Friday, January 13, 2017

Killer Party (1986)

Okay, maybe I overreached last week.  Mystics in Bali... Really?  Why did I pick a movie that was utterly nonsensical to the point of absurdity and something hardly anyone has seen?

Oh yeah, the floating head that sucked babies out of vaginas.

Let's get back to something a little safer and a lot more fun.  After all, what's better than a slasher film for Friday the 13th?  I will say, typing that felt weird.  It's like maybe I should be talking about something else.  Hmmm.  Oh I dunno, I'm sure whatever that nagging sensation I'm feeling is just a buncha hooey.

Killer Party is a 1986 sorta comedy that was meant to capitalize on the slasher sub-genre.  In fact, originally it was set to be titled April's Fool until Paramount beat MGM to the punch and announced April Fool's Day (a movie released just about six weeks before this one).  It also tries to capitalize on the frat/sorority themes seen in Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds.  It even throws in a little demon possession that, frankly, has always been popular.

From Amazon, the plot of Killer Party is as follows: "It's April Fool's Day and the sisters of Sigma Alpha Pi have found the perfect place to throw a party: the abandoned fraternity house where a guillotined pledge lost his head in a hazing gone slightly awry."

Really?  Slightly awry?  A guy gets his goddamn head chopped off and it's only a slight oops?  Alright, whatever.  Still, I'm positive this is the perfect movie to talk about for Friday the 13th.  In fact, is there any other movie that could possibly have all of these types of themes that isn't this hardly known movie?

Oh, motherfucker.  I could be watching a Friday the 13th movie!


Shit, well, I spent time watching this movie.  I guess I should just stay on course here.  The movie opens in a spooky, foggy graveyard.  A preacher, who is incredibly gay, is presiding over a funeral.  If his effeminate speaking pattern isn't obvious enough, he even quotes The Wizard of Oz.  Oh come on, movie...  This is how you want to set up your comedic side?  By having a gay preacher?  Okay...  I guess this is where we are.

The funeral is for some old lady, and her daughter-in-law says she hopes she rots in hell.  Just then, hands come out of the coffin and pulls the woman in where she is then cremated.  All of this turns out to be a movie that a girl who is getting groped at a drive-in is watching.  She is, like, totally the most 80s person to ever be on screen.  It's like Jem came to life and starred in a movie.

When she enters the concession stand at the drive-in, she finds it abandoned.  She calls for service before simply scooping and taking her own popcorn.  When she gets back to the car, her boyfriend is nowhere to be found.  A creeper comes up besides her car and attacks her.  This turns into a super shitty music video starring a bunch of zombies.

What the fuck am I watching???  No, really, here it is:

From here, we meet Phoebe, Vivia, and Jennifer who are all college students pledging for Sigma Alpha Pi.  This third attempt to start the movie is the real beginning of the movie.  Jennifer isn't so sure about the idea of pledging, but Phoebe is insistent and Vivia is just kind of a dorky girl who plays along with the plans.  The upper class of the Sigma Alpha Pis want to get into an old abandoned frat house, but the house mother for the sorority demands that the girls stay away from the house as it is off limits.  These sorority sisters are a little shitty toward the older woman.  I guess this is to show they are bitches or something?  Anyway, they get their comeuppance, I guess, when a fraternity throws a jar of bees into the sorority's backyard causing all the girls to come running out of the hot tub naked so they can be filmed by the frat.

Guys, thanks for the unsolicited tits, but you are all going to jail.

 When no one is looking, the house mother, Mrs. Henshaw, visits the grave of "Allen" who died on April 1, 1964 at the frat  house the sorority wants to use for their initiation.  That's kinda weird that she's talking to a grave, but that doesn't bother me as much as why are the sororities and frats doing initiations in the spring, literally weeks away from the end of the school year?  I mean I guess there are recruitment drives in the spring semester, but I would think April 1 would be a bit late to initiate.  

I can't tell if this is the cast of Killer Party or the 2016
Ghostbusters.
Oh well, fuck it.  Mrs. Henshaw has a conversation with the gravestone and, once finished, goes inside the abandoned home.  Inside, she gets followed by someone before being bludgeoned to do death with a rowing oar.  On campus, our main girls (Phoebe, Vivia, and Jennifer) pop back up.  I'm glad the movie cares enough about them to have them appear only twice in the first, like 25 minutes of the movie. 

As they discuss their reasons for pledging (which amounts to them just sticking together as friends), they run into the "Pledge Mistress" where they are told that they have to answer questions in class today with a lurid comeback.  So, you know the general sorority bullshit.  I suppose this is to set up that these girls are generally good, and people we should care about and that most of the sorority sisters are assholes and they are involved in general college hi-jinks.

Not a goddamn one of these hi-jinks involves a fucking horror movie though.

There's a whole segment in which our three main girls have to go into a frat house and steal some shirts so they can wear them or some such shit.  Jennifer meets Blake, played by the guy from Endless Love, who scares her while wearing a sea monster mask.  He says he's being a sea monster for Halloween.  Which is great if this wasn't fucking April fucking 1st!  Anyway, this is, I guess a meet-cute, but is just delays the fucking horror movie part - which should be what ALL OF THIS FUCKING MOVIE IS BUT CAN'T GIVE TWO SHITS ABOUT ACCOMPLISHING!

