The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

My previous experience with the Slumber Party Massacre series can be summed up in this brief timeline...

-2001: I discover Slumber Party Massacre 2 at a Flea Market. It's described to me as "A real Diarrhea flick" by the redneck who sold it to me. I disregard it as being a sequel and watch it first. LIFE CHANGING. I watch it at least a dozen times. It's all I watch that year.

-2002: ...still watching.

-2003: And I continue watching still, only now I have also become immersed in Troma. My taste is taking shape.

-2004/2005: Having done almost no research online I finally take an interest in seeing the the original. I wondered if it featured the same killer or was a musical. I watch The Slumber Party Massacre and am immediately put-off by the different tone, different killer and soundtrack I found completely uninteresting. To my 18 year old schlock obsessed brain, this was too serious and failed in entertaining me in the way I had come to expect. It's worth noting that I almost always have gravitated to the less-serious sequels in horror franchises. They speak to me.

-2006/2007: I stumble across a copy of Slumber Party Massacre 3. I know that I inserted the tape into the VCR, but all memory beyond that is null. Which probably means I experienced a similar disappointment and then fell asleep.

-2016: I recently picked up the DVD collection so I can re-visit the series with an open mind. Starting from square one, I put on the first. I warm up to it in the opening shot. Where Part 2 is all kinds of in-your-face weird, the original is also kind of strange but in a more subtle, read-between-the-lines kind of way. It really doesn't "feel" like any other slashers, not in the way that slashers notoriously mimic each other. For starters, you see the killer's face immediately. There is no mystery to the identity of Russ Thorn. I may not have understood this in my teens but as an adult, I admire the approach. He's just a man, and men are scary. Men kill women. It's very simple, and it works here.

Slashers had been around for a while, and there certainly wasn't anything ground breaking about teenagers in peril. What feels fresh to me about the Slumber Party Massacre films is a specific feeling I get from the Southern California landscape and how these teenagers exist in it. Filmed in Venice beach, Slumber Party Massacre opens with a shot of palm trees. Funereal synth music plays over the credits, and our (first) leading lady Trish dresses herself for school. The nudity in this film is especially cold and deliberate. Amy Holden Jones was clearly adding it out of obligation so these scenes are completely devoid of sexuality. Kind of a "just get it over with" approach. The sex is in the subtext.

The thing about this film and the sequels that's so remarkable to me is; yes, there's nudity, yes they're getting murdered with a phallus but I've always picked up on a strong sense of female unity. I love the way Amy Holden Jones films these girls and shows them interacting with each other. It's very clearly the mark of a female, and likely feminist filmmaker. The idea that strong female personalities can't exist in exploitation films is a misguided opinion that has always frustrated me. The friendships in the first film seem especially real. What drew me to these as a teenager is that I had dreams of idyllic slumber parties with my girlfriends. I wanted the pizza, the popcorn and the glowing TV lighting our coven. In a way I've modeled my lifestyle around this desire. All I really want is to watch horror movies with friends and eat food I shouldn't be eating and pretend it's 1982. Is that so much to ask?

Courtney, we will be seeing her again in a different incarnation.

I still have less to say about the original than it's handicapped siblings. It's very direct and I still find it mostly humorless despite claims that it was intended to be a horror comedy. It laid the foundation for what was to come, and for the ME that was going to blossom from the soot of a Panama City Flea Market because of spell that would soon be cast by a certain Drill-Guitar wielding Rockabilly Killer.

Stay tuned for my review of Slumber Party Massacre 2, and don't forget...

"I love you."


Donna Mills - The Eyes Have It (1986)

GURL, please. Put down the blue eye shadow and step away from the sparkly pink lip gloss. You are forty-six years old! Donna Mills proudly boasts that she does her own make-up. This video exists so she can demonstrate for we women of lesser competence, how to properly cake ourselves in layers of pasty opaque sludge. Cucumber slices on the eyes? Try an entire cucumber ON YOUR FACE. No really...

She repeatedly refers to her cosmetic style as "natural", while constantly looking like she's posing for a boudoir photo at Sears Portrait Studio. Fully airbrushed, contouring meant to cover a beard, hair teased to the heavens, Dairy Queen Glamour Shot Valentine's Day 2 for 1 special.

