Reviews

Last Slumber Party, The (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

School is out! Summer is here! Three months of non-stop partying begins tonight! Linda’s throwing a slumber party. Her friends Chris and Tracy will be there. Tommy, Scott, and Billy will sneak in. Booze, ridiculous homophobic slurs, and a crazy man with a scalpel will also sneak in. Plus: “Heavy Metal Soundtrack by FIRSTRYKE.”

Dr. Clifford Sickler has scheduled a lobotomy for a maniac. The maniac escapes before the procedure and makes a beeline for Dr. Sickler’s house. The house is decorated with velour wallpaper and a Sesame Street poster. Linda is Dr. Sickler’s daughter. In other words, let the party begin! The girls are having a kickass time dancing to the z-rate heavy metal of Firstryke and getting high and drunk. Tracy says, “Let’s munch out!” in reference to food, not muff-diving. Chris (Jan Jensen) needs a “fucking Valium.” There is a very deliberate reference to Shelly Hack. Then, the guys sneak in through an upstairs window. A nerd named “Science” follows. The maniac killer shows up. He spends a good deal of the movie in his favorite hiding spot, which is next to a bed. That’s the basic gist. But, the basic gist is not what makes this one of the most beautiful trash-horror films in the universe.

Director Stephen Tyler had the will to make a movie. So, he assembled some people in a Louisiana house and created The Last Slumber Party. But this isn’t a “movie” in the typical sense. It’s more of a gift of life, one wrapped in endearing incompetence and inexplicable behavior.

Every minute of this film contains something astounding and/or off-putting. When the killer slits someone’s throat, the scalpel squirts blood. But, the scalpel is constantly misfiring. It sprays in the wrong direction or doesn’t start spraying until after the throat has been slit. Sometimes, establishing shots of suburban homes, classrooms, and potted plants have the music of Firstryke playing over them. Firstryke’s music sounds like it was recorded by one microphone inside of an empty coffee tin. Dialogue is spoken, but the music makes it undecipherable. Seconds later, the same dialogue is repeated. We still can’t hear it. Later, a character will ask another character a question, like “Where can we rustle up some menfolk?” The response is often ten seconds too late. There are also three endings, as if Tyler couldn’t choose just one, so he included all of them. And then, there’s Chris.

Chris is all over this movie. It could be said that she IS this movie. Chris has long red hair and deep, coked-out rings under her eyes. She wears an over-sized sports jersey of unknown origin. All of the film’s insults are spoken by Chris. Chris is also the one who takes a shower. A long shower. A shower that seems like it should be erotic but isn’t, mostly because there’s no nudity. By the end of the movie, Chris is fighting the killer and we’re screaming at the top of our lungs for her to win. Or, at the very least, for her to stare into the camera and brush her hair, which is a signature move.

If The Last Slumber Party, were merely a cheap slasher starring Chris, we’d probably still enjoy it. But we wouldn’t be gushing. The source of our love lies not only in Chris and the general sense of confusion, but also in its technical “flair.” Everything is wrong. The exact same shot of the killer approaching the camera with a wild look in his eyes is repeated several times. Film stock with lots of hair and dirt alternates abruptly with SOV footage, which looks like it came from a VCR-to-VCR dub. Synth blips that sound piped in from another movie haphazardly overlap Firstryke’s songs. A newscast is created by superimposing a computer-generated “Channel 4” logo over a still shot of a TV. A wall of audio hiss often takes the place of dialogue, songs, or sound effects.

We could go on for ten pages about all of the inept madness that defines The Last Slumber Party. Each time we watch it, we find something new. And that’s really what it’s all about. A movie that makes us forget about everything else in the world for 72 minutes and smile. Stephen Tyler followed his dream and fulfilled it. But, rather than getting a law degree or becoming a professional baseball player, he made The Last Slumber Party. He also made us very happy.

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