly skips from the production meeting to cutting a distribution deal with SyFy network and very little else seems to matter. 

If you’re titillated by Slumber Party Massacre films, and you should be, then head back to 1982 and see how a proper slasher is constructed and executed. At the very least check out the hysterical 1987 heavy metal inspired middle film in the series — the aptly named Slumber Party Massacre II. The one good thing that 2021’s reboot does is resurrect the wild and garish guitar from the 1980s, and that ain’t nothing. 

Slumber Party Massacre is TV-MA and available for streaming everywhere.

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