Stripped To Kill 1987
Directed by: Katt Shea Ruben
Starring: Kay Lens, Greg Evigen, Norman Fell
Review by Luisjo González
John Carpenter’s Halloween is certainly one of the most imitated movies ever released. It could, in fact, be THE most copied in motion picture history. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the only slasher movie to create a string of wannabes. Friday the 13th started all the killer in the woods flicks and it even got a straight up duplicate with 2000’s Scream Bloody Murder. 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre also had a landslide of impersonators, including Fatal Pulse, Sorority House Massacre and Cheerleader Massacre. There was another eighties slasher that inspired production teams to become magpies again and that was this Roger Corman beauty. In fairness, this itself is an echo of Murder-Rock from 1984, but it’s overwhelming success created a raft of similar themed cinematics that continued until the early nineties.
I’ve told you guys previously that as a born and bred womaniser, slashers in strip bars are possibly my favourite kind. I’m a successful businessman, but all my bosses will tell you, I put the ladies before everything else, always; – even work. Will this mindset make Stripped to Kill my all time favourite genre entry? Let’s see…
When Detective Cody Sheehan discovers the body of a stripper from the Rock Bottom dance club, she begins an investigation. Her partner, Detective Heineman, is equally involved, but the only way Cody can get the assignment from her superiors is to go undercover as a stripper at the club…
Here we have a movie that truly is 95% strip, 5% slash. With only a couple of murders until the final five minutes, calling this a stalk and slash flick is more than a bit misleading. I’m actually surprised STK was so popular because it’s true most men like watching girls strip, but most women don’t; – and it’s literally non-stop dance sequences for the majority of the runtime. The laydees featured are better than the ones we usually see in films of this ilk, because they do flips and cartwheels on stage. It can get monotonous viewing them after a while, when you’d prefer to see more slasher action and we get kind of disappointed to be stuck with the same old sh*t. We see none of the stalking sequences that made Halloween so enjoyable, the hooded killer just turns up briefly once or twice. The slaughters are creative in their MO, with a strangulation and setting someone on fire, but the director shows us no build up, so there’s no excitement or tension at all. We don’t even get heavy breath POVs or slow-mo stalking. Alfred Hitchcock said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it”, but Katt Shea Ruben must not be a fan of the legendary filmmaker, because she gives us a disappointing ZERO. Whilst I was disenchanted by the lack of key genre trappings, I liked most of the characters and Lenz actually has ok-ish chemistry with Evigen. They were a couple that genuinely looked like they could be together.
The crux of the synopsis is the police investigation into the murders and we get a couple of attractive young cops that are hot on the case. Unfortunately the script doesn’t even get this right, because it’s impossible for anyone with an IQ bigger than an ant to believe any ‘constabulary of the law’ would let one of their detectives work undercover as a stripper. They do attempt to explain this later in the runtime, but once things fall into the realms of make believe, we struggle to take the feature seriously again. I guess, the best thing, was that STK certainly seemed more ‘eighties’ than usual and the spandex, big hair and mullets really took me back to the decade I grew up in. Surprisingly enough, whilst many slasher pictures from this time were undeniably cheesy, this one steers clear of being too camp, which is a shock. Whilst I was disenchanted by by the lack of slasher action, I didn’t hate the characters and Lenz gives us a final girl that we want to succeed. Director Shea used real strippers in her cast, but none of the girls here have a decent rack at all. As I said in my review of Strip Club Slasher, I’ve dated a couple of strippers and they and all their work buddies were well endowed with huge breasts. A couple of them were silicone laden, but busty all the same. I guess, because my personal taste is not the slim, sporty Keira Knightly type, I am being selfish by criticising the girls featured in this flick. If you like laydees with cero curves, you’ll be happy with the chicas featured. I suppose you could say I am a true Latin guy that likes the Latin, coca cola bottle shaped figure. I just prefer voluptuous curves to slim stick insects. In Spain we say, eres tanta curva y yo sin frenos!
Obviously I saw this many years ago and revisiting it the day before yesterday reminded me that I’ve never particularly liked STK. It’s an ok thriller with a twist that I didn’t guess, but it’s often poorly acted and as I alluded to, almost fantasy with its screenplay. Roger Corman regularly used female directors to cover up accusations of misogyny, but Katt Shea Ruben is not one of the better ones. It’s a disappointment that a film with such a huge budget couldn’t have been better, but it did lead to a number of great imitations including the wonderful almost remake, Dance with Death. I guess you can add it to your collection if you love slashers, but it’s not one I’d recommend to convince non believers. For a Strip & Slasher it falls far too short.
