This is a slasher movie about girls at a slumber party, and a dude with a portable drill. There is no pillow fights or nothing but otherwise it pretty much plays out how you would imagine.
Almost anywhere you read about this movie they say it’s a feminist slasher movie. I can see a touch here or there that supports that theory, but I am positive that pretty much every one of these people would be saying it was misogynistic if it was directed by a man. In most respects it’s exactly like every other slasher movie of the time, including showing lots of gratuitous female (and not male) nudity. When the girl gets up in the morning you see her take her shirt off to change into a dress. When she goes to school you see lots of nudity in the locker room, including a really funny shot (I’m not sure if it’s intentionally funny or not) that pans down and just focuses on a girl’s ass for a while before panning back up to where it started. Then during the slumber party they all take their clothes off to change into their night clothes and for the most part don’t wear pants for the rest of the movie. The other characters, who don’t get naked, wear those tight running shorts that were popular at the time.
Plus, there’s a scene where the girls are in the school gym playing basketball, and they’re fucking terrible. They can barely dribble, let alone shoot. I thought it was okay, they’re just high school kids in gym class. But then they mention that it’s not gym class, it’s the actual varsity team. You call that feminism? I’ve seen the Seattle Storm before, I know girls can play basketball.
The alleged feminism in the movie is pretty minor. There is a shot (also used for the movie poster) that goes from between the killer’s legs with the drill pointing down to look like a dick, but that’s not all that different from Jason’s machete or Leatherface’s chainsaw (especially in part 2 where in one scene it’s almost more of a prosthetic penis than a phallic symbol). At the end one of the girls hacks the drill bit off with a machete and this makes the killer helpless, so the phallic thing is obviously not a coincidence.
When the slumber party attendees first find out there’s a killer after them, the two boy characters say “We have to do something to help the girls” and come up with a plan to split up and “make a run for it.” Of course, they both immediately get killed. So much for that macho chivalry shit. But I don’t think that’s anything unusual for the genre either. As most of you know, all the males get killed in the vast majority of slasher movies.
The one and only thing I noticed that I think could be considered a feminist theme unusual to the genre is the way the killer is handled. And this is also the most successful horror aspect of the movie. He has no mask, no gimmick other than the drill, and not much to his backstory. He’s just a notorious killer who, we hear on the radio, has escaped. When we see him he’s just some dude in a jean jacket and boots. He doesn’t make any quips or threats while chasing his victims, so he stays mysterious and you can put yourself in these girls’ shoes (or bare feet) because he’s just some dude you’ve never seen before invading the house. But then at the end he finally talks, he tells the girls that they’re pretty and that he loves them, and then that they know they want it. And one of the girls says “I don’t even know you.” It’s a pretty good illustration of a guy obsessed with girls from afar who decided because he’s sexually attracted to them that he is in love with them. But I guess, like everything else in the movie, calling it feminist might be stretching it.
But since the director (Amy Holden Jones, writer of MYSTIC PIZZA) and the writer (Rita Mae Brown, MURDER SHE PURRED: A MRS. MURPHY MYSTERY) are both women, people are looking for something to interpret in a different way than they would in any other slasher movie. Maybe more than the fact that they’re women it’s relevant to point out that Brown is in fact a feminist and gay rights activist, and her lesbian coming of age novel Rubyfruit Jungle can actually be seen as a set decoration in the movie. Supposedly she wrote the screenplay as a parody (under the title SLEEPLESS NIGHTS) but then it was directed as a serious movie. I’m not sure how that could be unless either it wasn’t a very funny parody or they took out most of the jokes. There are at least three funny parts in the movie, though. There’s one part where the younger sister keeps opening and closing the refrigerator part way trying to sneak a beer, but keeps not noticing there’s a dead body inside. Another part, one of the girls decides that the way to fight a guy with a drill is with another power tool. The drill in the garage is too small, so she takes a buzzsaw and runs upstairs, but she gets to the end of the extension cord before she can use it. My favorite part though is when the killer is loading dead bodies into the trunk of a car and starts counting them. “One… two… three… four… SHIT!” I don’t know if he’s mad because there’s no more room in the trunk or because his body count isn’t high enough.
But that’s the kind of humor that fits in a serious horror movie, it never feels like a parody. On the other hand, the acting is generally bad, the dialogue is often atrocious, and do girls really have slumber parties and hang out in their underwear eating pizza? Maybe Brown was saying no and that was where the parody comes in, I’m not sure. If they really wanted to make a slasher movie for women maybe they should’ve reversed the tables and had men as the victims and sex objects. They would have to pick a male oriented get together such as SUPER BOWL PARTY MASSACRE or FRATERNITY PORN WATCHING MASSACRE or maybe WORLD’S BIGGEST GANG BANG MASSACRE.
I don’t know, this is definitely not a classic. The title has the same amount of syllabes as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but the horror classic it feels most similar to is HALLOWEEN. It’s got alot of the same elements – high school girls and some boyfriends as the leads, a killer is loose, faceless shots of the killer driving around spying on the victims, starts out in the day and ends at night in a suburban house, scary movies on TV, making phone calls to friends, banging on the neighbors’ door but getting no response, finding friends dead hidden around the house… even the keyboard score sounds a little similar. But of course, it’s not shot or especially acted as well as HALLOWEEN, it never feels as real or as tense. It’s more gorey than HALLOWEEN, but with lots of unbelievably easy delimbings and beheadings that make it harder to take seriously. The way limbs come off in some of these movies, you’d think we were like insects, with arms and legs designed to pop off if a predator tries to grab us. You’d think we’d be losing those things every time we trip or bump into a wall or anything.
Still, it has a certain something. I sort of enjoyed it. I think the secret is not in the fact that the writer and director are women, but that they are opposites. You see, Rita Mae Brown is the author of a series of popular mystery novels that she allegedly co-writes with her cat Sneaky Pie Brown. Apparently they involve many animals, but the lead character is a cat detective named Mrs. Murphy. Amy Holden Jones, meanwhile, is the writer of the movie BEETHOVEN, not the one with Gary Oldman as Beethoven, but the one about a huge dog that does all kinds of hilarious things that dogs do, although I believe it leaves out the shitting on the floor, the eating vomit, the humping your leg, pissing on things and smelling asses. Anyway, you got a dog person director and a cat person writer, somehow they form this mystical yin and yang balance that creates the perfect vibe for a crappy but somewhat watchable slasher movie.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.