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Tuesday 11 April 2023

Burl reviews Killer Party! (1986)

Feeling somewhat the April fool, it’s Burl, here to review a horror picture that initially was called April Fool’s Day, but when that other April Fool’s Day came out, the non-slasher slasher picture which I remember the Three Dog Night version of Mama Told Me Not to Come was used prominently in the TV ads for, the title was changed to Killer Party!

The sentence above is a bit tangled and convoluted and difficult to decipher, I realize, but those are entirely apposite qualities for a review of this particular picture! It opens with a funeral scene, an EC comic story in miniature with a hateful relative and a vengeful corpse! But no, this proves to be a movie-within-the-movie being watched by a young couple at a drive-in, and when the young woman goes for popcorn, supernatural shenanigans occur and then a hair-metal band begins to play! We see now, thanks to a chyron, that this is a music video by a band called White Sister, and it’s being watched on TV by a loafing co-ed!

Finally the story proper can start, for the co-ed is one of three who serve more or less as our main characters! There’s Phoebe, played by Elaine Wilkes from Sixteen Candles, and Vivia, essayed by Sherry Willis-Burch from Final Exam, and there’s another one too, and of course they are for some incomprehensible reason trying to join a sorority house run by your basic bitchy sorority queen type! There is a lot of talk about goats, and a lot of goat noises, and everyone has to eat goat eyeballs of course! Pranks are pulled, including one involving a jar of bees and some ladies in a hot tub, and that seems to have no connection with anything except to continue the general atmosphere of prankishness!

In fact nothing seems to have anything to do with anything else, or not much at least! This disjunctive story was written by Barney Cohen, from whose quill also flowed Friday the 13th part 4, and I think the established backstory and structure of the Jason pictures is what this particular scenarist requires in order to turn in a shootable story! The picture was directed by William Fruet, who brought us Spasms and Funeral Home, and usually (Spasms excepted of course), his movies are a lot tighter and more sensical than this!

Lots of other characters show up, but it’s often difficult to discern their narrative function! There’s a smoothtone called Blake played by Martin Hewitt from Alien Predators; a goony weirdo called Martin, played by Ralph Seymour from Ghoulies and Fletch; and an uptight English instructor named Professor Zito, played by the always-welcome Paul Bartel of Piranha and Chopping Mall and Rock n’ Roll High School! All these performances are perfectly adequate, but I for one missed the gallery of 80s Canadian actors who usually show up in these things – still, ha ha, we do easily recognize it as a Canadian film by the snowflakes that are often swirling past the camera lens!

The collegiate shenanigans take up more than an hour of screen time, and I think the beginning of the movie is meant to take place in the fall while the last part tries to justify the original title by occurring in the spring! This time jump, which many will miss, only adds to the dislocated feeling of the movie! But it seems there’s an old frat house where a frat brother was killed in, I want to say, a hazing incident? The sisters wish to hold a spring prank party in the manse, but the ghost of the frat boy, unable to abide anyone associated with the Greek letter clubs, possesses one of the ladies and there follows a series of bloodless slasher-style killings!

The picture was shot by John Lindley, a cinematographer who would go on to lens bigger-budget items like The Serpent and the Rainbow, Field of Dreams, Sneakers, Pleasantville and The Core, so Killer Party looks a little better than many such movies do! That only means that we get a better-lit look at impenetrable goings-on, however, so it’s not a great help! Also, whatever gore the movie had in its first condition – I remember shots in Fangoria of a trident-poked lady and a fellow with a chopped-off hand – has been ruthlessly excised as though by the killer frat boy ghost himself!

I’ll give it this, though: for a movie shot in 1984, it looks awfully 1986! Is that a compliment? I mean it as such – being a year or two ahead of your time counts as an accomplishment, I think! And though almost all of the scare scenes in the last act are poorly staged and free of affrights, there is one good shock moment in the last bit of it, concerning the surprise appearance of the possessed girl on a roof! The very end has some impact too, though it borrows that from Twilight Zone: The Movie! Otherwise it’s all pretty dire: poorly done, scattered, incoherent, sometimes boring, often stupid!

Some folk like it though, and I want to acknowledge them! Me, I can’t find much in it to love, ha ha, and with its pathetic shenanigan-to-carnage ratio it reminded me of Cheerleader Camp: an unforgivable crime! There’s also a theme song that will tend to make your ears bleed! But I liked Vivia, or was it Phoebe, and how she was half sexy goodtime girl, half glasses nerd! I guess I’ll give Killer Party one and a half guillotines, which I’d say is a pretty generous rating, but hey, it’s spring!

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