Then we get to see her do a little fashion show, take a bath and demonstrate the exact same make-up tips in different lighting and with colored contact lens'. C'mon Donna, you're reaching. She even shows us how to wash our own face, because we've come this far without having these skills.

I'm a fresh faced gal, do you want to know the real secret to looking young(er)? Try NOT spackling your face with nasty drywall clown paint. Eyes and lips? sure. A little concealer or powder on occasion, of course. But the Foundation/concealer/powder/blush quadroplaster? OY! She literally instructs people to PRESS POWDER FIRMLY INTO THEIR SKIN SO IT WON'T COME OFF. Just rub it in, fill those pores. It's fine, you can remove it with your phallic vegetable astringent.

In all sincerity, I fucking LIIIIIIVE FOR THIS SHIT. It's the kind of thing Shana Moulton is parodying in 'Whispering Pines', or material you'd find on 'Womans-Day', the greatest tumblr of all time. Donna Mills is selling a product you can't buy at the store. Something unattainable and phony. She's selling a false sense of self-worth. And yet, I could watch this aging soap actresses do her make-up and have fashion shows in her living room all day. This is a historical relic because, simply put, they don't make 'em like this anymore! Make-up tutorials are one thing, but we're not buying the instructions, we're buying Donna and basking in her frivolous bullshit lifestyle. If I didn't love it so much it would make me SICK. And for the record, I've been dying to play with my make-up ever since I watched this. I'm not immune!

So what have we learned today?

  • How to feather brown eyeliner 40 different ways (spoiler: they're all the same)
  • How to wash our face
  • How to NOT dry our face (pat, do not rub) 
  • The Mills' household has no shortage of over-sized cucumbers in the fridge.
  • Donna suspiciously doesn't seem to own any cats.
  • Frosted lip gloss is a friend to NO ONE.
  • Donna has a seemingly endless cache of lighted mirrors, and assumes that we all do too.
  • To be attractive you must be rich, coagulating in rouge, blonde and being white doesn't hurt.(Subtext, Donna. Not buying your "brown eye" tutorial for a second)
  • Donna is an asshole, one can only assume.
  • ABC Movies' of the Week clearly do not pay enough for Donna to hire someone to do her make-up PROFESSIONALLY.

The nefarious pink lip gloss, in action.

Don't forget to admire yourself for hours after, days even.

Shortly after my pal Warren bestowed this priceless treasure upon me, I found myself in this weird shop on Hollywood Blvd that sells nothing but old porno mags and shell art. A harmonious marriage of objects. Given that I'm both a collector of kitschy shell crap and any ephemera of interest, I had a good time digging around. I made an amazing discovery; a publication I was not previously aware of: "Valley Magazine" - a fashion mag for women who live in the Valley. That's the stuff dreams are made of. And who do you think graces the cover of this coveted holy book?

Miss Donna Mills, THE SAME YEAR AS 'THE EYES HAVE IT'! It was a busy year for our amateur cosmetologist. And now that you mention it, she so totally would live in the Valley. It's just glaringly obvious to me now.

I might add that this issue includes a Christmas shopping guide for the Sherman Oaks Galleria, aka: the Mall you've seen in EVERY movie from the 80's and 90's. Envy me, for I hold in my hands the mystic scroll...

As if your day couldn't get any better, here are some choice threads from the Winter of '86.


Whispering Pines 6,7,8 (2006)

There are few films I find to be a truly pure incarnation of my aesthetic. The 'Neon Boogers' category exists as a kind of sliding scale for the qualities I look for. Sometimes I'm a little more lenient in gauging whether or not a film is deemed a 'Neon Booger', but other times its so glaring it's like the filmmaker and I share the same brain.

Whispering Pines is a series of shorts created by and starring Shana Moulton as 'Cynthia', a woman who's on a personal journey of betterment through manufactured objects and self-exploration. There's an every-woman-ness about Cynthia. She reads the magazines, buys the products, lives her life in a constant limbo of health and beauty fads. There's a commentary at work here but before I get into that I need to discuss the cosmetic appeal of the world Shana Moulton has created for 'Cynthia'.

