Stupidity destroyed the slasher film. Where once the unknown killer with a taste for sexually active teenage blood was all the rage, we now have the formulaic farce where the tenets of the terror are telegraphed as soon as the title is heard. Jason has become a joke, an amiable action figure to a populace who has seen the horror film go from eerie to ironic over the course of the decades. And since there is now no longer any place for this kind of carnage to go, the slice and dice dynamic to macabre might as well just go goofy. That was apparently the philosophy behind the star-studded, narratively stunted Slaughter Party. This tepid treat from Troma has elements that should have been can't miss. Instead, we end up with a movie that many will consider "can't care". There are a few laughs here and there, and a couple of clever cameos, but if you want proof that death has turned dumb, this movie is the retarded reality.
When a trio of buddies investigates a local legend, they do not expect to be accosted and killed by a raving lunatic from a local asylum. Unfortunately, the diminutive one in the group is garroted by the wacko, and sodomized in some kind of murderer-making ritual. Sure enough, our near-death dwarf morphs into a psycho killer, stalking young women in the area and giving them a bloody blade send-off. In the meantime, a couple of cops investigate the discovery of some bodies, and begin to suspect that a madman is on the loose. Also in the meantime, the sister of one of the mean midget's victims goes on a camping trip with several of her more nubile, and sexually adventurous friends. They end up being attacked by the loopy little person, and it turns out that the everpresent escapee is a doctor working for the government, carving up bodies to make some manner of experimental entity. It's not long before bras and body parts are flying as the deadly duo decide to deal some death on the otherwise lewd ladies, turning their outdoor slumber party into a grue-covered Slaughter Party.
Damn Slaughter Party for not being better. Damn it straight down to disappointment Hell. Any movie about a murdering midget - sorry, spree-killing little person - and a collection of comely lasses in string bikinis has got to offer some kind of b-movie bonanza, right? How can it possibly crap out? Better still, how can it fail like a bowel full of bowl weevils and sully everything around it? Well, the sad fact is that this little nothing of a movie is a dumb, dopey disaster, the kind of filmic flop that can be heard several light years away on distant, uncharted planets. No one is spared the potential embarrassment here - not Felissa "Sleepaway Camp" Rose, not Adam "Seymore Butts" Glasser, not Ron "the Hedgehog" Jeremy, not Lloyd "Troma Titan" Kaufman, not Brinke "Scream Queen" Stevens. With Zombiegeddon's Chris Watson credited everywhere, this entire enterprise should have been better. But there are elements that conspire to undermine the production, and an overall attitude that screams "who really gives a rat's ass". SO what we end up with is a series of silly moments unconnected by anything that would remotely resonate with an audience or engage its continued interest.
PC or not PC, midgets are usually pretty funny. Call them what you will - or what they want - but a little person has a kind of instant ingratiation. We will follow the wee one anywhere, and generally support anything they are doing, from Jackass-style stunts to uncontrollable mass murder. But in Slaughter Party, Mighty Mike Murga is a horrible actor, unable to convincingly essay even the most basic dialogue. Sure, he can tackle a voluptuous vixen with the greatest of ease, but his center of gravity is so low that no normal sized person stands a chance when he gets the shin-level drop on them. Rumor has it that another performer - a regular tall person - was hired to play the killer, but dropped out to take another role in a different film. Murga was a replacement, and as a novelty, he is spectacular. But that's about it. There are no midget/dwarf/little person jokes, we don't get to see people manhandling this otherwise diminutive dude, and the fact that he is crotch level with every lady in the cast is never exploited, or even explored. Adding someone his stature should have fired off the funny bone facets of the film. Instead, Murga is one of the movie's most mediocre aspects.
And then there is the nutty mad scientist - or as he should be labeled, the scenery chewing, over the top cinematic irritant. Ford Austin, with quite a professional resume under his acting belt, must feel relieved that most of his mug is covered in face-blurring blood, lest potential casting agents see him in this awkward, anarchic performance. This thespian is literally all over the map, going from crazy to crude, terrifying to tacky with his unrestrained conceits. Having never met a line reading he couldn't scream like a little girl at a Hilary Duff concert, Austin shamelessly goons it up for a camera that couldn't care less what he's doing. During the movie's messy, muddled third act, it's almost as if he's making up the storyline as he's going along, threatening victims with chainsaws, and then engaging in outward internal monologues on how such power tool terrors are hackneyed. Some may feel he has the proper post-modern attitude for this kind of film, but he is just so out there, so lost in his own level of characterization that no amount of campy cleverness or purposeful kitsch can catch him. So he just takes off, leaving the rest of the cast in his hysterics-laden wake.
