This horror movie remake brings the Driller Killer back to life.
The Slumber Party Massacre series debuted in 1982. The film first followed a group of high school girls as their slumber party turns into a bloodbath thanks to Russ Thorn, a slasher who murders people with a giant drill. Two sequels followed with the most notable being Slumber Party Massacre II, which features a supernatural rockabilly murderer who uses his guitar drill to kill a group of girls, who are in a rock band. One thing has remained consistent about this series: they’ve all been written and directed by women interested in satirizing and playing with expectations within the genre.
In 2021, nearly 40 years after the release of the original, Syfy revamped the slasher series with Slumber Party Massacre written by Suzanne Keilly (Ash vs. Evil Dead) and directed by Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits Movie–the horror remake). This isn’t the typical remake, though. It’s much more in line with what the original Slumber Party Massacre writer Rita Mae Brown reportedly intended the film to be: a parody of slasher movies. With that in mind, this new take works very well.
Syfy’s Slumber Party Massacre kicks off back in the 1990s where a group of young women are having a slumber party, and most of them are killed off, one-by-one by Russ Thorne, the Driller Killer, played by Rob van Vuuren. Thorne is defeated, seemingly killed, and tossed into a lake. Roughly 30 years later, a young woman named Dana (Hannah Gonera), is planning on having her own slumber party away from home in that same, infamous location.
Of course, the killer who was long thought to be dead resurfaces and kills again. However, a group of young men across the lake–also partying–believe the women are the murderers. And without getting into anything in the third act, things get a bit crazy from that point on.
A major part of the allure of slasher films from the ’80s is the blood and gore, and that continues here–even with the film airing on Syfy. Obviously, with a murderer like the Driller Killer on the loose, you’d expect to see that giant drill find its way into the human body, and yes, that happens, and it’s a bloody mess. It pays homage perfectly to the ’80s in that aspect with the amount of death and blood you’d expect from a slasher.
The majority of the film only takes place over a one day period, where young folks are being terrorized by the Driller Killer. One by one, people are disappearing, which lasts into the daytime. On occasion, victims have the chance to fight back, but they can’t stop the Driller Killer, and Vuuren’s high-pitched voice–when he actually speaks–is incredibly unsettling, especially when he says, “I love you.” The four friends trying to survive the night/fight back break the mold of the ’80s slasher movie by not just being a pack of damsels in distress. Hannah Gonera’s Dana leads the way as an intelligent, fearless leader willing to do whatever it takes to save her friends. Gonera’s character is one you’ll be rooting for leading to the final act.
And much like slasher films of the past, Slumber Party Massacre does focus on many of the tired tropes from that era, but it flips the script with comedic results. Typical ’80s horror movies saw most women play faceless characters who are overly-sexualized, and we get that here, except it’s flipped onto the men. There’s one moment where one of the men takes a very long, slow-motion shower set to some sexy music. It’s awkwardly long–probably about as awkwardly long as the scenes with women doing the same were during the ’80s. There’s also a slow motion pillow fight, which may be one of the funniest and silliest things in this movie. A few of the male characters in the film are paper thin in development, on purpose. A couple of them are so basic they even go by the names “Guy 1” and “Guy 2.” Of course, other ’80s horror movie cliches pop up time and time again, especially voyeurism. There are at least four moments in the movie where someone is peeping through a window at someone.
The film hits the point home through humor that even when women are victims, some people will blame them, regardless, which is a horrible mindset to live in. It’s successful in doing so up until a point. Slumber Party Massacre tends to really spell that out for the viewer in the third act to the point where a character is literally saying that the Driller Killer couldn’t help himself because women were staying up late and having fun, and it’s their fault. The film makes a solid point about ’80s horror tropes and victim blaming, but feels way too nail-on-the-head at the end.
And speaking of paying homage to the past, the Slumber Party Massacre remake also features an Easter egg to the series’ most popular movie, the 1987 sequel. Without spoiling it, the Easter egg is seen in the background at one point, then is on full display–front and center–during a fight. The fact Esterhazy included this in the movie will make so many people happy.
Slumber Party Massacre may not have been a movie that needed to be remade, but many fans of the original series will be glad it was. It’s everything you love about the original films, but leaning more into the parody of the slasher genre without getting too tongue-in-cheek, which is incredibly tough to balance. The gore is there as well, and fans of ’80s slashers will be exceptionally pleased with what they see here. Now, “if only” we could get a sequel with a Rockabilly Driller Killer.