2 out of 5
Directed by: Deborah Brock
The original Slumber Party Massacre started out by successfully tapping in to a slasher-parodying script and a purposefully trope-embracing tone before hitting a slump of cat-and-mouse boredom that’s only picked up by some final few minutes of solid frenzy. The sequel – following up on SPM’s younger sister, Courtney, some years later and now played by Crystal Bernard – starts out even stronger and bolder and sillier, and maintains that strength for a bit longer… but also then falls off much harder, to the extent that it feels like writer / director Deborah Brock had no idea what to do with the movie beyond its setup.
Courtney is now of-age for slumber party massacre-ing theatrics, a senior in high school and haunted by nightmares of the events from the first movie. Brock (and cinematographer Thomas L. Callaway) kick things off with a brilliant inversion, drifting a soft-focus lens over the teens sleeping form in a typical, 80s ogling movie, but then we cut to flashes of Courtney’s dreams – sex dreams of cute boy Matt (Patrick Lowe), flaunting around all shirtless and lithe, i.e. let’s give our viewers some female gaze when they might’ve been expecting boobs. It’s great. These dreams are frequently interrupted by her nightmares, though, of SPM’s driller-killer, and flashes to her sister, Valerie, now in a mental health facility.
The driller-killer gets further reimagined as a biker, Andrew Dice Clay-like rocker, riffing on a guitar with the drill replacing its neck. It’s wholly silly, yes, but Brock mixes this with Courtney’s fears: this personification of the killer is representative of her dreams of being a rock star, playing in a band with her friends, and 80s “cool”, while also challenging her on her sexuality – the nightmare’s language is all about love and sex, and we learn that Courtney very much struggles in that regard, quite shy. I don’t mean to say this is necessarily brilliant, but it’s an amusing mish-mash of things that are interesting, and definitely give the film its own flavor.
The mingling of some actual character work – Courtney, thanks to room in the script and a realistic performance by Bernard, feels like a real teen – and these more exciting visual / psychological ideas give SPM 2 a real strength. The friends get together for a jam session in their band, further enhancing the goofy 80s charm (and a couple of them looking like they can actually play / were playing – it’s edited together pretty well), and we get the slumber party hook: a weekend at a parent-less house to practice for an upcoming show, and let’s invite some boys.
Brock still has this mapped out fairly well, giving us our eye-rolling indulgences when the first night in the house turns in to naked girls having a pillow fight, but this is so over-the-top that it succeeds in a tongue-in-cheek fashion the original SPM failed at. Courtney’s dreams continue to get more aggressive, to the extent that she’s seeing some increasingly violent things that she’s convinced are real, only to wake up and be unable to convince her friends of the danger…
…And that’s about it. We’ve made it maybe halfway through the movie, and there’s nothing more to it. Brock has some okay gore gags in store, but this stuff is even less prevalent / off-screen than it was in the first movie. The driller-killer (Atanas Ilitch) eventually gets a music video moment, singing to the camera while playing his drill guitar, but I think it says something that by the time this scene arrives, it’s a complete snooze. The main problem is that nothing really changes from hereon out: Courtney has dreams, wakes up, and her friends tell her to chill out. In case we’re not already thinking of Nightmare on Elm Street, some characters have the last names Kreuger and Craven, but the comparison doesn’t do any favors: SPM 2 has no tension, at any point, and surely isn’t scary – although I’m pretty sure that latter bit was never the goal.
When we get to the cat-and-mouse stuff it feels very unearned, with zero justification for how / why the driller-killer is now “real,” and the chasing is pretty lazy, Brock likely just figuring out where else she can shoot on her set and not mess up too much of it. The ending is the final offense, having that same tacked on vibe.
I started out feeling like this was a great reinvention of a below average movie, and it is, but only up to a certain point, and then it completely runs out of ideas and is, unfortunately, so silly by that point that the drop-off into standard slasher nonsense is more mind-numbing than it was in the first movie.