And no that is not David Tennant.
Jennifer is followed back to her room by a guy with ratty shoes.  She takes off most of her clothes to get ready for a shower, which I do appreciate to a certain degree.  When she hears the guy outside her door, she opens it, she finds a dorky guy from one of her classes.  The guy seems fairly harmless, but is mostly a creeper.  Is this guy related to the horror movie part?  If he's not, I would like him to be utterly jettisoned from this movie ASAP.  At least he does warn Jennifer about not going to the abandoned house.

See, here's the problem.  This movie is not without its charm.  Jennifer, Vivia, and Phoebe are pleasant, typical girls from an 80s movie.  However, they are not your typical 80s horror movie types of girls.  So here they are existing in something that seems to fit more along the lines of Grease or any one of the hundreds of college shenanigans comedies of the decade.  Even the guy characters are better suited for something other than a horror movie. 

On the other side, are the sorority members initiating our main girls.  These are your typical horror movie fodder.  They are sexier.  They are bitchier.  They are a tad more varied.  You'd expect the main Pledge Mistress to place these girls into the situation where the monster/killer/demon would start picking them off, leaving her alive just long enough for you to beg for her to die horribly before finally dying horribly.

That's not what we have here.
At least they aren't all that into bras.
What we have is this weird mishmash of two popular 80s tropes.  Neither one succeeding separately on their own.  Absolutely neither work together.  Yet this movie is oddly charming.

At one point in the movie some pyrotechnics go off during the initiation ceremony and some weird demon-y shit happens to Jennifer, but it doesn't stay on path.  Instead, they go back to the initiation bullshit.  If this was in the first fifteen minutes that's fine, but here we are almost 45 damn minutes in before scary stuff happens...  And it's all just a dumb prank set up by Vivia to look like she's been tied up by a killer and gets her head cut off by a guillotine.  This only extends the bullshit of this movie.

The girls are all successful in getting into the sorority.  However, Vivia is only allowed in for her prank she pulled that the head honcho of the sorority wishes to use to pull on a frat.  There's a meeting for the Greek Letter Society gang to discuss matters of the frats and sororities.  The faculty advisers warn about having more April Fool's parties that use the pranks that led to the killing in the 60s.  When they show a filmstrip about hazing it's the movie the one frat made of the prank earlier with the bees and the naked girls.  

I remember at one point this movie seemed to be something of a horror flick.  There has been only ONE death and we're nearly an hour into it.

Jennifer, Vivia, and Phoebe go back into the frat house to set up a new prank.  Jennifer talks about all this research she's done about the house and all the crazy occult stuff the guy who died did that stirred something up.  She also mentions how people were seen coming into the house and never seen again.  This is a whole bunch of shit that would have been interesting to see Jennifer actually researching instead of her talking about it.  That would have been a much better movie than all that non-horror shit we saw earlier.

Blake shows up at the house to scare the girls and flirt a little more with Jennifer.  It seems as though he's calling her name and trying to spook her from the basement, but he claims he didn't do what she thought she heard.  He asks Jennifer to hang out and this is genuinely charming.  As is the dorky makeout session between creeper Martin and Vivia in his convertible that is shown.  There are things in the movie that are nice and make for good little moments.  Sadly there just hasn't been enough in this first hour (of a 96 minute movie) that tilts the needle to either make this a horror movie or to make it a comedy.  It's almost as fascinating as it is maddening to watch.

A faculty member (who was selected to head up the Greek Letter Society in the following year) is investigating the abandoned house before the party and gets electrocuted.  At the party, all our potential victims and all our main players are all together in one place.  I'm sure this will play out perfectly...  Just like the rest of this movie has been.

Now, here's something else that boggles my mind...  During the party, Martin, who was just seen earlier making out with Vivia in his car - just two scenes prior - is now scoping the party trying to hook up with any woman who will talk to him.  Let's replay the previous scenes:

1. Our main girls go to the house to set up the next prank to play on the frat.
2. Jennifer and Blake flirt and explore the basement of the creepy house.
3. Outside the sorority house (NOT the spooky house they were just in), Martin and Vivia make out where Martin sees a light turn on from Jennifer's room and it concerns him...  Why?  I couldn't tell you.
4. The professor who is now going to lead the Greek Letter Society is looking around the house's basement and is killed.
5. The party begins and Martin is bird-dogging the whole place.

Babe, I didn't just fuck you, but I also completely fucked this
movie all to hell.
This leads to a scene in which Blake and Jennifer are about to have sex but decide not to in order for them to witness the big prank on the frat.  But before we get to our big climax, I have to ask...  WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED IN THE COURSE OF THOSE FIVE SCENES?!?  Some seriously important shit got rearranged or cut out or possibly rewritten.  Number 1 connects to number 2, but number 3 seems to be from an earlier moment in the movie.  Did number 4 happen right before the party began?  Was the party set up in the main floor of the house and the professor saw all this?  Why is Martin doing the shit he's doing in number 5?  Yes, it was kinda set up that he'd take whatever woman came along, but it seemed as though he and Vivia was a real deal relationship after Jennifer shot him down.

