Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy
The Kentucky Fried Horror Movie
One of the most floridly bizarre horror films of the 80’s, Killer Party is the genre equivalent of one of those sketch-comedy movies that strings a series of unrelated gags together and prays that at least of a few of them find fertile soil, usually in the minds of those audience members who are either incredibly high or even more incredibly forgiving. For every solid laugh, there are usually about 6 or 7 groan-inducing disasters; for every clever parody there are a half-dozen flat in-jokes that lose timeliness almost before they fade from the screen. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, “you throw a bucket of shit at the wall, and see what sticks.”
That certainly seems to be what was on the mind of William Fruet when he made Killer Party, a truly confounding sorority-hazing-demonic-possession-mystery-slasher-romance-horror-musical-sex-comedy that, on top of being utterly impossible to categorize, also happens to be Canadian. Apparently made either without a map, a script, or night goggles, Party stumbles through genres with the carefree abandon of a gleefully drunk schoolbus driver, taking cast and audience alike on a truly unique joyride that, despite a few clipped pedestrians and razed hedges, is in the end more enjoyable than tragic.
We begin at a funeral in a creepy, misty graveyard. A group of oddly-dressed characters are busy overacting around a casket, especially the presiding priest, apparently a wacko sissy who feels it appropriate to work Wizard of Oz references into an internment. After this somewhat unsettling lead-in, we see one of the particularly campy family members return to the casket to cuss out its inhabitant; the inhabitant, being quite a prickly old bitch herself, pulls the woman into the coffin, which is unceremoniously incinerated by a couple of headphone-sporting morticians…
Suddenly, we pull back to find out… it’s just a movie! Yes, a chipper gal and her horny lover are at the drive-in watching a horror film in what looks to be about 1958. Whew – that was a close one! Our gal dodges her lover’s tongue by hopping out for a bucket of popcorn, and finds, oddly, that the snack stand is empty. Hmm… as this is the 1950s and eating disorders are not yet en vogue, the lass gleefully helps herself to enough popcorn to feed a family of four. Attagirl. She skips back to her car, only to find that – her boyfriend is now a zombie! Rather than share her buttery booty with one of the undead, our girl runs for shelter – only to find that…
…THE SNACKBAR HAS BEEN COMMANDIERED BY A HAIR-METAL BAND!!
Yes, the supposed band “White Sister” (White Lion and Twisted Sister, maybe?) is putting on some sort of impromptu performance in the drive-in’s snack bar (probably as illustrious of a venue as they could secure). As the Axl Rose-lookalike keyboard player does high kicks in his tight coral jeans, the lead singer (who looks like a member of Loverboy after having been submerged in pondwater for several months) warbles on about a girl named April as more and more zombies appear in the parking lot, haranguing our heroine. Finally, everyone seems to kiss and make up and the entire cast smiles at the camera as the it swoops skyward and text on the screen reveals that it was all…
…A MUSIC VIDEO!
Yes, what might have been mistaken for one of the worst musical numbers of all time was actually just one of the worst music videos of all time, which was being enjoyed by a young woman who has either never seen a music video before or is being forced to pretend to enjoy the travesty due to the fact that she is starring in a cheesy 80’s horror movie. And…
Yes, a good 15 minutes into our movie, we finally have silly things like, oh – a cast, a time period, a setting, and opening credits. Details, I know. But honestly, at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised for the title “A Fistful of Yen” to flash on the screen rather than Killer Party, considering that we’ve just sat through a series of gags worthy of The Kentucky Fried Movie or Amazon Women on the Moon. But no, nestled within these wacky antics, there is, indeed, a sort of horror film. Or at least we think so… actually, as things progress, it seems more like we’re watching an after-school special about sorority hazing or a very bland teen sex comedy – either way, the cripplingly dull and insanely catchy theme song (which features the banal chorus “These are the best times of our lives” and sounds like it was performed by Bananarama after they were given a lethal dose of Lithium) is enough to make you want to put a shotgun in your mouth. Considering that the movie is about these girls and their friends being ritualistically slaughtered, I can’t decide if the use of this song is ironic or just downright mean; it’s the equivalent of using “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (the love theme from Mannequin) in Last House on the Left.
