DirectorAmy Holden Jones/Deborah Brock
Release Date(s)1982/1987 (February 21, 2023)
Studio(s)New World Pictures/New Concorde (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B
- Overall Grade: B+
The Slumber Party Massacre is considered one of the most enjoyable exploitation films of its era. Produced by Roger Corman and released in 1982 (during the same decade of output as The Burning, The Prowler, and Pieces, among others), it came along at a time when drive-in horror and home video horror were just beginning to co-mingle, keeping screens both big and small splattered across the country. But, like a lot of exploitation films, it has more to it than blood, gore, and nudity, of which there’s plenty.
What sets The Slumber Party Massacre apart from many of slasher films released in the 1980s (along with its sequels) is that it was directed by a woman, Amy Holden Jones. Because of this, it gives the female-led story a different slant. These are not a bunch of brain-dead teenagers, nor are they innocent angels. They feel normal, in an otherwise extreme situation. It’s also notable that there seems to be a bit of role reversal going on. Some of the male characters, in particular, could have easily been female. It gives what could have been a by-the-numbers horror film an added, and very fresh, dimension. Not everyone make pick up on it, but it’s there.
Many of the usual genre conventions are also tossed out. For instance, we know who the killer is right off the bat. There’s no attempt at building him up in the shadows and having characters eventually discover who he is. This isn’t anything new, of course, but most slasher films of the era were more focused on hiding their killers until the very end for the big reveal. This killer in particular carries a large drill around to do his victims in. This obviously represents something other than a power tool, and plays into the theme of hormonal young women being attacked with something phallic. Even Sigmund Freud wouldn’t miss the visual symbolism. That all being said, The Slumber Party Massacre is very entertaining. Whether you’re reading into it more carefully or not, it’s still a cut above most and doesn’t require any advanced critique to enjoy it.
After the first film’s success, Roger Corman and company decided to make sequels, which were also helmed by female directors (Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison, respectively). Slumber Party Massacre II picks up sometime after the events of the first as we find the younger sister of one of the women murdered by the driller killer suffering from nightmares. When her and her friends get together for a party, a leather-clad maniac wielding a guitar with a drill on the end spoils their fun.
Slumber Party Massacre II is the wackier and more interesting of the two sequels, especially considering that all of the film’s events may simply be a figment of one character’s imagination. It follows the formula of the first with a combination of black comedy, horror, and nudity, but it’s not quite as clever when it comes to the theme of a man invading a woman’s world and destroying it with his deadly, ahem, member. Slumber Party Massacre II is also the more upbeat of the two, laden with rock music and amusing performances. Slumber Party Massacre III (which isn’t included in this release) feels more perfunctory, and much more serious. A remake of the first film came and went in 2021, but aside from other, non-related “Massacre”-oriented films, the sequels stopped with the third entry, which is probably for the best.
The Slumber Party Massacre was shot by director of photography Stephen L. Posey and Slumber Party Massacre II was shot by director of photography Thomas L. Callaway, both on 35 mm film with Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, and both presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Scream Factory revisits these films on UHD with new 4K scans of their original camera negatives, both graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). The first film is perhaps the most filmic-looking of the two since it features more prominent grain, with the second film appearing refined by comparison. Despite sharing disc space with each other, the BD-100 gives each film plenty of breathing room with high bitrates and attractive grain structures, heavy or otherwise. Their respective color palettes are also improved, especially for the first film, thanks in no small part to the new HDR grades. Deep blacks during nighttime scenes really soak up detail in the image and allow for excellent contrast. Minor speckling can be seen along the way, but both presentations are otherwise stable and clean. In truth, these films have never looked this good, and they’re a far cry from the murky VHS presentations that long-time fans likely grew up watching.
Both films feature English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks with optional subtitles in English SDH. They’re fairly narrow tracks, which is no surprise coming as they do from single-channel audio sources, but dialogue exchanges are clear and discernible with good support for the sound effects, score, and the music selection. 5.1 remixes might have improved dynamics and widened out some of each film’s busier moments sonically, but these tracks are clean and free of any major problems.
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/A-/B+
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B-/A-/B+
The Slumber Party Massacre and Slumber Party Massacre II share the same 4K Ultra HD disc alongside two 1080p Blu-rays, each containing either film. Everything sits in a black amaray case with a “Double Feature” artwork insert featuring each film’s poster on the front and stills with each film’s respective credits on the reverse (an odd choice since the case isn’t clear to allow these images to be seen). The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Amy Holden Jones, Michael Villella, Beverly Gray, Debra De Liso and Tony Brown
DISC ONE: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Deborah Brock, Don Daniel, Beverly Gray, and Tony Brown
DISC TWO: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Amy Holden Jones, Michael Villella, Beverly Gray, Debra De Liso, and Tony Brown
- Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre – “Don’t Open the Door” (SD – 23:04)
- Rigg Kennedy: The Man Next Door (HD – 13:23)
- Alternate Title Sequence (HD – :33)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:05)
- UK Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:08)
- Still Gallery (HD – 33 in all – 3:09)
DISC THREE: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Deborah Brock, Don Daniel, Beverly Gray, and Tony Brown
- Unrated Cut (Upscaled SD and HD – 85:23)
- Sleepless Nights: Revisiting Slumber Party Massacre II – “Don’t Let Go” (SD – 19:38)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:49)
- Video Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:02)
- Still Gallery (HD – 93 in all – 7:53)
Unfortunately, the third film in the series is not included here (possibly for legal reasons), but all of the previous extras for both films have carried over. It’s worth noting that when Shout! Factory initially released their Slumber Party Massacre Collection triple feature DVD release in 2010, the audio commentary for the second film featured actress Juliette Cummins and story editor Beverly Gray. However, due to legal issues, those discs were quickly withdrawn and the audio commentaries were censored, editing out both Cummins and Gray, leaving gaps of silence in their wake. When the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time in 2017 as a Double Feature release with Slumber Party Massacre III, the commentary was slightly restored to re-institute Beverly Gray’s participation. However, Juliette Cummins remains absent. As of this writing, that initial DVD release is the only place you can find that uncensored commentary.
The full three-part documentary for Sleepless Nights: Revisiting The Slumber Party Massacre has been divvied up for each film. Included here are the first two parts covering the first two films, with the third part for the third film completely absent. Each speaks to a number of cast and crew members who worked on the film, as well as film writers and fans. The interview with Rigg Kennedy was added to the first film’s Steelbook Blu-ray release in 2020. The rest of the extras consist of an alternate title sequence for the first film, multiple trailers for each film, and a part of still galleries containing a total of 126 stills of production photos, behind-the-scenes photos, call sheets, posters, photo shoots, press materials, newspaper clippings, and home video and soundtrack artwork.
While the third film seems to be lingering in legal limbo, this collection of Slumber Party Massacre films remarkably freshens up their respective presentations and manages to cart over everything from previous releases. Fans will definitely want to take advantage and upgrade.
- Tim Salmons