The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Killer Party (dir by William Fruet)

The 1986 film Killer Party is one of those late 80s slasher films that somehow has developed a cult following.  Up until recently, there was a fairly active fansite devoted to the history of Killer Party and Killer Party still regularly shows up on TCM Underground.

So, apparently, Killer Party has fans.

I’m just not sure why.

Some of it, I suppose, could have to do with the first ten minutes of the film, which are genuinely clever.  It starts out with a young woman being menaced at a drive-in theater and, just when you’ve gotten invested in her story and have started to wonder whether or not she’ll survive the entire movie, it is suddenly revealed that we’ve actually been watching a movie-within-a-movie.  And that movie-within-a-movie then turns out to be part of an incredibly silly music video, featuring a band that is so 80s that you find yourself expecting them to stop performing so they can do a line of coke and play the stock market.  At one point, the band even performs while standing on the drive-in’s concession stand.

It’s all marvelously silly and kind of clever.  The problem is that the rest of the film never lives up to those ten minutes.  In fact, you spend the rest of the movie wishing you were still watching that movie about the girl trapped at the drive-in.

I also suppose that some of the film’s cult reputation has to do with the fact that Paul Bartel has a small supporting role.  Bartel plays the same basic role that he played in almost every horror film in which he appeared.  He’s a pompous professor who says a few dismissive lines and is then promptly killed off.  Maybe it’s the Bartel factor that has led to this film developing a cult following.

Who knows?

Killer Party is essentially four movies in one.  The first movie is that part that I’ve already talked about.  The opening is clever but it only lasts for ten minutes.

After the opening, the film turns into a rather standard college comedy.  Three girls want to join the wildest sorority on campus but it won’t be easy!  Everyone on this campus is obsessed with playing pranks.  And by pranks, I mean stuff like locking a bunch of people outside while they’re naked in a hot tub and then dumping a bunch of bees on them.  Of course, that prank gets filmed and the footage is later shown at a meeting of stuffy old people.  That’ll teach those uptight members of the World War II generation!  You may have made the world safe for democracy but that was like a really, really long time ago!  So there!  It’s time for a new generation, one that will make the world safe for pranks!

During this part of the film, there are only a few hints that we’re watching a horror movie.  For instance, the sorority wants to have a party in an abandoned frat house.  Their housemother goes by the frat house and kneels in front of a grave.  She speaks to someone named Alan and tells him that it’s time to move on.  Then she promptly gets killed and no one ever seems to notice.

The comedy part of the movie segues into a remarkably bloodless slasher movie.  The cast assembles at the forbidden house.  They have a party.  Someone in a diving mask shows up and kills off the majority of the cast in 20 minutes.  Almost everyone dies off-screen so there’s really not even any suspense as far as that goes.

Then, during the last few minutes of the film, the slasher film suddenly turns into a demonic possession film and that seems like that should be brilliant turn of events but it just doesn’t work in Killer Party.  Usually, I love movies that are kind of messy but Killer Party is a rather bland and listless affair.  If you’re going to combine a campus comedy with a slasher film and a demonic possession film, you owe it to your audience to really go totally over the top and embrace the ludicrousness of it all.  Instead, Killer Party rolls out at a languid and rather dull pace.

I would not accept an invitation to Killer Party.


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