So we have some pranks, some hammy gags (there are legitimate pratfalls, people!), and some great mid-eighties Porky’s-fallout female nudity. Again, the clock is ticking on the whole “horror film” concept. Finally, the sorority marm (a dimestore Alice Ghostley, to my delight) dies at the hand of a mystery assailant in what actually appears to be a fatal dick-slapping – I’m not quite sure what is used on the poor lady, but regardless it doesn’t end well. After this ridiculous and seemingly unmotivated murder, it’s a little easier to suffer through some more run-of-the-mill sorority intrigue (it also doesn’t hurt that lead girl Jennifer, played by the likeable Joanna Johnson, is having her sauce worked by the ultrayummy Martin Hewitt, best known for porking Brooke Shields in Endless Love). Things are also given a considerable boost by the Carol-Kane-cum-Drew-Barrymore wackiness of resident dweeb Vivia, played with tremendous aplomb by Sherry Willis-Burch, who was utterly wasted a few years before in the ungodly Final Exam (she would also go on to appear in The Last Prom -- this chick should avoid parties and school functions, apparently). Along with Phoebe (the girl watching the video at the start, who goes on to dress like a young Paula Poundstone), these spunky chicks are able to get into the coveted Blahba Blahba Blah sorority, after having pulled a crazy prank during their hazing ceremony that apparently impressed resident bitch Veronica (Alicia Fleer), who maintains her control over the sorority by having the biggest hair -- you know, like those lizards who intimidate predators by flapping out the sides of their head and looking bigger than they really are.
Anyway, after countless subplots that go nowhere (including strange attention to the loveless Martin, played by Ralph Seymour of Just Before Dawn), we finally get to the Killer Party of the title, and it actually is kind of fun. Being a fully-developed theater fag, I've got a thing for costume parties, and this doesn't disappoint -- there's a little of everything, from Martin dressed in drag (a horrifying approximation of Rhea Perlman) to a couple of bumblebees to slutty disco-chicks. After a few more pranks go awry, a mystery killer in an old-timey diving getup starts harpooning people for no apparent reason, and the goin' gets good. Bodies pile up rapidly all over the once-abandoned frat house (where a pledge apparently was killed 20 years prior), and our girls are soon the only ones left.
Except there's a bit of a problem. See, Jennifer -- while still alive, thankfully -- has been possesed by a demon. Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, well -- so did the filmmakers. Despite a brief reference early on, this fact is completely absent from the story, leaving the revelation of the killer more shrug-inducing than shocking. Fact is, once Jennifer starts to bug out and we kick into Demonic Possession film mode, everything gets very amusing very quickly. Johnson's performance as the apeshit demon vessel is simply astounding, particularly moments when she has to climb up walls and stick her tongue out at the other ladies. Again, we've departed from our story, theme, and subgenre entirely, but much like an episode of Hee Haw, the continuous variety adds up to laughs, not annoyance. Unless you hate Hee Haw, in which case this movie would likely bug the shit out of you.
Things end in wry, dark-comedy fashion as our two remaining final girls are whisked away in an ambulance, one possessed, one screaming for help. Cue inappropriate theme song ("These are the best times... of our lives. These are the best times..."), and cue credits. Essentially we've just witnessed a potpourri of 80's Canadian teen-oriented entertainment, from sex romp to college comedy to slasher to possession movie. And while the result feels more like cocaine-inspired stream-of-consciousness than a cohesive product, it's still fun to watch and occasionally staggering to behold. Interestingly, 1986 would also yield another genre mash-up, Fred Dekker's masterpiece Night of the Creeps, which would combine nostalgia, gore, and comedy to far better effect. Director Fruet would also go on to make another retro-genre-comedy, Blue Monkey, which lampoons the sci-fi monster movie while playing pretty fairly within its rules (although I have a soft spot for his earlier, far grittier Death Weekend, which pits the ever-fabulous, gravel-voiced Brenda Vaccaro against a crew of sadistic squatters).