Perhaps the most frequent (and vocal) complaint levied against the early ’80s slasher boom was that the films were misogynistic–thinly-veiled phallic metaphors depicting the destruction and exploitation of women to titilate creeps. And while we can argue at length the merits of that claim, it pays to keep them in mind when watching 1982’s SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.
Initially written by noted feminist author Rita Mae Brown as a parody of the then-prevalent slasher craze, it was put into production as a straight horror film by producer Roger Corman (who, you’ll recall was advancing gender studies around this time with the rape-happy monster fest HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP). And as he did with HUMANOIDS, Corman handed the reins to a female tyro–in this case, Amy Holden-Jones, about a decade before she wrote INDECENT PROPOSAL–presumably in a pre-emptive strike against anti-feminist charges. The result is one of the most subversive entries in the teen-stalk cycle.
As if its ad campaign wasn’t a tip-off, phallic stand-ins play a, um, a large role in SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (the penile subtext even extends to the killer’s moniker, Russ Thorn) as an escaped mental patient with an oversized drill makes holes in a series of nuble pubescent victims. The film has been described as a metaphor for a virgin’s fear of sex, writing large the underlying themes of penetration and blood, putting it more in the realm of Little Red Riding Hood than Jason and his machete-wielding brethren. Ironically, portraying the material straight-faced throws these metaphorical underpinnings in sharp relief.
Two sequels followed, in 1987 and 1990, with varying results. (Part II, while light years away from being a good film, has the advantage of being entertainingly brain-dead and boasting a pre-WINGS Crystal Bernard, while Part III is a generic bore.) To say neither made an attempt to explore gender politics is something of an understatement.