Shudder’s horror is a cut above the usual slasher fare
Horror movie remakes are rarely very good so my expectations were fairly low when I settled down to watch Danishka Esterhazy’s modern reimagining of the 1982 original.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. While it is in no way a classic of the genre, 2021’s Slumber Party Massacre is a mostly enjoyable watch and a cut above many recent slasher horrors.
The movie begins in 1993 with that traditional horror setting, a cabin in the woods. Trish Devereaux has rented a cabin so she can have a slumber party with her friends Jackie, Kim, and Diane. Her fun and games are interrupted by her sleazy ex-boyfriend Chad but he isn’t the only party pooper threatening her night. The biggest hindrance to her celebrations comes from Russ Thorne, a deranged serial killer who attacks Trish and her friends after brutally disposing of her former boyfriend.
Several gory kills later, the movie moves forward in time to present-day Los Angeles where Trish (the sole survivor of the previous massacre) waves a tentative goodbye to her daughter, Dana, who is heading out for a girl’s weekend with her best friends Maeve, Breanie, and Ashley. Unbeknownst to this concerned mom, Dana and her buddies are heading to the same Holly Springs location of the original massacre.
You might already have an idea about what happens next, but here’s the thing. This is one slasher movie that manages to subvert our expectations of the genre with some very interesting twists and turns. You see, Dana and her friends are not the luckless victims that are familiar within movies of this type. When Thorne makes his re-appearance, these ladies are ready and waiting for him, as it turns out that their whole trip was orchestrated for one purpose: to take down the killer that physically and mentally scarred Trish and murdered her friends.
Do they succeed? Well, it would be of no surprise to suggest that Thorne disposes of at least one of them. While the movie flips a finger at the tired old tropes of the past, it is still a slasher movie at heart. These ladies still find themselves in trouble as Thorne seemingly has the same ability to resurrect himself as Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees did. As such, you can still expect several gory deaths as the movie runs its course.
The girls aren’t alone in the woods as there is also a group of boys staying in a nearby cabin. In fact, their cabin is the same one that Dana’s mother stayed in and it turns out that this is no coincidence. The guys – two of whom are literally called Guy and Guy 2 (presumably a reference to the names of the disposable victims that are often found in the end credits of horror movies) – are here because they are a fan of the true-crime podcast that detailed the story of Russ Thorne and the previous slumber party massacre.
When the guys meet the girls, there is mistrust between them as neither is sure of the other’s intentions. At one point, after several killings have taken place, one of the lads thinks the girls have a “feminist plot to get rid of all the men.”
We know this isn’t the case but it’s fun watching their panicked reactions when they think the girls might be out to get them. This is just one way the movie subverts expectations – for once, the men are the fearful ones instead of the ladies – and another is the titillating shower scene when it is the naked body of one of the men that the camera lingers on and not on one of the women.
This is clearly a movie about ‘girl power’ although the female characters aren’t immune to stupidity. One of them still stands too close to the windows when warned not to, and they still take their eyes off the body of the presumably dead Thorne, who predictably then disappears from their sight. As such, this isn’t a movie that portrays men as weak and women as flawless. The movie is more realistic than that – as realistic as a movie can be about a seemingly unstoppable killer – so men shouldn’t feel emasculated when watching this female-empowered twist on familiar horror themes.
On the whole, this is a fairly decent watch and it’s elevated by a strong cast of women that bring depth to their empowered characters. The script is knowing and clever, while the killings are suitably gruesome.
It’s not all positive, unfortunately. The movie falls down towards the end as it rushes toward its conclusion and the introduction of another foe threatens to undermine what has gone before. The movie is also a little predictable at times, despite the attempts at originality elsewhere.
However, the good outweighs the bad so while this isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it still manages to be better than what it could have been. If you’re not tired of the slasher movie genre and you want something that tries to be a little different to the norm, this can be recommended.
Verdict - 6.5/10