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If upon watching the trailer for Pool Party Massacre, you mistakenly think that you’re watching a trailer for a(nother) sequel in the Slumber Party Massacre series, there’s good reason for that. Director Drew Marvick (who also wrote, co-produced, and even has a bit part) is undeniably “influenced” by that series’ campy brand of slasher horror, in particular the second film in the series. Hell, even the title font is the same.
Opening with a scene straight from… well, countless porno flicks…..
A horny trophy wife whose husband has gone away for business tries to talk her way into some extra “service” from the tattooed, metalhead poolboy (the actress’s real husband). Hopefully, you catch the innuendo because the poolboy is beyond oblivious. She lotions herself up, kicking off what will essentially be 79 gratuitous minutes of buxom bikini babes in various states of undress. However, it might not be as “gratuitous” as you’d expect. More on that later.
She looks over to find that the poolboy has gone. Assuming that he’s “pussied out”, she continues rubbing in the lotion, blissfully ignorant to the person entering the gate behind her. In the first of a continuing series of garden tool related deaths, her throat is slit with a pruning saw. Despite copious amounts of blood spilling down her chest, there is minimal focus on the wound, other than the initial slit. While this is surely due to budgetary constraints, the restraint that comes from not overdoing the gore potentially makes the film more palatable for a wider audience, but is also an early sign that the film is going for more than just splatter. That said, there’s still plenty of blood to go around.
As the killer leaves the yard, the camera follows him out before panning next door. Here we meet Blaire (Kristin Noel McKusick), one of our film’s cast of heroines and victims….. if you can call her either. You see, while the back of the film’s DVD case calls Blaire and her friends “high maintenance young socialites”, it’s really much more accurate to label them “spoiled rich bitches”. In other words, you will want to watch them die.
When we first meet Blaire, she is wishing her parents farewell as they prepare to leave for the weekend. Actually, it’s closer to the truth to say that she’s wishing they’d just go the fuck away already. Her parents, having had a few wild parties of their own apparently, call her out on her bullshit. They know of her party and they don’t really care. They just don’t want her to end up pregnant. That’s why they feel safer knowing that she’ll be accompanied at home by Nancy (Margaux Neme), the only one of Blaire’s friends that actually has semblance of humanity . She’s kind of like the daughter they wished they had. I believe the actress playing Blaire’s mom is named Sally Burnswello, but she shines in this scene, ruthlessly ripping her daughter’s uselessness for hilarious effect, while at the same time emphatically begging Nancy to disassociate herself from the “sinking ship” that is her daughter before she “drags” Nancy down with her.
Nancy comes from a less fortunate background, so she serves as a counter to Blaire’s self-indulgent indifference. She, however, has a harder time countering the personalities of Blaire’s even more vain and materialistic “spoiled rich bitch” friends, who have now arrived for the titular party. Heh heh. Titular. As I said earlier, these young ladies are more shallow than a kiddie pool, so the killer may be doing the world a favor.
A few suspects are presented before the killer eventually starts to pick off the girls one by one, as well as a couple other people who just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you know the Slumber Party Massacre series, then you know that there’s bound to be an unfortunate pizza delivery guy. There’s also a creepy-ass doll, but that’s irrelevant. What you might not know though is that Pool Party Massacre is primarily a comedy, albeit one that just happens to be set in a horror movie.
That’s not to say that Pool Party Massacre is a spoof. While it mimics the basic plot of the Slumber Party Massacre series, Sorority House Massacre, or even The Last Slumber Party, it does not mock the events of those films, but instead creates its own humor in a similar setting. While there are more than a few comedic nods to scenes from those films, the majority of PPM‘s humor comes from the interchanges between its characters.
The catalyst for half of the film’s comedy is the general disdain that we tend to feel for these characters, as well as in the way that Nancy, who serves as a reflection of the “common woman/man”, reacts and responds to their narcissism, greed, and overall uselessness to society. Unlike a large majority of films that try to exploit this stereotype, quite a few moments of their dialog tends to be believable to the point of making you cringe for the right reasons.
A large remainder of the film’s humor comes courtesy of actor Nick Byers. Byers stars as “Clay”, who has crashed the party with his brother in order to screw around with their girlfriends. Well, Clay’s brother is there to see his girlfriend. Clay is just along for the ride.
Playing off the trope of the nerdy friend that frequently showed up in 80’s slashers, Clay is noticeably older than everyone else and sports a luxurious sweater vest of body hair. Armed with his trusty mixtape, a homemade alcoholic beverage called a “Dirty Sanchez”, and a hole-riddled theory on the secret meaning behind Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Clay” is a creepy, yet still kinda lovable, goofball…… even when he’s vigorously masturbating in Blaire’s bathroom later in the film. Don’t worry, it’s not as explicit as you might expect.
Sure, there’s more than a small dose of “crude” humor, such as the masturbation scene or the “dick pic” that pops up on someone’s phone. That said, it never goes too over the top or gets obnoxious. Moments like these are surprisingly few, and seem almost befitting of the characters and not an excuse to “gross out”.
Before long, the killer and their motive are revealed. While there is a nice turn in true horror fashion, this too leads to its own series of jokes and comedic moments. Pool Party Massacre finally wraps with an ending straight from countless horror classics, yet still feels quite appropriate despite the film’s generally comedic tone.
PPM was shot and edited by Brian Mills, who also co-produced. Mills manages to keep PPM‘s low-budget aesthetics intact, but also gives the film a much more polished look than some films with higher budgets. Shots are never out of focus and, despite taking place completely during the daylight, never too bright or washed out. Unlike at least one other recent low-budget film that was recently reviewed on this site, this helps the actresses look the best they can. And in a film showcasing hot chicks in bikinis, that’s an essential.
*It’s worth noting that on one of the DVD’s commentary tracks, it is pointed out that a couple of shots are filmed night-for-day. Without being told this, I would have never noticed, which serves as further testament to the quality of Mills’ camera work. It’s also very much worth pointing out that this track features commentary from Marvick and his mom. I know that if I had directed a horror film, the chances of getting my mother to watch it, let alone sit in for a commentary, are near nil.
While I readily admit to being given a copy of the film for review after actually meeting Marvick and Mills in person at a recent local convention, this played no factor in the outcome of this review. If you really want to know, I found the whole thing to be somewhat intimidating.
I had seen the trailer for the film a few days prior and was intrigued, although more than apprehensive. I knew that this film could easily be something I’d hate. That said, when I saw the PPM booth, I must have had some intention of trying to secure a review copy or I may not have walked up to the table. I get quite uncomfortable talking about Horror And Sons, so I’m not sure that I would have actually asked for a copy. Leave it to my wife to pimp me out.
I’m glad things worked out the way that they did because I can now report that Pool Party Massacre is a pleasant surprise. It works as a respectful tribute to the “scantily clad girl slashers” of the mid to late 1980’s, but also clearly creates its own identity. The humor is generally clever, but also simply silly at times. One or two gore effects are pretty badly done, but that seems to be intentional to add to the film’s “camp factor”.
Most importantly, Pool Party Massacre is just a fun flick. It doesn’t require much thought, and at under 80 minutes, not much of your free time either. It’s a throwback to the 80’s that, unlike most 80’s throwbacks, doesn’t beat you over the skull with how nostalgic it’s trying and failing to be. RECOMMENDED.
Warning: Trailer contains more than a few “spoilers”, but it doesn’t really matter.