As for the other actors, they are actually pretty good. Felissa "Angela" Rose obviously believes this is another movie all together. She actually tries to bring some real emotion and motivational authenticity to her character. Similarly, Seymore Butts and ex-wrestler Ric Drasin are very good as cool, calculating cops. The rest of the company is only required to look good in skimpy outfits, and some certainly do. The additional cameos here are pretty pointless - even Lloyd Kaufman looks lost as some loon shouting about killer midgets - and the direction moves from competent and incompetent so rapidly you need a slow motion camera and a strobe light to document the downfall. The script is loaded with...well, it's hard to tell, really, since it sounds like most of the dialogue was adlibbed by the cast. There definitely is no logic to the narrative. Nothing is explained, the sudden murderous streak in our lead little person left up to some manner of imagination. Motives come out of left field, action sequences involve people running and then falling down so an incredibly short pair of legs can catch up with them, and the gore is plentiful but kind of pre-school, looking like a lot of red Juicy Juice strewn about a handful of pig intestines (there is one nice nasty throat cutting, though).
It all adds up to mongoloidism as moviemaking. What should be dead funny just lies there, limp, on the celluloid. The porn stars present don't get a chance to riff on their real jobs, the possible comedy to be had at the cost on one tiny person's dignity is never realized, and the overall tone is sloppy instead of silly, or satirical. This should be a So-B.I.G. film, the kind of craptacular cheese-athon that gets your geekdom good and cheddary. Instead, this motion picture is moldy and meandering, stinking worse that the toe jam on a cesspool-playing corpse. Chris Watson seems like a nice guy, and he obviously has a way of getting some pretty prominent names to show up and take part in his cinematic vision, but you just can't let the potential inside something like Slaughter Party fizzle out like it does. When your actors give you lemons, you should shove them back in their ungrateful mugs and edit the movie so that you ridicule their lack of respect. When someone can't hit their mark or realistically read their lines, shoot them so that other members of the cast can mock and make fun of them. Turn your tragedy into a treasure trove of bad movie mandates. Don't just up and quit, trying to work with what you have. That's a sure recipe for disaster. While it is not the worst film ever released, Slaughter Party could probably place. There is too much muck here to harvest out the minor moments of humor.
Shot on digital, and transferred directly from that high-def element, the 1.33:1 image of Slaughter Party looks pretty nice. Sure, we have some white out now and then, and the colors can careen wildly from dark and delicious to bland and bleached out. Details are distinguishable, and for the most part, the picture looks presentable and professional. If you are expecting a big screen filmic experience, you'll be greatly disappointed. But if all you care about is a clear shot to the blood, babes and boobs, this camcorder creation sure delivers.
On the sound side, it is obvious that the same device that captured the images was responsible for the sound as well. There is lots of spatial echo, dialogue drop out, and moments where the musical underscoring wipes everything else away. The Dolby Digital Stereo has a decent amount of modulation, which means the levels of distortion are kept to a minimum even as the mad scientist character screams out his lines in discernible decibels that could be heard several states away.
Troma, long a believer in the basic, bare bones presentation of its titles (unless you count their endless pimping for their own products 'supplemental' material) really ratchets up the bonus features for this release. On the company side of the packaging, there is a stellar trailer for the upcoming, soon-to-be-classic Poultrygeist, as well as a rare look at The Troma System of Self Improvement. This mock-infomercial, which aired on Comedy Central in the 90s, is really nothing more than an ad for the company's movies and merchandise, but it is done is the typically terrific Troma style and is well worth a watch. For the film, we get a couple of swell interviews, another classic Lloyd Kaufman intro, and one of the most bizarre, baffling and brazen commentaries ever committed to a DVD.
First, the Q&As. Adam "Seymore Butts" Glasser discusses the film with producer/writer/director Chris Watson while the two are in the porn pioneer's home. Most of the conversation revolves around Glasser's entry into the adult industry, and it's interesting to watch the gonzo king making Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, but there's just not enough conversation about the movie (maybe that was on purpose). Felecia Rose, on the other hand, is all about Slaughter Party. She is Miss 'Behind the Scenes' and gives us some shocking insights (much of the cast went off script) and anticipated explanations (one of the key actors failed to show up halfway through the shoot, requiring a last minute mangling of the plot). Honest and very genial, Rose is an excellent shill for the film. The commentary, on the other hand, is just plain odd. Ford Austin returns as "the mad doctor" and while in character, aggravates his way through the 70-some minute movie. If you found the loud-mouthed loony fun in the film, you'll probably love this anarchic track. If he grated on your nerves like a severe case of shingles, however, you may want to pass on this retarded rant.
Though it probably deserves a much harsher sentence, this critic is going to cut Slaughter Party some desperately desired slack and rate it as a Rent It. For some, the amateur antics and lack of cohesion will be a noxious combination of badness and boredom. Yet others will embrace the no budget standards, wallowing in the weirdness and laughing along with the abhorrent absurdity of it all. Had it figured out a way to make a delight out of its dung heap, had the human oddity nature of its little person lead been exploited for maximum mania - heck, if director Watson had turned over the camera to his collection of hardcore stars and let them finish up the film - we'd have something far more feasible and fun. If the slasher genre is looking for possible suspects in its continued demise, it need look no further than this deadly dwarf dynamic. Slaughter Party is lethal to almost every cinematic concept known to fright fans, and then has the audacity to be comically craven as well. Had it been more balls-out, it would have been a blast. As it is now, it's all potential and no punchline.
Want more Gibron Goodness?
Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here