As it draws to a close, 2021 seems to have been the year of the horror re-imagining. Franchises like Wrong Turn, Saw, and Candyman enjoyed some form of revival, and Slumber Party Massacre is the next in line. Directed by Danishka Esterhazy and out on digital platforms now, it’s a solid, if rudimentary take on the 1982 original, that should keep fans of the first film entertained.
Rather than a long-awaited sequel like this year’s Candyman or the upcoming fifth Scream film, Slumber Party Massacre is something of a spiritual successor. The film follows Dana (Hannah Gonera), the daughter of the original’s final girl Trish, played in this by Schelaine Bennett. After her mother’s close shave with death at the hands of drill-obsessed murderer Russ Thorn (an electric, elastic Rob van Vuuren), her and several friends decide to head to an old cabin to tempt fate one more time.
In many ways, the approach of Slumber Party Massacre is a clever one. It doesn’t require pre-established knowledge of Amy Holden Jones’ original, and spins the slasher thesis on its head in some innovative ways. Dana and her friends, who initially appear as your typical horror archetypes just waiting to be slaughtered, but it soon emerges that their intentions are much wiser than that. They’re here to catch Thorn off-guard, turning the tables as he prepares to strike, and it’s a tweak on the formula that certainly keeps things fresh.
That said, when Russ Thorn gets out his drill and takes it to our group of teens, the action is surprisingly enjoyable. Make no mistake that Slumber Party Massacre is a B-movie at heart, even debuting on SyFy over in the States. That leaks into the production values, with shlocky but fun violence that revels in lashings of blood, and some truly impressive practical gore effects. If you’ve ever wondered what impact a power drill would have on the human face, prepare to find out, as director Esterhazy is certainly not afraid to go to those places.
Sadly, the film just isn’t able to sustain the aforementioned nuance throughout its 80-minute runtime. Once that initial twist is out the way, Slumber Party Massacre trudges along as a reasonably by-the-numbers slasher, that has little meat on the bones to string together the gruesome kills. However, the worst offender without doubt is the script by Suzanne Kelly, that leaves you cringing a lot more than it leaves you thinking. Characters, especially young people revelling in parent-free bliss, just don’t talk like this. It’s frustrating, because most dialogue sounds like it’s ripped from a straight-to-DVD 90s chick flick, with unnatural phrasing and some really cringeworthy stereotypes.
Script trouble might be enough to out off casual viewers, but fans of the 1982 original are sure to glean something from Slumber Party Massacre. It doesn’t attempt to revolutionise the formula, but its willingness to play with new thematic ideas, and the sheer unhinged creepiness of its killer, makes this a solid watch for genre fans. It won’t win over franchise skeptics, or earn a place among the pantheon of horror reboots better than the original, but Slumber Party Massacre does enough to warrant one viewing.
Slumber Party Massacre is available on Digital Download from 13th December.