The Driller Killer finally makes his triumphant return in the campy and subversive horror remake, Slumber Party Massacre. Having seen the original trilogy countless times (and yes, even enduring the semi-sequel Cheerleader Massacre), my excitement level for this SYFY film was moderately high. I would not call any of the original films some holy grail of 80s cinema, so it was with that in mind that I started this new installment. With the right set of expectations, Slumber Party Massacre is a hilarious high-energy slasher with its eye on male objectification instead of female. Clever scripting flips an expected narrative into a movie that, while filled with tropes, is also fresh.
The opening is set at a small cabin retreat in 1993 Holly Springs. A gaggle of girls are celebrating graduation, with one gifting a Sam Goody gift card, while another receives a big pink dildo. It is all fun and games until the Driller Killer, Russ Thorne (Rob van Vuuren), shows up! Only one person survives this fateful night, and we flash forward to present day where the final girl’s daughter, Dana (Hannah Gonera), is heading off for a slumber party of her very own. A leak in the radiator prompts them to pull over on their way to a rented house, and sadly it can’t be fixed until the next day. A creepy gas station attendant offers up a room for the night in a distant cabin in the woods. Where else would they end up but Holly Springs? Crime Bandits, a new murder podcast, seems to be all the rage—in addition to the girls staying on the property, a group of five murder-obsessed boys are staying in the original murder cabin from 1993!
The setup sounds simple, but is host to a large number of quirky narrative surprises and fun references to the original series. Of course, the look of the Driller Killer himself is virtually identical to the 1982 original. The second film’s killer guitar makes a special appearance that made me smile, knowing this bit was thrown in specifically for the fans. A couple solid chase scenes are present, and the kills (the onscreen ones at least) are gnarly and propulsive. What more could you want from a slasher, really? The tone is consistently humorous from beginning to end, and the characters never emerge as more than caricature (I did however grow to love Mila Rayne’s Alix.)
Brought to life by female director Danishka Esterhazy and female writer Suzanne Keilly, it comes as no surprise that the feminine-charged satire of the original has been spruced up for a new audience. Toxic masculinity gets a shout out, gender dynamics are key, and the reversal of the typical male gaze is inspired. The male eye candy is splendid indeed, with a memorable and hilarious gratuitous shower scene taking the cake. The standard trope of girls at slumber parties is flipped—bros are spotted through the window whipping each other with towels, ripping apart pillows, and bumping their bare bodies together in a rampant display of homoeroticism. The girls are the heroes here, while the males essentially need saving. It may have been awhile since I have watched the original trilogy, but this movie feels nicely in line with them. In the end, Slumber Party Massacre is exactly what I wanted: a fun, cheesy slasher.
Slumber Party Massacre screened at 2021’s Fantastic Fest, and will be airing on SYFY on Saturday, October 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.