Slumber Party Massacre 1982
Directed by: Amy Jones
Starring: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Debra De Liso
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I’ve been putting off reviewing Slumber Party Massacre for quite some time and I’m not sure exactly why. It has become a notorious example of peak period slasher movies and went on to launch a long list of tributes and rip-offs. Roger Corman, arguably THE most prolific producer of low-budget clones of box office hits ever, had taken his time to jump on-board the stalk and slash bandwagon. When he finally did though, he used his flair for understanding cinematic trends to develop a feature that would become highly successful.
The film began life as a parody of teenie-kill flicks with the added allure of being pencilled by a female-scribe. Controversy had began surrounding the genre amongst left-wing critics and feminist groups that felt the movies were riddled with misogyny and unnecessary violence. Rita Mae Brown had decided to make light of the situation and show that it wasn’t only men that could contribute to the craze. She wrote a story that poked fun at the themes that were under the spotlight called, ‘Sleepless Nights’. Once Roger Corman got hold of the screenplay, he maintained some of the humour, but shot it as an out and out slasher flick. The rest, as they say, is history.
A group of sorority sisters decide to have a celebratory slumber party whilst one of their friend’s parents are away on vacation. Little do they know that an escaped lunatic is loitering around the location. It’s left up to new transfer Valerie and her younger sister to try and prevent a bloodbath.
I hadn’t seen Slumber Party Massacre for many years and in honesty, it turned out to be much better than I had remembered. My recollections of a half-hearted rehash of the traditional clichés has been smashed by re-visiting the movie as a more-experienced viewer. It’s perhaps because the last copy that I saw was the heavily edited UK print released as The Slumber Party Murders. Watching it now, totally uncut, after all that time really changed the idea that I had in mind for a rating and I’m so glad that I’ve given it another look.
Any thoughts that director Amy Jones and author Rita Brown were looking to support criticisms of anti-feminism are destroyed by an opening that’s extremely gratuitous. In the first five minutes alone, a key character whips off her top to give us a boob shot and soon after we get mounds of T&A from a lengthy group shower scene. Jones doesn’t hang around to introduce her antagonist, but the first two victims are barely given a line of dialogue before they’re killed and the earlier parts of the story take a while to settle themselves. I expected the worst when we got to see the assailant, a pint-sized loon that looks like an average everyday Joe, almost immediately. Horror works much better when a bogeyman is left somewhat in the shadows and upon revelation, at least looks the part. Thankfully after four false-scares in a row (a record?), the girls get hungry and spice up their evening by ordering a pizza. When they are greeted upon opening the door by a corpse with his eyes plucked out, the momentum seriously begins to tighten.
What I think works best about Slumber Party Massacre is the way that Jones handles the actions of her characters. There’s a scene where two girls barricade themselves in a room to hide from the intruder downstairs. Thanks mostly to some genuine dialogue, you really can believe that this is how they would act in that situation. It’s not always a grim depiction of reality that we get though, because there’s a comedic moment when one of the youngsters prizes the pizza from the dead delivery guy’s hand. She then states that she feels much better after eating a hearty slice. Robin Stille, as the heroine, had obviously been ordered to watch Laurie Strode and base her performance on that of Jamie Leigh Curtis’. Whilst she doesn’t hit the same levels of scream queen perfection, she creates a sympathetic lead that we grow to bond with.
Much like Prom Night before it, Slumber Party does borrow heavily from Carpenter’s Halloween. There are many parts here that are weaker imitations of sequences from that film, but because they’re sharply delivered, we don’t really bother to pick on them as much. Jones pulls off a number of effective shocks and scares, with one set-piece that sees two males run out of the house to search for help, proving to be impressively tense. This leads to a bloody stabbing that’s inter-cut with a scene from Corman’s Hollywood Boulevard and it’s stylishly edited together. Due to the murder of some sympathetic personalities, we are never totally sure who will survive the assassin’s drill. The conclusion wraps it all up neatly and for a film that was supposed to be riddled with humour, it’s actually quite downbeat.
As I have alluded to, Slumber Party Massacre does fall foul of not improving upon ingredients that we’ve seen done better elsewhere. Also, I do still believe that it was lucky to receive the adulation and amount of imitations that it has acquired since its release. I’ve been captured by some of its charms though and it is one of the better peak entries. It’s funny that we live in a world that is light years away in terms of technology from the early eighties. One thing that definitely hasn’t improved is the production of slasher movies. They don’t make them like this anymore no matter how hard they try.
Final Girl √√√