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Review: Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

Over at my sister site, ClassicHorrors.club, I'm participating in the annual Countdown to Halloween. I'm attempting to gain some space on my DVR, so every day, I'm watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!

Today's film is the original The Slumber Party Massacre from 1982. If you so desire, click here to read that review before continuing with this one. And click here to visit other great blogs and websites participating in the countdown.

Described as a “modern reimagining” of The Slumber Party Massacre (1982), a movie I recently discovered and liked more than I thought I would, Slumber Party Massacre (2021) gives no credit to the original screenplay by Rita Mae Brown. Fair enough, it’s more an homage to the concept than it is a remake. Nevertheless, if you know me, I’m compelled to compare them.

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Written by Suzanne Keilly, Slumber Party Massacre (no “The” in the title) is three movies in one. The first part takes place Holly Springs cabin in 1993. It’s a prologue that could have happened a decade later than events in the 1982 movie and in another universe. The characters are named the same and they’re stalked by a “driller killer” during a graduation sleepover.

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Trish Devereaux (Masali Baduza) is the sole survivor. After watching a peeper from across the lake, Chad (Arthur Falko), and her three friends, Kim (Reem Koussa), Diane (Larissa Crafford-Lazarus), and Jackie (Jane de Wet), die, Trish survives when she knocks killer Russ Thorn (Rob van Vuuren) off the dock with an oar.

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In a missed meta-opportunity, there should have been one more body in the count. Then, this prologue could depict the five murders that Russ Thorn committed before he escaped incarceration in The Slumber Party Massacre. In fact, I wonder why the prologue isn’t a strict re-telling of the original movie, anyway.

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Perhaps it’s due to the mathematics. When Slumber Party Massacre jumps to Los Angeles, “Now,” Trish (Schelaine Bennett) is grown and her daughter, Dana (Hannah Gonera), is the same age as her mother in the prologue. Add a decade if the movie opened in 1982, and at least one of the women would be too old in 2021.

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Adult Trish has a bit of “Laurie Strode Syndrome.” With multiple locks on the front door, we learn that she’s lived in fear all these years and has been over-protective of her daughter. (There’s no mention of her father, but we can assume he jumped ship when she got a little too cray-cray.) Dana is graduating and she and her friends are having a slumber party to celebrate.

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What neither Trish nor we know at this point is that the girls are heading back to Holly Springs to lure Russ Thorn into a trap and end him once and for all. Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention that his body was never found, a fact we learn at the beginning of this second part, like in the original movie, from a radio report.

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Instead of a little sister next door wanting in on the action next door, Maeve’s (Frances Sholto-Douglas) little sister, Alix (Mila Rayne), stows away in the trunk and wants in on the action at the boys’ cabin across the lake. Alix represents us. We’re also tagging along on this adventure, and we’re surprised to learn the alcohol they’re guzzling is just water, so they retain their wits.

Covering new ground, at least for this franchise if not many others, their car breaks down and they meet the eccentric gas station owner, Kay (Jennifer Steyn.) I guess by the end it does, but at this point it makes no sense that they can’t continue travelling, yet they can follow Kay when she leads them to a cabin where they can stay while they wait for their car part to arrive.

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This isn’t the same cabin from 1993. The boys across the lake got that one because they were quicker with their reservations. Back to Alix walking through the woods to peep at the boys… She stumbles across a pickup with a dead body hunched over the steering wheel, much like when Diane found Steve in his car in The Slumber Party Massacre.

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Long story short, Russ Thorn is back in Slumber Party Massacre and, like in the original, he’s neither masked nor hidden, carrying his phallic power drill proudly between his legs. In a bit of a twist during this second part, most of his victims are men. Tables are turned and it’s the male species we get to see bouncing around shirtless and taking slow motion showers.

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Two iconic scenes from the 1982 film are, if not recreated exactly, at least strongly referenced in the 2021 film. First is when Russ is led to a potential victim by the blood trickling under a door. Second is when one of the boys, Guy One (Richard White), opens a freezer several times, never noticing the dead body inside.

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There’s also a telephone repair woman and a van that I believe looks the same in both movies. There are more homages, but the last one I noted was a scene in which one of the characters is hunting snails in the woods. In the original, Mr. Contant, the neighbor that’s supposed to keep an eye on Trish while her parents are gone, kills a snail on the woodpile with a machete.

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By the time Dana uses her machete to break Russ’s drill bit and then slice his neck, and Alix runs out of the cabin to savagely stab him multiple times, I thought the movie was over. However, this is only where the second part ends and the third begins. The survivors have seen a horror movie or two and when they cover the body, they know they need to watch it.

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Alix grows impatient during her turn, though, and by the time they realize nobody is standing over it any longer, it is… gone! Now, I didn’t think for once that Russ Thorn rose from the dead, head perhaps resting horizontally on his shoulders and body leaking like a sieve. These movies aren’t about the supernatural; that’s one of the things I like about them.

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Someone is continuing his killing spree, though, and another reason we know it’s probably not Russ is because this killer has a new weapon of choice: a nail gun. Slumber Party Massacre then veers into Friday the 13th territory. Familiar, yet different, this third part was my favorite because I knew what was going to happen, yet I didn’t know for certain. You know that feeling.

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Slumber Party Massacre has a satisfying conclusion, similar in buildup to The Slumber Party Massacre with one character racing to help the girls. Also, with a smidge more backstory and plot, the emotional arc is fully resolved. I enjoyed it, but still prefer the original. The new one is plenty diverse, but my sensibility is more old-fashioned than it is modern.


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