If you wanted to watch a “Slumber Party Massacre’ film that has almost nothing to do with the original and feels more like a movie about characters who know they’re in a slasher film, then 2021’s remake is for you.
The remake starts us off in 1993, where we’re introduced to Trish Devereaux and her group of friends as they prepare for a slumber party. True to the film’s title, the young girls attending the slumber party (all named after characters from the original film) are brutally murdered by our denim-clad killer, Russ Thorn (Rob van Vuuren), except for Trish, who is able to thwart the driller killer’s attempt at her life by knocking him into the water, leaving his fate unknown. (The killer never dies the first time.)
The film then flashes forward to present day time where we are introduced to Trish’s teenaged daughter, Dana (Hana Gonera), who has had to grow up under the overprotective care of her mother, who is no doubt still dealing with the traumatic experience of her encounter with Thorn.
Dana and her friends are given stereotypical slasher movie roles, with Breanie (Alex McGregor) given the promiscuous role, Ashley (Rese-Tiana Wessels) as the ditzy friend, and Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas) rounding out the group as the overly cautious one.
Together, the group plans a girls’ weekend that, in true slasher form, soon becomes plagued with unforeseen obstacles that include discovering Maeve’s younger sister Alix (Mila Rayne) has stowed away in the trunk of her vehicle, their car breaking down, and them securing the only rental cabin in town – a cabin that just so happens to be across the lake from where Dana’s mother was attacked by Thorn all those years ago.
This is where ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ tries to differentiate itself from your typical slasher movie, just as the original did back in 1982. It focuses on illustrating that there is more to this young group of girls than we are initially led to believe. Unlike those who have come and gone before them, these girls are prepared to deal with the killer, who has returned to stalk them. (See? The killer never dies the first time.)
This reimagining of the original ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ which, in an early screening at Fantastic Fest, was said to be “taking the best parts of its predecessor, scrapping the demeaning bits, and amping up the female gaze to eleven,” felt like it didn’t succeed in what it was trying to do.
Rather than “scrapping the demeaning parts,” this new film shifted them toward the male characters within the movie, as the group of guys staying in the actual cabin in which the murders occurred engage in a shirtless pillow fight while our group of girls watches through a nearby window – a gender-swapped scene featured in the original ‘Slumber Party Massacre 2’ film.
In another role reversal, we see one of the guys taking a shower with the camera focusing on his chest and butt. This is meant to mock the shower scene featured in the original film.
‘Slumber Party Massacre’ also works to dumb down the male characters in the film and to increase the idiotic, stereotypical roles displayed by men in slasher movies, as our group of guys rush out into the night to slay the killer and protect the young women, with one guy even proclaiming that he has to go outside because of “toxic masculinity.” This does little to actually illustrate the level of intelligence exhibited by the female leads, but does work to make them smarter by comparison.
Later in the film, this theme becomes overcomplicated as we learn that the personalities exhibited by the women in the movie are nothing more than ruses designed to lure the killer out of hiding. No matter how you spin the situation, you’re still left with the fact that our group of heroines willingly ran towards the maniac holding the drill.
While the movie starts as a slasher movie, with our unlucky cast of characters stumbling into the unfortunate situation, the whole thing quickly turns when it’s revealed that our heroines knowingly put themselves into this situation to find Thorn. It’s this prior knowledge of the killer that eliminates the essence of what a slasher movie is. They know he’s out there and are attempting to lure him into a trap (it’s basically the end of an episode of Scooby-doo).
Their best-laid plans then go out the window in the third act when we’re given the ‘Scream’ angle that there’s a second killer.
This is where ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ feels like a slasher movie (in addition to those first few minutes of the film when the driller killer is attacking the group of girls in 1983).
But this is also where all the work that went into establishing our heroines as smart and independent women goes right out the window. One of the girls who is mechanically inclined fails to notice that the guard has been removed from the radiator fan. Another willingly peers through a broken window and another consumes food dropped off by a virtual stranger. In addition, they all stay in a place where they find that their means of contacting the authorities has suddenly been disrupted.
In the end, a movie that was originally designed to showcase that its female leads were smart and capable of defending themselves only serves to further illustrate that they have found themselves helpless against a killer.
But this also feels akin to the original, as it shows its female protagonists as being capable of making smart decisions in one moment, while at other times making idiotic decisions.
This modern day ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ would have benefited from removing the unnecessary nudity rather than shifting it towards its male counterparts. It also could have stuck with the overall slasher theme and given us female characters who are capable of making smart decisions rather than running headlong into a dangerous situation.
On a scale of one to five, I give ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ two and a half stars out of five.
Although the original is not perfect, it’s much more enjoyable to watch than this film that attempts to pass itself off as a reimagining. I’m not sure why filmmakers feel the need to completely reimagine the film and give it unnecessary twists. It didn’t work for ‘Pet Sematary’ and it didn’t work here.
For fans of at least the first two films in the original trilogy, there are Easter eggs scattered throughout the film, including one of the main characters sporting a “Space Baby” shirt, a telephone repair van parked outside the gas station, a character opening and closing a cooler with a body inside and one of the guys finding a guitar reminiscent of the one in ‘Slumber Party Massacre 2.’
‘Slumber Party Massacre’ is directed by Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits Movie), written by Suzanne Keilly (Leprechaun Returns) and stars Hannah Gonera, Frances Sholto-Douglas, Alex McGregor, Mila Rayne, Reze-Tiana Wessels, Michael Lawrence Potter, Eden Classens, Nathan Castle, Richard White, Jennifer Steyn, Schelaine Bennett, Braeden Buys, Richard Wright-Firth, Masali Baduza, Jane de Wet, Reem Koussa, Larissa Crafford-Lazarus, Arthur Falko, and Rob Van Vuuren.
I have come here to chew bubblegum and write horror, and I’m all out of bubblegum.