Sequels are a tricky thing. Fans demand more of what they liked in the original film, however, there is an assumption that sequels lead to disappointment. Horror films, and in particular slasher films, have an added difficulty in that most of your cast, including the killer, will likely be dead by the end of the film. Various approaches have been employed to deal with this. Your sequel can start off by explaining that the killer actually survived whatever befell him/her at the end of the last movie regardless of how unlikely that seems. Another strategy is to utilize the supernatural as an excuse to bring someone back from the dead. If you are unable to think up a semi-plausible rational or supernatural explanation, you can completely ignore the previous film’s claim that, this time, the killer is truly gone. Or you can have someone, usually a prior victim or a vengeful family member, take over where the deceased killer left off. Finally, if all else fails, you can make a sequel in spirit only; a film that maintains some of the basic ideas but does not follow directly from its predecessor. I’m not at all certain of the approach writer/director Deborah Brock chose when she wrote Slumber Party Massacre II.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) told the story of Russ Thorn, an escaped mass murderer, who terrorized a group of girls at a slumber party with a large power drill and thus earned the moniker, Driller Killer. Thorn was eventually stopped by Valerie, a teenage girl that wasn’t even at the slumber party but lived across the street. Valerie killed Thorn with a machete while her younger sister, Courtney, watched in shock. In Slumber Party Massacre II, we learn that Valerie suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Meanwhile, Courtney (now portrayed by Crystal Bernard, probably best known for the sitcom Wings) has grown to the age where she and her friends are having a slumber party of their own. This seems to set up Slumber Party Massacre II as a direct sequel with Thorn poised to miraculously return to finish what he started. Or, perhaps, Valerie, or even Courtney herself, will take up the mantle of Driller Killer. However, in a perplexing mash-up of all the slasher sequel tropes, Courtney suffers from threatening dreams about a completely different Driller Killer with paranormal abilities.
Enter unknown actor Atanas Ilitch as the new Driller Killer. Looking like he just stepped out of an episode of Sha Na Na (ask your parents), Ilitch’s Driller Killer owes more to Freddy Krueger than he does Russ Thorn. Able to cross between the dream world and reality with apparent ease, the character is a wise-cracking, fourth-wall-breaking psychopath that has no motive for his actions but cannot contain his glee at their execution. Ilitch’s unnamed Driller Killer shows a fondness for quoting song lyrics but, given the chance, he goes well beyond that quirk. He’s a rockabilly butcher who sings, dances, and plays guitar. And let’s talk about that guitar. The larger-than-life persona of this Driller Killer necessitates a larger-than-life weapon. No mere power drill would suffice. Thus, Ilitch carries an elaborate, over-sized, bright red, electric guitar with a huge, spinning drill bit protruding from the neck. Ilitch need barely pause his musical act to bore a couple of holes in a victim.
In case it isn’t obvious, this new and improved Driller Killer is ridiculous. No matter how violent some of his murders are, it is just not possible to take this living cartoon character seriously. But it is also the Driller Killer that makes Slumber Party Massacre II a guilty pleasure. Certain phrases found in movie titles from the 1980’s created very specific expectations. Nobody bought a ticket for a movie with ‘sorority house’, ‘private school’, ‘cheerleader’, or ‘slumber party’ in the title with any misconceptions. On the surface, Slumber Party Massacre II delivers on the promise in its title. There is a completely gratuitous pillow fight that mystifyingly results in some disrobing. The boys arrive and, despite the girls’ original irritation, are quickly welcomed into the party with open arms. It’s all very clichéd and formulaic. And yet, it is the Driller Killer’s antics rather than any promise of titillation that is the draw.
In fact, the wild slumber party aspects of Slumber Party Massacre II are kind of strangely innocent. The single instance of nudity in the film, during the pillow fight, is brief and awkwardly blatant. The teenagers, all of which are in their mid-twenties, hook-up off screen. Courtney’s crush on the tenderhearted and perpetually shirtless Matt is mutual and painfully sweet. There is a running reference in which the teens keep reading from a book titled Hot, Wet & Wild, but the passages sound more like something out of a Harlequin Romance. That seems a fitting match for the teenage high jinks in the film. They hint, rather than overwhelm.
As everyone knows, the best bad movies are those that are unintentionally funny in their ineptitude. Setting out to make a so-bad-it’s-good film is rarely successful. Admittedly Slumber Party Massacre II does not take itself too seriously. Any movie in which the heroine is attacked by a chicken carcass from the refrigerator must have a sense of humour. However, I do not think writer/director Brock set out to make a bad movie. I suspect she was trying to find the line between horror and comedy that made the Nightmare on Elm Street films so popular. That she failed is part of the fun. The humour often falls flat. The story does not make sense. The gore, while employing some decent special effects, does not fit the tone of the movie. The Driller Killer seems to be in one film while the rest of the cast is earnestly trying to be in another. Add to this way too many long musical interludes and obvious product placements for everything from Slice soda to Oxy-10, and you have a film that is never boring but is an easy target for mockery. That is exactly what I look for in a so-bad-it’s good film and why Slumber Party Massacre II is one of my favourites.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) Directed by Deborah Brock; Written by Deborah Brock; Starring Crystal Bernard, Kimberly McArthur, Juliette Cummins, Heidi Kozak, & Atanas Ilitch; Not readily available on DVD or Blu-Ray at the moment although it was released years ago as part of The Slumber Party Massacre Collection on DVD from Shout Factory.
This is my contribution to the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. My equally masochistic associate has also written an article for the blogathon here. Please check out some of the other contributors by clicking on the image below. Our thanks to Rebecca of Taking Up Room for allowing us to air our dirty laundry.