Slumber Party Massacre


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Slumber Party Massacre
"Esterhazy is showing us that she knows how to play the game by the old rules – before she subverts them."

When a director like Danishka Esterhazy takes on the likes of Slumber Party Massacre, you know you’re not going to get a remake that simply copies the original. With this in mind, the opening sequence might surprise you. It features a group of scantily clad young women partying together in a remote cabin in the woods beside a lake, catching the eyes of a voyeuristic young man and also of a killer with a drill. The camera hugs their curves and soon the blood is flowing. Esterhazy is showing us that she knows how to play the game by the old rules – before she subverts them.

Flash forward a few years. Trish (Schelaine Bennett), the pre-credit sequence’s final girl, may seem superficially okay but is still so traumatised that she struggles to leave her home. Her daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera) could not be more different. A bright, outgoing teenager with a big appetite for life, she has learned to stand up against her mother’s overprotective tendencies. Now, however, she’s taking things a step further. Using the cover story of a road trip with friends, she’s making her way back to the cabin where it all began. She’s convinced that the killer is still out there, and together with her friends, she plans to stage a slumber party just like the previous one in the hopes of luring him to his doom.

A group of kick-ass girls girls with clubs and knives may have its own appeal, but can it deliver on what slasher fans are really looking for? Killing one bad guy clearly wouldn’t be enough. Killing the little sister who stowed away in the boot of the car (a nod to the babysitting subplot in the original) would seem rather mean-spirited. Writer Suzanne Keilly works around this problem by introducing a group of scantily clad young men who are touring the country visiting murder locations and renting the cabin on the other side of the lake. Concerned that they might screw up the plan – and get themselves killed in the process – Trish and her friends try to watch over them, but one of the youths spots a hidden knife and becomes convinced that our heroines are themselves a threat.

What follows is a comedy of misunderstandings entangled with drama and, in due course, liberally sprinkled with gore. That the original killer is still alive, looks much the same, and proves unnaturally hard to kill will surprise no-one. Of course, Dana’s plan doesn’t quite go as intended – perhaps because she doesn’t understand the situation as well as she thinks. The real joy of the film, however, comes from how creatively Esterhazy flips the gendered approach of the original, using that fluid understanding of traditional genre camerawork to bring us a pillowfight, a shower scene and more that will have viewers in stitches. It’s not simply an opportunity to lust over a different set of bodies, as in places it incorporates a critique of the need for such scenes, and it’s always spiked with satire. Film fans whose knowledge is a little wider-ranging will also find references which point the way to future plot developments.

Once things get going, there’s no shortage of action. Rob van Vuuren delivers an entertaining take on original villain Russ Thorn and the drill scenes strike a good balance between silliness and scares. The meta-comedy playing with genre tropes (not just limited to gender) is balanced by the sort of innovative kills that genre fans love, and there’s a suitably satisfying final showdown (or two). Whilst there are places where the pacing doesn’t quite work and it would have been nice to see a bit more character development where Dana’s friends are concerned, this is, overall, a lively little crowd-pleaser which delivers on the promise of Rita Mae Brown’s original idea without compromising on the horror front.

Reviewed on: 02 Dec 2021
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A reimagining of the famous slasher film.
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Director: Danishka Esterhazy

Writer: Suzanne Keilly

Starring: Hannah Gonera, Frances Sholto-Douglas, Mila Rayne, Alex McGregor, Reze-Tiana Wessels, Rob van Vuuren, Jennifer Steyn

Year: 2021

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: South Africa

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