The character may have an emptiness inside of her, but like me, she's a tchotchke queen. The placement of objects in itself is an art. Muted pastels, house plants, marble side tables and trinkets from the Asian dollar store. The sets look like shoe-string Ettore Sottsass installation, with a dash of Leslie Hall. So while I'm fully aware that there's an anti-establishment  message, I too am seduced by Cynthia's synthetic reality.

There are five episodes before the three I'm covering here and I believe two after, but these three (and a random episode 3 on youtube) seem to be the only available ones on the net. As they came together attached in one swoop, I'm reviewing them as one film. Like a mini-anthology.

Episode 6:

While doing a puzzle of a waterfall, Cynthia realizes she's missing the final piece. Panicked, she searches the living with no avail. Feeling lost, she finds herself in a New Age store that sells waterfall statues. She buys yet another waterfall for her home in hopes that the sound of the rippling water will give her the clarity she needs to find the missing puzzle piece. Once home all of the water devices are turned on, including an electric waterfall picture. She plays a meditation tape and the sounds put her body in a state of emotional out-pour. Once enlightened she knows to look deep inside the waterfall picture for the missing puzzle piece. As she places the final piece in the center of the puzzle the camera zooms in to reveal Cynthia's own crying face in the water.

Episode 7:

While gazing upon herself in a vanity mirror, Cynthia notices some unsightly black heads. She reaches for her holographic box which contains several packets of pore strips. The camera zooms in on her black stippled nose as she performs her skin care ritual. As she patiently waits for the strip to dry she stares at her distorted image in the mirror. Suddenly a sphinx-like creature with her own face appears. It sings "Now That I'm a Woman" from the Last Unicorn. A song about the unicorn's sad transformation from a strange creature to an ordinary woman. Little pore strips fly around them like doves. The sphinx disappears and she slowly removes her pore strip to reveal an inspirational quote from 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull'.

Episode 8:

Best for last. Unsatisfied with the state of her plant arrangement, Cynthia embarks on a Crystal Light induced creative journey in sand art. She listens to Enya's 'Orinoco Flow' and re-imagines her once drab vase. She dumps colored craft store sand, pearls, plastic gems and fake flowers in a casserole of kitsch. She creates designs in sand directly on the table, embellishing them with crystals. Her whole house comes to life. Soon all of her plastic belongings are singing and dancing. One by one she adds them to the magical concoction of ornamental decor, creating a Chakra of artificial soil for her new flower arrangement. Once finished she places the vase by the couch and immediately begins to feel unfulfilled despite her new creation. After a few moments have passed, the vines from the arrangement grow into a magical ladder. She climbs it and enters a door that transports her to a lively rave set to an electronic remix of  'Orinoco Flow'. She joins the party until she realizes that she's just been poisoned by the Crystal Light and that it was all and hallucination. She vomits herself back to reality.

I have this thing for commercial meditation products. I collect new age cassettes and nature videos whenever I encounter them at thrift stores. The idea that this analog version of nature can bring you some kind of inner peace is fascinating. When I started collecting these types of things I was doing it in an ironic way. There was something "funny" about it. But I've discovered there is kind of a science to it. When I listen to or watch this stuff, I think it may actually work. Or at least I think it's working while I'm participating. Like some kind of neo-shamanic ritual of the digital age. Put on a tape and all of your problems will melt away. Cynthia is a prime target for this kind of advertising duplicity. When you look in a magazine and see lots of happy women, the idea is if you do as they do you also will be happy. It could be as little as one product that changes your whole life. Cynthia aspires to be the woman on the Biore box and to feel like she's in a Crystal Light commercial. That's the witchcraft of consumerism, the promise of the thing you desire leads to a momentary high and then an empty realization that not only does it not work but you're worse off than before. Shana Moulton has created a really likable character and Universe to satire these ideas.

As a multi-media artist, Moulton's work has been limited to mostly galleries. Still active today, you can see a few excerpts on her Vimeo. I'm not sure if a commercial release is her style, but if that were to ever happen I'd be first in line to own these brilliant pastel fever dreams.