See?  This is the shit that can take a perfectly charming little movie (even if it isn't all that great), and turn it into a completely worthless spectacle of shit.  It's bad enough when the movie couldn't decide between being a horror movie or a comedy (or even a lighthearted romp even if the jokes are kind of mild).  It's even worse when the basic thing that keeps a movie together, the editing, is fucked.  There's no way there weren't rewrites done here.  I can't even imagine that the editing happened because they had to cut down the run time.  There's too much of a constant change in pacing and tone for the blame to be put squarely on the shoulders of the movie running a bit too long. 

But this isn't the worst of what happens...  Get ready for the big reveal!

So this is a thing that happened in this movie.
It's not just that the house is haunted or possessed, but Jennifer herself is possessed.  Remember I said that there was a moment in the initiation where things tried to take a horror movie turn?  Apparently, that's when Jennifer got possessed.  Blake and another guy start fighting over what they should do about Jennifer in the basement.  Blake pulls out a knife and pretends to stab and kill the other guy.  Vivia and Jennifer come back upstairs because I guess their prank is over.  

Jennifer wants to leave but Blake is trying to convince her to stay.  He loses track of Jennifer and suddenly one of those deep sea diving guys that you normally find at the bottom of a fish tank is walking around with a trident and starts killing people because every horror movie killer in the 80s had to have some sort of costume and mask.  After an hour of hardly any deaths, deep sea diver starts picking people off in a number of different ways - with the aforementioned trident, the guillotine, a hammer, a machete, and spear gun.  It's death scene after death scene with no set up, no tension, nothing.  It's just an excuse to start killing people off.  Vivia starts uncovering all the dead bodies and grabs Phoebe to escape.  They go into the bathroom to leave through the window and find Blake drowned in the bathtub because that was a super thrilling way to find our main girl's boyfriend.

Why, hello there, scary movie.  Where have you been all night?
Vivia and Phoebe search the house to try to find Jennifer.  They see a bunch of dead bodies of people we have no idea who they are or why we care.  They find Jennifer who is talking in a super scary voice and make all the doors close on their own.  She then reveals to her friends she is possessed by the dead kid from the 60s and tells them she's "waited for 20 years for this...  April's Fools, assholes!"  Which is a tad less scary than the scary face pretty Jennifer starts to morph into.  

After Jennifer destroys the stairs that Vivia and Phoebe climbed to try to keep safe from her, there's a particularly effective shot of the possessed Jennifer crawling up the walls to get to them.  It's a genuinely scary moment in a movie that took forever to get to this destination.  While this doesn't make any promises that the movie would have been good if it had this tone the entire time, it at least gives it a shot and these last fifteen minutes of the movie actually makes an attempt at being something.  And I can get behind that.

Jennifer catches up to Phoebe and Vivia trying to escape through the attic window.  Jennifer drops Vivia from the roof.  Phoebe tries to fight off Jennifer with a wooden fence post, but gets tricked when Jennifer's normal voice returns.  Phoebe uses the piece of wood to kill Jennifer.  She turns back to Vivia and tries to help her up, but Vivia is too injured to stand.  In a twist ending, Phoebe gets possessed and is placed into the back of an ambulance with Vivia when the authorities arrive.

This movie spends about 80 minutes being full of bullshit comedy and uneven tone before sprinting to a horror ending.  It also kills our main girl making this the second straight movie to do so.  Seriously, 2017 is shaping up to be the year of the main heroine in movies I watch get possessed and killed.

While Mystics in Bali has its own issues of being utterly insane, Killer Party has the problem of having split personalities.  I mentioned it earlier, but I cannot get over the feeling that this movie had a bunch of reshoots.  The movie lands at 96 minutes which indicates that MGM was okay with it having some length.  I can't help but to think some of that stuff that seemed utterly discombobulated was a result of it being trimmed from 100 minutes to its final running time.  Then add in those assumed reshoots and all of a sudden you just have a bunch of footage that you have to put together and it begins to lack that cohesive narrative by needing to shift the gears so quickly from the lighthearted nature of the first 60 minutes to the break-neck pace of the final minutes that has all those horror film qualities.

I mean it begins by showing us a different movie, then revealing that was part of a music video before entering the movie proper.  Then introduces us to our main characters before breaking away from them for the majority of the first couple reels of the movie.  Then it introduces characters simply because most movies' formulas call for certain characters to exist (a love interest, a comedy relief character, etc.) but gives them no satisfying purpose other than being there because someone says they should be there.  Then a demon possesses our most likable character, kills her, and possesses another likable character before finishing.  It's kind of like wearing a pair of glasses smeared with bacon grease.  You can see general shapes of things you kinda recognize, but nothing specific comes into focus.

Oh, well, this explains it all...

You know what?  Next week, let's throw a little rock 'n roll in with our demons and possessed youths.  I'm going to talk about the 1980s cult classic Black Roses!  Come back and check it out!

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