The SPM Trilogy Revisited : “Slumber Party Massacre III”


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What the heck, let’s wrap this up, shall we?

While the appearance of Slumber Party II may have surprised some being that it came five years after the original, it’s safe to say that when Roger Corman unleashed Slumber Party Massacre III  on the direct-to-video market in 1990, nobody was shocked in the least.

Shot primarily at one beach location and one residential home for exteriors, and with all the interiors being filmed at Corman’s Venice, California studio, the third installment in the SPM series cost a grand total of $350,000 and took somewhere in the neighborhood of one week to get “in the can,” as the saying goes, so yeah — it’s cheap , quick stuff we’re talking about here.

That being said, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad. What starts as a pretty bog-standard tale of stereotypical SoCal bimbo Diane (Brandi Burkett) and her friends ( a crew that features a few  young-at-the-time ladies, such as Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Ford, and Keely Christian, whose faces — and other parts — you may recognize from similar early-90s “slasher”/sexploitation fare) playing volleyball at the beach and then returning to Diane’s parents’ place for a weekend slumber party, where they are set upon, in turn, by their prankster-ish boyfriends, a voyeuristic “nosy neighbor” type, a mute Albino creepy dude, and finally a pyscho killer with a power drill, actually morphs somewhere along the way into a flick with a pretty wickedly sadistic, even black-hearted, sense of humor — with a pretty heavy dose of the misogyny you’ve come to expect from these things thrown in, of course.

As a brief case in point, instead of the standard bathtub-electrocution with either a hair dryer or toaster, in SPM III one of the nubile young co-eds is dispatched in the tub by means of a vibrator gone haywire! Nasty stuff, to be sure, but clearly not something that takes itself too terribly seriously while it’s dishing out its feminist-unfriendly — hell, female-unfriendly — goods.

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As with the previous two entries in this series, Corman again opted for an all-female writing and directing team here in order, one would assume, to help deflect any criticism this one might bet from the usual quarters (not that very many people were paying attention by this point), with those duties falling to Catherine Cyran (one of his regular screenwriters at the time) and Sally Mattison (a semi-veteran of Hollywood’s low-budget fringes best known for her work as a producer), respectively, and while it’s fair to say that this film is the most “seems-like-it-coulda-been-directed-by-a-man-ish” of the bunch, given that it ups the ante a bit in terms of its misogyny and plays it much “straighter,” if you will, than its predecessors in terms of sticking to the standard and much-maligned slasher formula, at the end of the day it’s still a pretty tongue-in-cheek affair  that’s just a bit more self-indulgent and gratuitous in terms of the T&A and overall mean-spiritedness.

To their absolute, credit, though, Mattison and Cyran, while carrying over the blatant phallo-centrism of the whole power drill thing, at least decide to throw in a bit of “whodunit?”-style mystery into the proceedings vis a vis their killer’s identity. Yes, folks, for the first time in a Slumber Party Massacre movie, the psycho might actually have some motivation for his murder spree here!

Or, ya know, he might turn out to be just some random stranger after all. I guess I won’t “spoil” anything in case you haven’t actually seen it. I will say, however,  that the mystery angle isn’t a particularly involving one — but hell, at least it’s there. We’ve already firmly established that “take what you can get” is the order of business with these things, haven’t we? The same — ahem! — “philosophy” applies here.

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All in all,  though, you do get the sense that everyone involved here is giving it their best go on what they’ve got — which admittedly isn’t much in terms of time, talent, and money — but I’d rather watch so-called “D-listers” actually try than “A-listers” sleepwalking through yet another mega-budget production any day of the week. Slumber Party Massacre III may not be particularly ambitious stuff by any stretch, but it’s put together and performed by people who gave an honest day’s effort at the office. That’s worth a little something right there,  and after the absolute clusterfuck of wanna-be “trippy-ness” in the second flick, the “return to roots” sensibility in this one is very welcome indeed.

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As always, the third and final outing (to date) in the SPM “oeuvre” is available on DVD from Shout! Factory packed together with its older celluloid sisters in a two-disc set under the heading “The Slumber Party Massacre Collection,” part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series. It’s presented full-frame with 2.0 stereo sound — and while if there’s been any remastering done with either it’s certainly minimal, the whole thing looks and sounds generally decent enough. Extras include a good little “making-of” featurette, a feature-length commentary with director Mattison, the original trailer, a few trailers for other titles in the Corman series, a poster and still gallery, and a liner notes booklet by Slumber Party Massacre fanatic/filmmaker Jason Paul Collum. A very comprehensive package well worth your time.

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Look, who are we kidding? This isn’t a movie out to set the world on fire — hell, it’s not even out to set the DTV slasher world on fire. It’s there to give two distinct parties their money’s worth — Roger Corman and you, the viewer. It manages to deliver on both fronts, even if just barely. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worthy of a ton of respect, but it’s not worthy of any sort of scorn, either. Don’t expect too damn much, and you’ll walk away satisfied.

Not, I suppose, that anyone who might be inclined to “expect much” as far as their entertainment choices go  is even watching this in the first place.

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