Slumber Party Massacre II

Weird things are happening to my face
★★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
1987
Director: 
Deborah Brock
Starring: 
Crystal Bernard, Atanas Ilitch, Heidi Kozak, Juliette Cummins, Patrick Lowe
The Setup: 
Little sister from the first film now gets a psychotic killer all her own.
Discussion: 

I read a review of this that really got me juiced to see it, but even that didn’t do it full justice. We open with our main character, Courtney, sleeping as we go through the credits. Then the first thing that piqued my interest is that this is a slasher film written and directed by a woman, Deborah Brock. So: what is this going to mean? Are we going to have some interesting commentary on the slasher genre from a woman’s perspective? Maybe not so much, but what we do get is a lot of interesting observations about her view of women’s desire, evidenced in this first scene: Courtney is dreaming of this shirtless 80s hunk, but her dreams soon turn to thoughts of people getting killed—with a three-foot-long power drill. So already things are intriguing.

Courtney gets picked up by her friend the next day and they sing along to this song about “going through the motions” when Matt, the 80s-style hunk Courtney was dreaming of, pulls up. They invite him to come watch their band practice that evening.

So we have the rest of the band introduced during the performance of this song! Which is SO delightful. There’s Amy, this blond not too far removed from Jan Brady, Sheila, the brassy redhead lead singer, and Sally, the pretty blonde drummer. Sally was my favorite. For the first hour it seems that every time her face is on screen she purses her lips in a kind of “aww, yeah” expression. Then Matt shows up and listens to their song, “If Only,” then he and Courtney repair to the backyard, where she invites him to come to their slumber party—even though she herself hasn’t gotten permission from her hardass mother.

One thing we notice, and continues into Courtney’s conversation with her mom, is Brock’s style of having actors talking to Courtney facing directly into the camera. YOU are Courtney. So there’s a long scene in which Courtney’s mom wants her to go visit her sister Valerie in the mental institution [where she went after the first film], and Courtney begging and finally getting permission to go to the slumber party. It IS her 17th birthday, you know! That night, Courtney has another of her dreams in which she first sees Matt shirtless, which transforms into someone stalking her [it becomes downright Lynchian in parts], and finally sees her sister Valerie, who warns her: “Don’t go all the way.” The next day Courtney is all out of wonk, which probably accounts for that fringed shirt she’s wearing, and she goes off to the party.

The slumber party is taking place in the model home of a new development, meaning that the entire rest of the subdivision around them is empty, unfinished houses. I thought this was a great location for a slasher movie, but the rest of the film doesn’t take much advantage of their isolated location. They are there ostensibly to have hours of uninterrupted band practice, which we only see them engage in once. The girls drink and eat corndogs [!], then dance around, removing their tops and having a pillow fight. One of them performs an erotic dance with a halogen lamp. Here’s where again we have to wonder what a female writer-director thinks about including this kind of scene, but we’ll talk about that later. Outside, having shown up a day early, are these dudes that have been invited. One is this generic blond who name I didn’t get, at TJ, this AMAZING burnout dude who was obviously imported STRAIGHT from my high school. In fact, so far every frame has been visually amazing for those who grew up during the 80s. The guys watch the girls engage in the kind of topless pillow fight, complete with falling feathers, that only happens in movies, then sneak into the house, creating the typical “Did you hear something?” scene. One of my favorite aspects is the way Sheila is slugging champagne as she searches the house for what may be a psychopathic killer.

Meanwhile, Courtney is starting to freak out at regular intervals, having all sorts of disturbingly real dreams that bleed into her reality, a la A Nightmare on Elm Street. The other girls think she’s nuts—we see Amy smiling sanctimoniously behind her back—but no one suggests that maybe she should just go home. Courtney’s dreams are centering around this Italian greaser dude in skin-tight black leather, who wields a red guitar with the aforementioned three-foot drill on the end.

So TJ plays with the plastic blow-up doll they have found in one of the beds, “playfully” beating it on the face to complain that the girls won’t put out. He also “jokingly” makes the thing suck his toe. The girls sing another fun song, then all go to bed, whereupon Courtney has another disturbing dream.

