Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cult Oddities: Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) may have been one of the laziest slasher films ever written -- potentially done so with a power drill during the act of slumber. What leaves a lasting impression is that the sleazy affair was written by a woman (Rita Mae Brown) and directed by one as well (Amy Jones), yet is admirably just as sexist and degrading. Amidst the perpetual changing of tops, showering and mutilation, there hardly seems a clever perspective behind the otherwise obvious sexual metaphors involved in a male killer using a drill on scantily clad schoolgirls. It's most surprising then that its sequel is relatively inspired. No less inane mind you, just more joyously so. It's also been written and directed by a woman, Deborah Brock, with the intention of making something akin to Rock N' Roll High School meets A Nightmare on Elm Street. With Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) it's all about pillow fights and power chords, and the first one to fall asleep gets their bra frozen!

We enter the film during Courtney Bates' scintillating sex dreams of her shirtless crush Matt catching a football - all sunlight, smiles and sweat. Her sportsmanlike lust is startlingly interrupted with images of red hallways, a sanitarium and dead birds, and is made all the more disturbing with flash-cut reminders of the first Slumber Party Massacre. Courtney (played by Crystal Bernard - best known as Helen Chapel from the TV sitcom Wings) survived the power drill slaughter at the tender age of twelve years old, by the strength and savagery of her sister, Valerie, who viciously put an end to the killer's life via machete. When we first met Courtney in the original film, she was stealing Playgirl magazines from Valerie's mattress and perusing them over bananas and lollipops.

Much has changed. Where once she kept flaccid penises, she now keeps news clippings about the crime spree that still haunts her dreams. Now tucked beneath her mattress are scrapbooks composed entirely of news clippings oddly enough all from the same newspaper, all on the same news page, all from the same slow news day.

Courtney's now quite the prude, and she now has a vaguely Southern accent. She's also in a rock band with her girlfriends when she's not suffering constant, psychotic dreams about a death rocker who wants to love her and dismember said girlfriends. Her sister Valerie is now in the mental ward, while Courtney grows more skeptical of her own visions crossed with 80's music videos. The dreams grow progressively more vivid and sexual as the Dream Rocker (known officially as The Driller Killer) wails on a guitar/power drill-combo, groping Courtney and screaming things like, "Rock never dies!"

"I'm you and you're me, until we make it all the way.
Hey, baby... Love the one you're with!"

Courtney decides to relieve stress and head off to the condo owned by the parents of her bandmate Sheila, to celebrate her birthday weekend away from her depressive mother and institutionalized sister. It begins quaintly enough as the girls anticipate the arrival of their boyfriends and discuss plans for college. Things quickly turn understandably tawdry over champagne and corn dogs, ending in a rousing (some would say inevitable) topless pillow fight.

Perhaps the champagne's to blame, but soon Courtney's visions begin to blur with her reality. As her friends become distracted by their braindead boyfriends, Courtney's distracted by the ever-more real presence of the Dream Rocker and the potential murder of her friends. She'd probably be less bothered by the bloodshed if she were aware of the next song being written for their band by the drummer, the sweet and slow-witted Sally:

"I want a silver Caddie with a landau top.
I want a sugar daddy with a candy shop.
I want a lotta things that money can't buy,
But what I want most is a pie in the sky.
What I want most is a pie in the sky!"

The dreams themselves are cryptic enough to keep Courtney (and the viewer) a tad critical. She has visions of a bathtub overflowing with blood, hands in her hamburger (a handburger, if you will), and fears being viciously attacked by poultry!

Courtney tries desperately to convince her friends that Dream Rocker is nearby and that her visions are the truth. She has a difficult task ahead of her when Sally's persistent complaints over a nonexistent pimple has Courtney envisioning Sally with a massive oozing and exploding pustule that demolishes the side of her face.

Courtney thinks Sally is dead and somehow randomly stuffed in the trash compactor downstairs, but rather than check, the gang decides to call the cops and let Courtney babble her mad tale of death by acne. (Homage alert! The bastard officers are names Kreuger and Voorhies -- misspelled to feign authenticity? Courtney Bates (!) also mentions her survival from Trisha Craven's (!) house.) The cops aren't convinced, especially when Sally reappears at the front door, having merely gone out to the store to stock up on Oxy 10.

Matt, Courtney's crush from the film's early football fantasies, arrives to console her with birthday cake. He quickly detours Courtney's ramblings over blood and zits into the perfect foreplay. Matt and Courtney's passions ignite while the gang rocks out downstairs, oblivious to the fact that Courtney's virginity was the real threat all along. Guitar wails unsettle Courtney's mind as she confesses to him, "Matt, I've never--" But Dream Rocker and Courtney are so close now that he can complete her sentences, "--Gone all the way!" He laughs maniacally as he power drills through Matt's chest during a solo, and finally manifests himself outside of Courtney's dreams!

Dream Rocker is to leather and fringe what Freddy is to the red and green sweater. He replaces those snappy puns with inappropriately quippy song lyrics as he decimates Courtney's friends via drill: "This is dedicated to the one I love!" - "I can't get no satisfaction!" While he perhaps uneventfully pulverizes the entire group's chest cavities with the end of his guitar, Dream Rocker's true skill is performance.

He dance kicks, pops his collar and wags his tongue suggestively at Courtney as she leads friends astray through the suspiciously abandoned neighborhood. Of course her pals barely have time to blame Courtney for the crime spree as Dream Rocker offs them all in such an efficient, timely manner. Courtney, the sole psychotic survivor, torches him with a flamethrower as he rocks out ironically, "Come on, baby, light my fire!"

More bizarre than equating Courtney's untapped sexuality with a slaughterhouse is equating it with an 80's rock guitarist. The morbid events that transpire are largely funneled through Courtney's sex-starved psyche, but to what end? Her lethal lust can barely be contained like power ballads bursting from her loins.

Slumber Party Massacre II rocks! Even as it rolls dramatically downhill... Courtney, like her psycho sis Valerie, is now a head case ripe for the mental ward. But she'll certainly have a more exciting sexless existence in the sanitarium if there's a smoke machine involved.

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