February 2001 marked the start into a new venture of horror for me.
The Scream franchise had concluded, Hall8ween: Homecoming (now Resurrection) was in development, Jason X was in limbo and no Elm Street entry anywhere in sight despite the Freddy vs. Jason rumors. But it was the likes of movies such as Cherry Falls which brought my young horror mind to the deeply vast multitude of slashers that were out there. I loved slashers and was familiar with the 80s boom but DVD was still new at the time and VHS were beginning to be sold off the rental shelves. This was where the magic happened as Jumbo Video (Dundurn) in Hamilton, Ontario began selling off previously viewed VHS. I must have spent almost an hour rooting through and there it was, calling out to me, Slumber Party Massacre 3. The rich red font with the picture of a drill coming down over three scantily-clad girls, and this yellow ribbon stating “UNRATED” felt like I was holding a piece of forgotten horror history. If that wasn’t enough, the VHS cover art quoted Joe Bob Briggs with such lines as “Nine breasts. Ten dead bodies.” That right there is an absolute classic! Modern horror just wasn’t cutting it when gratuitous gore-fests (relatively speaking) like this exist. It’s this reason alone that Slumber Party Massacre 3 will stand above all other 80s/90s B-Horror (even Popcorn) and the other two entries in the franchise.
The first driller killer kill of my life
The film starts with Jackie (Keely Christian), Diane (Brandi Burkett) and their friends playing volleyball on the California beach. When was the murder going to begin? Was there going to be a plot and if so, did it tie into the two that I had not seen? All this didn’t matter because then this random guy (Yan Birch), with a mysterious expression, walks up to them and this weird, off-kilter beat on the soundtrack plays. Weird! (Probably hence his “Weirdo” screen credit). They finish their game and set up plans for the rest of the day. One girl walks alone, gets into her car and there it is….the first driller killer kill of my life! Right through the car seat, grinding and thrusting – ah yes, the drill thrusting; clueing into the fact the drill was meant as a visual metaphor. I didn’t openly think this though or really care too much, but many critics of this franchise have. It’s a film for God’s sake, get over it.
The slumber party gets underway, with Jackie running into the neighbor, Morgan (M.K. Harris) who portrays one of the most interesting characters in the film and another red herring as a possible suspect. All the girls come over and do their girl things — and honestly, as a teenager, I didn’t know any different — maybe girls didn’t go to the bra and panties extent in real life sleepovers — with guys dropping by to be goofs and hook up. The weirdo even sneaks around, and we are never told why this guy wants to lurk; he was surely up to no good. You could assume he just had a paraphilia touch for voyeurism and was hoping to see action.
Keep reading after the trailer
If you need a spoiler alert for a movie released in 1990, here it is: SPOILER ALERT
As they get picked off, one by one, I was trying to figure out who the killer was. I love any slasher that has you guessing. After repeated viewings, I definitely picked up on the clues including the photograph shown during the opening credits. Proverbial horror-film handsome hunk, Ken (Brittain Frye), is revealed as the murderer as the climax ensues.
This is where the standard B-Horror movie fare really takes a turn to the dark side, and while a casual viewing will have the fan laughing and enjoying, a deeply thorough look shows the true darkness behind Ken’s killing spree: his retired Uncle from the Police Force is killed and this sets Ken off on a killing spree to honor his Uncle. Sound lame? Not exactly. When Ken was just a little boy, he had too much of a bond with his Uncle — not by his own choice — the film shows his memory as P.O.V. flashbacks to his Uncle getting awfully close. So I think you get the idea of the type of abuse that was going on here. Further evidence of the abuse and lingering shame felt by Ken is shown when he hooks up with a girl, and later in the most controversial and borderline rape/kill scene, with Maria (Maria Ford). As soon as physical touch is made, Ken withdraws in shame. Any stalker/slasher usually is thrown into a psycho-sexual troubled category but to go this route I thought was awfully daring.
The violence amps up with the girls getting beaten around, and drilled excessively — with the weapon I mean — and it falls to Jackie, Diane and Susie (Maria Claire) to take down their attacker. These girls aren’t stupid either despite the occasional opportunity to run out the door (before Ken locks it), and actually use the volleyball net and house accessories to trap Ken. The volleyball net and therefore, the scene itself, actually foreshadowed to what would help the girls! Brilliant. Ken gets one more kill before Jackie goes to town prior to the cops showing up (thanks to Morgan); clearly psychologically scarred, Jackie drills the ever loving shit out of Ken where there is no coming back for a fourth entry in the series. These closing moments, and the sheer blood splatter alone, left me in awe and loving every second of it.
A financial success
Shot on a low budget of $350,000 from New Horizons/New Concorde, produced by the legendary Roger Corman, directed by Sally Mattison and written by Catherine Cyran, Slumber Party Massacre 3 wasn’t even meant to be a part three but just another film hence why the original storyline following sisters Valerie and Courtney was discarded. The film had a theatrical release in 1990 earning back four times its budget! Not too bad if I do say. The VHS was released in both Rated R and Unrated versions (I scored the latter), and then later as the Massacre Collection, released on DVD. Interestingly, fans rejoiced because seven additional minutes over and above the previous unrated edition were added — making it a true-to-form ultimate cut which adds further character development and humanizes the girls even more so that the viewer cares for them. Outlets like Media Play or Suncoast were the only places to find these DVDs and thank God for that. Now with the help of Shout! Factory and most recently, their sub-labelled Scream Factory, all three Slumber Party Massacre films are available in HD and in all theatrical, unrated, and unrated/extended forms.
The horror franchise fanbase also continues to grow and I am proudly one of them; websites such as www.hockstatter.com led by Tony Brown, pays homage to the series and their sister series Sorority House Massacre. In 2003, I was even on the hunt to find Slumber Party IV, and I eventually did, as it was known then as Cheerleader Massacre. Didn’t have any real resemblance to the rest of the series but with the inclusion of original SPM star, Brinke Stevens, I keep this fondly in my VHS collection. Speaking of Sorority House Massacre, SPM3 was shot just after SHM2 including the use of the same house set and later, the use of screenshots from SHM2 used on the back of the SPM3 VHS and DVD cover art. Imagine that!? Certainly threw me even back when I first got that VHS wondering what these images were actually from. Mystery revealed the more I educated myself and SHM2 kept eluding me until a few years later when I got a copy and voila, there were the scenes. Those errors aside, I say that Slumber Party Massacre 3 remains the best in the series, of all the Slumber Party and Sorority House Massacres out there, with its portrayal of strong female characters, better-than-average dialogue, obligatory red herrings and low budget gore (better than CGI any day).
I will never get rid of my VHS, DVD or Blu-Rays, and I encourage any horror fan that has not seen the series, let alone this entry, to go find the Driller Killer before the Driller Killers finds you.