The next day we join Sally as she is composing. You’ll not that she has painted three dots on her cheek in order to attain the right frame of mind for musical authorship. She talks to Courtney, who is clearly losing her grip, but doesn’t take her seriously. “Weird things are happening to me!” to which Sally empathizes: “Weird things are happening to my face! I have this zit…” Soon after this Courtney has a somewhat infamous scene in which Sally appears, half of her face completely distorted by this huge open zit that spews out gross mustard-color pus all over Courtney!

So Courtney freaks out again and they call in officers Kreuger and Voorhies. Officer Krueger is actually quite a cutie. He upbraids Courtney for imagining things and takes off. Then Matt [who hasn’t exactly been the picture of sympathy—or so much as asking Courtney what’s bothering her—either] takes Courtney upstairs and they do it, despite the advice of Valerie-in-a-vision, although it’s obvious that they don’t really do anything and both still have their clothes on. Regardless, the killer drills Matt right through the chest! That’s right, Courtney had sex for the first time [or… at least was GOING to] and her boyfriend got gruesomely murdered! Fast-track to frigidity, if you ask me.

So now the killer is in the real world. He drills someone else, the bit going right through the wall [making me wonder if this movie was released before or after Body Double [after], and with a flying arm unfortunately landing in the birthday cake. Then Sally freaks out, saying she doesn’t know if she can take it, because it took so long to bake it, and she’ll never have that recipe again! Oh Naaaaooooooooooo! Actually, that doesn’t happen. The arm in the cake, though, that’s real.

Things go fast and furious now. The blond dude gets it. The killer makes a kissy face at TJ as he gets it. The killer breakdances. There’s an amusing moment when Sylvia is outside and they’re going to let her in, but then they hear the killer outside and bar the door, leaving Sylvia to die! Fickle friendships. Then all of a sudden Courtney’s on the roof, and you’re like ‘How did she get up there?’ and then she’s jumping across roofs, and again, how? It looks like the houses are literally connected. Then suddenly Courtney turns and lights the killer on fire, and he goes up like a four-week-old Christmas tree doused in lighter fluid. After a brief coda/possibly dream with Courtney in a mental institution, we out.
 What fun! Aside from ALL the 80s looks and fashion and music and attitude, you have a severe sexual subtext and a lot of silly characters in silly situations. The killer here is played by Atanas Ilitch, who is a guy from Michigan who is now President of Olympia Development. Back in the 80s he had a band and [reportedly] self-financed a vanity record [called simply: Atanas] that he bought billboards for and somehow got into the record store I worked at. This led to an exchange in which one of the managers was razzing me and said "You're an Adonis," to which another friend who worked there said "Is he Adonis? Or is he ATANAS?"

So you remember I was wondering how to take this movie based on the fact that it was written and directed by a woman. I think she definitely has a viewpoint on it, but I’m not sure if she’s writing a satire of slasher films that’s as extreme as she can make it, taking the whole sex = death thing to a ridiculous degree, or if she’s just presenting what she thinks is “right” for a movie like this. In either case, it seems to be all about the excitement and fear of sexual desire. Courtney’s dreams almost always start with her seeing Matt shirtless and smiling, then transform into her seeing the killer. The killer is considerably more sexualized than the bland Matt, with his leather, pelvic thrusts and, uh, penetrative weapon. So I think it’s about Courtney’s fear that if she lets her own desires go too far, it will unleash this dangerous, uncontrollable force, which is exactly what happens: it is when she finally gets it on that Matt is destroyed and the killer is “born” into the real world. This makes this movie not unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street II, in which Freddy is born [this time literally coming out of another’s body] at the moment the hero finally expresses his desire for his best friend.

But aside from all this, it’s just a very fun, verging-on-ridiculous slasher movie with tons of 80s flavor, amusingly insipid characters, and a charismatic killer. Now I’m dying to see the first one.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, if you like slasher films that are more goofy and fun than scary.