Horror Reviews

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Game Of You: The "Slumber Party Slaughterhouse: The Game" World Premiere

Review by Gray

It seems oddly fitting that it took the titillating tag-team of horror movies and pornography to attempt to create something altogether unique in the cult cinema world. While the two could have been content simply giving new meaning to the term "splatterfest," they have now come together into what could very well be the future of cinema: "Slumber Party Slaughterhouse: The Game."

…Actually, scratch that. "SPS" is not the future of cinema. Heck, it's probably not even the future of betamax. What it IS, however, is a goofy, gory showcase of the directorial talent being distributed independently by Halo 8. It is also, like its title suggests, not just a film, a game.

It also has boobs. Lots of 'em.

This in mind (as it often is for me), I arrived at SPS's world premiere at the Pioneer Theater in New York City. Our master of ceremonies for the evening came in the form of the affable and often outrageous Doug Sakmann, one of the directors of SPS as well as director of PUNK ROCK HOLOCAUST and, most recently, several porn horror parodies for the alt-porn website Burning Angel. Sakmann, having previously worked for the infamous Troma Entertainment, has actively attempted to position himself as heir to the trashy, the tasteless and the disgusting legacy of the company, equal parts Lloyd Kaufman, John Waters, and William Castle.

He was accompanied by a Burning Angel starlet who I confess I immediately recognized, but, sadly, not by name. This partnership featured heavily in the event, as the cast of the film features several Burning Angel starlets, including Joanna Angel herself, who had directed and written a segment of the film.

The film began with two trailers for Burning Angel productions, the goofy EVIL HEAD (an Evil Dead parody, complete with porno stud Tommy Pistol doing a rather canny ape of Bruce Campbell), and the bizarre, almost anti-erotic "Strip For Pain," an event where contestants are bought on stage and subjected to various physical tortures and are rewarded by female nudity. While I assume it could be argued for being anything from the next logical evolution of "Jackass," a form of female empowerment, or just good, old-fashioned S&M titillation, the short clip alone was enough to make even this jaded pleasure-fiend morally queasy.

After the previews, the film began. The sultry female voice-over informed us of the silly premise: Hapless geek Paul Tard (hee, "tard") has just recently graduated from air-conditioner repair school. His friends decide to throw him a graduation party, even going so far as to hire hookers as entertainment. However, when Paul's slutty ex-girlfriend decides SHE wants a hooker, Paul is uninvited to his own party. Paul, after an abortive attempt to jerk-off to Internet porn while in the tub, electrocutes himself. He is then visited by an angel and a devil, portrayed by two very sexy ladies, who try to convince him to forgive and take revenge upon his friends, respectively.

Here, the film stopped the screen froze on the question: "WHAT SHOULD PAUL DO?" Below it, the answers, "FORGIVE HIS FRIENDS" and "TAKE REVENGE." Sakmann hopped up, polling the audience as to what Paul should do. While the insolent punk in me felt inclined to goad Paul into forgiveness in open defiance of audience sentiment, I (like everyone else) opted to send Paul on a blood-soaked rampage. "Good," Sakmann declared, "otherwise this movie would be really short."

This first pause I found actually very charming. It reminded me of those "Choose Your Own Adventure Books" I'd read as a kid, and the "Choose The Scare" Goosebumps books I'd read as a mildly retarded adolescent. However, after this initial decision, the movie settled into a slightly modified routine: Paul and his demonic consort would spy on his friends cavorting with hookers. Paul, so as to be able to possess the hooker (played with naked aplomb by the BA girls) and murder his treacherous friends, would need to answer a horror movie trivia question, posed to the audience by Sakmann like the first question. The questions ran the gamut from general knowledge ("Who was the killer in Friday the 13th Pt. 1?") to the tricky ("Which of these people protested 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' only to act in its sequel?").

After the questions were answered correctly by an audience member, the movie would resume and one of Paul's friends would die brutally by the hands of the hooker. Then, another question would be posed, answered, and this time, the hooker would be murdered by the possessed body of the friend. The process repeated several times, with each segment featuring new actors and directors, until the film reached its bloody conclusion with everyone dead while Paul and his demonic tormentor walked hand and hand into the night.

When I later asked Sakmann about why the film embraced a more linear narrative with the trivia versus the choose your own adventure model, he made clear the decision was motivated by time and cost efficiency.

"Literally, this movie is the fastest turnaround that I've ever seen of any movie… Matt [Pizzolo] from Halo 8 (the distributor for Punk Rock Holocaust 2 and Slumber Party Slaughterhouse) came to me with the concept a month and half, two months ago."

"We wanted to have it out for Halloween," Sakmann added, explaining the expedited schedule.

That said, to say the film accepts its limitations admirably would be a fair assessment. Shot cheaply with largely non-conventional actors, no budget, but plenty of fake blood and female nudity, the film could very easily have fallen into the tired territory of the sophomoric splatterfest, maligned by higher budget affairs distributed by Hollywood powerhouses who are currently glutting the market.

However, the directors, seemingly aware of this fact, have managed to make the most of the resources. The script, for the most part, is actually pretty funny and the acting quite adept. The comedic chemistry between Paul and his demonic consort provides excellent continuity glue. Particularly, the segment directed by Joanna Angel shines, as Angel plays off her sex-toy persona with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek, off-the-wall humor, and outrageous violence.

And WHAT violence! Death by sodomy, disembowelments, gang-rape by an evil clown and giant chicken, as well as a rather unlucky girl who meets her end via sword-sex (this particular segment is made baffling by the editing: initially, she was the instigator of the act and appears to be enjoying relations with the katana blade. In fact things only appear to go wrong after her partner is possessed and begins to get a little overzealous with her thrusting. Which begs the question: is there such a thing as congenial, healthy swordplay?). All with blood-soaked special effects just cheesy enough to make me smile.

"Working at Troma for three-and-a-half years, you pick up things," said Sakmann of the aesthetic.

"[My boss at Troma] told me that, in my time at Troma, I'd done everything in their movies in real life, short of killing someone. So, instead of that, I decided to go out and push it even further and have fun with it."

Even with the Tromatic airs in mind, there are definite misses. The rushed schedule shows in the quality of the editing and the slapdash cinematography. It LOOKS like something completed in a month and a half. The film I saw also had an almost unbearable coda attached to it, a largely unrelated short directed by Ramzi Abed where five stoners sit around and bullshit until one of them has a hallucination in which he murders a mysterious dancing woman. Filmed in black and white with truly abysmal editing and scripting (the dialogue repeats word-for-word halfway through the short, as though the first 5 minutes had been a dress rehearsal), it felt like the bastard of Judd Apatow and David Lynch, only aborted in the third trimester.

Still, "Slumber Party Slaughterhouse: The Game," in spite of its rougher edges, is actually a novel and inventive concept. While it definitely strives for camp (as many low-budget horror films attempt to stretch the thinnest of resources/premise/talent), it also serves a dual purpose. Stated in the press release, the film is built on "audience participation," but less of the self-consciously art-y and socially transgressive kind of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and more of the "pub trivia-style" variety, which seems more appropriate given the audience. It's a thoroughly modern take on the gimmickry and audience manipulation of Roger Corman. And while it seems unlikely to have much lasting appeal given its slap-dash construction, the "interactive horror experience" is definitely a rich vein that, with perhaps more planning and increased exploration of the technology, could very easy give rise to a whole new breed of filmmakers and viewers.

Also, boobs.

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