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[Fantastic Fest ’21] ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ (2021) review: Clever slasher flips the script

Role reversal!

Slumber Party Massacre holds a special place in the hearts of horror fans. The film was meant to be a parody, but producers wanted a serious slasher. The end result was a movie that had the tropes of the genre while containing humor not usually found. This was an odd amalgamation for the time and it stood out from similar films. Though it would not reach the heights of its contemporaries, it had a strong following.   

This is a tall order for a remake. The original was already a send up, so for an update to be different it would conversely have to be an old school straight up slasher. Director Danishka Esterhazy solves this by leaning more into the feminist leanings of the source material. This is also something of a risk as there have been many mock horror movies that have come out since their 1980s heyday. The new film could end being derivative of stories that make fun of a genre guilty of eating its own tail.

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In order to make a successful slasher in the 1980s, the expectation was boobs and blood. There is plenty of gore in the 2021 version of Slumber Party Massacre. The kills are outrageous and graphic and have the aura of fun that kills from these types of movies have morphed into over the years. On this level, it is up to par with any “true” slasher or of anything that has made fun of it. But what about the blatant objectification of women?

[Fantastic Fest '21] 'Slumber Party Massacre' (2021) review: Clever slasher flips the script

Slumber Party Massacre answers the question by reversing the male gaze of the 80s and providing some great comedy along the way. The pillow fights in pajamas are still there as is the requisite slow motion shower scene. The film also does not shy away from nudity these types of films thrive on. However, the situation has been humorously flipped leading to some of the movie’s best moments.

The interactions between the men and the women also use comedy to make comments about misogyny. Slumber Party Massacre makes a few missteps here. These moments are well written and do a great job of making fun of horror tropes and modern society in general. There is a great scene  in which a group of men have decided they are going to save the female partiers. Their actions and comments get the point across, yet one of the males makes a comment explaining their decision making.

It is a great addition to the franchise.

This is silly in a “that would not happen in real life” sort of way, but it also defeats the purpose. The reason the dudes are making their decisions is because they are big, brave men. They are oblivious to anything else except saving the women. Having one of them explain why they are doing things shows a self awareness that should be lacking. It goes from funny to eye rolling in a matter of seconds.

Despite these blips, Slumber Party Massacre is a great addition to the franchise. (It is actually better than many of the sequels and spin offs the original spawned.) It deftly navigates gender politics while giving fans something to get squeamish about. The film sticks to the comedic roots of the source material and is an excellent slasher for today’s world. 

Fantastic Fest takes place from September 23 – September 30. Check out AIPT’s ongoing coverage.

Slumber Party Massacre comes to SYFY in October 16.

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