MOVIE: Killer Party (1986)

Phoebe, Vivia, and Jennifer are best friends who have just started college together.  When the other two decide to pledge a sorority, Jennifer reluctantly agrees to go along with them, despite the fact she’s A) not into it; and B) seriously spooked by the abandoned frat house next door to the sorority’s digs.

Jennifer’s willies about the house only increase when it turns out their Hell Night, the night of their initiation into the Greek system, is going to take place in said abandoned spookhouse, a house they’ve recently learned was condemned years ago after a fraternity pledge named Allen was killed by a hazing ritual accident involving a guillotine (note to pledges:  just say no to drugs and operational French execution devices).

Jennifer gets a little dose of satisfaction when, right in the middle of their own hazing (which involves things like having egg yolks dropped into their mouths to see who can catch the most — sorry, fellas, no naked boobs or spankings), the girls begin to hear scary noises and the door locks and spooky smoke starts to pour into the room and PANIC PANIC PANIC!  Though they’d been ribbing her for weeks about her paranoia, it turns out Jen was right!  And now they’re all gonna die!  Darn it, we should’ve listened to you, Jen!  Especially when you started twitching and talking smack in that super weird demon voice of yours!  Och, will we never learn?!

Luckily, PSYCH!, it’s just a prank — put together by Vivia, no less.  She would’ve been booted from the sorority right then and there, too, if it weren’t for the fact the house is planning an April Fool’s party this year and they want Viv to repeat the prank for the frat boys they invite (payback for a prank the boys had committed against them earlier that involved unleashing a bunch of bees on them while they were hanging out naked in a hot tub together — there’s your boob scene, lads).

Naturally, the April Fool’s party is also being held at the abandoned house.  And also naturally, people have started disappearing — they go into the house and they never come back out.  That has a few unnerved, but when the gang gets through all the party prep alive, the plan continues forward.  The night of the bash, though, Vivia’s prank goes all wrong when the guys beat her to the punch line, and meanwhile, more and more bodies start to pile up, this time not disappearing, but confronting the young’uns right before they themselves get sliced and diced.

After a handful of kids get killed off, suddenly, what started out as a standard 80s slasher film does a 90 degree turn in the whacko direction, morphing from slasher flick into a bizarre Evil Dead meets The Exorcist thingamagger that made me laugh out loud.

Not, I’m sorry to report, on purpose.  (Oh, that’s a lie — I’m not a bit sorry to report that.)

Thing is, despite the movie’s ridiculous ending — not to mention its ridiculous beginning and middle — I was actually kind of impressed by this film.  For one thing, there’s a surprising amount of character development; the filmmakers really took the time to establish unique personalities for each of the three main characters, and even though those personalities weren’t terribly original (the nerd, the princess, the (relatively speaking) sage), that’s definitely a lost art in horror movies these days.

The murders don’t even start up right away; instead, the first-third of the flick focuses on the girls getting settled into college life, making friends, getting boyfriends and losing them, etc.  By the end, then, we have a real sense of who everyone is and who we’re rooting for (note: anyone but Jennifer).  This is an important step that a lot of horror movies just skip nowadays, making it all but impossible for the audience to give a rip about who lives and who dies.

Likewise, the ending, which at first made me groan (what the WHAT?!) had a nice little secondary twist I thought was pretty sharp.  I mean, sure, it’s nothing you won’t see coming, and it’s kind of a rip-off of Halloween Whatever Number That Was.  But for 1986, it’s not too shabby.  The murder scenes are almost completely blood-free too, which is unusual and sort of refreshing for a film of that era (80s gore scenes invariably look pretty lame anyway), though, of course they do still feature the trademark heavy breathing whenever shot from the perspective of the killer.  I mean, as you know, all slashers are gaspy mouth-breathers, mask or no mask.  And, as you also know, some traditions gotta be respected.

The film’s opening scene, a clear homage to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, complete with a movie within a music video (within a movie), was also pretty clever, and did a good job introducing the movie’s initial “college comedy” feel.

Overall, though Killer Party is VERY 80s (oy, the cheese!  oy, the hair!), it’s also a surprisingly entertaining little flick.  Nothing brilliant, and certainly it doesn’t come anywhere close to the classics of the genre, but for a sorority slasher, it’s a pretty rewarding rental.  Recommended!

[View trailer | Rent from Scarecrow Video (Seattle peeps)]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Martin Hewitt, Elaine Wilkes, Sherry Willis-Burch, Joanna Johnson, Paul Bartel

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