Despite a high level of popularity with hardcore slasher film fans, the Slumber Party Massacre series was not taken seriously as a cult phenomenon on home video in the past. The original DVD releases were standard, bare-bones editions. With the exception of the first film, they weren’t even presented in a letterboxed format. Thankfully, Shout! Factory has not only resurrected the series as part of their “Roger Corman Cult Classics” line, they’ve have also created a full-on special edition for the entire series that collects it all in one convenient two-disc set.
In the area of picture quality, the first two films have received new anamorphic transfers – 1.78:1 for Part 1, 1.85:1 for Part 2 – while the third is presented full-frame. The results on the first two look very nice: despite some dust speckling and a few scratches around reel changes (most notable on part 2), there are new levels of color and detail that will blow away those used to the old, tape-sourced DVD’s of these titles. It’s unfortunate that available materials didn’t allow a similar anamorphic treatment for Part 3 but it is worth noting that the version featured here is the longest of its cuts, including the added scenes that are missing in earlier releases of this title.
There are also plenty of extras on the set, assembled by Jason Paul Collum, director of the scream-queen doc Something To Scream About, and Tony Brown, webmaster behind the definitive Slumber Party Massacre fansite, The Old Hockstatter Place. The results offer a real treasure trove of info for slasher fans.
For starters, there are commentary tracks provided for every installment, with each track moderated by Brown. Each track boasts an impressive roster of participants from each film. The Slumber Party Massacre commentary features writer/director Amy Jones, actress Debra Deliso and actor Michael Villella while Part 2’s commentary track features writer/director Deborah Brock, producer Don Daniel, story editor Beverly Grace and star Julliette Cummins. The final film’s commentary track includes director Sally Mattison, story editor Beverly Grace and stars Hope Marie Carlton and Brandi Burkett. The set’s producers are to be commended for going the extra mile to assemble these lineups.
The tracks are easygoing affairs, with Brown giving the participants plenty of room to share memories but also infusing each track with comments and questions to give them shape. The problem with Brown’s approach is that his line of questioning is mainly oriented towards confirming trivia he already knows about the film rather than getting the participants to open up about their feelings and thoughts on the genre or the film at hand. Thus, these tracks never really get under the surface level of what’s going on in the films and interesting topics like feminism vs. commerce or the perceived sexism of the slasher genre go unmentioned.
That said, the tracks remain a fun listen because the participants on each one approach their task with good cheer and enthusiasm and some good behind-the-scenes stories can be gleaned from the finished product. Some interesting nuggets: the finale of Part 1 was a reshoot added at Corman’s prompting and Corman kept the crew of Part 2 on their toes via threats to cut the catering budget. There are also bits of humor, like Brown and the actors pointing out the plotholes created by reshoot scenes added to Part 3.
There is also an entertaining three-part featurette about the series entitled “Sleepless Nights.” Most of the commentary participants make an appearance in it plus other actors and crew members as the piece deftly weaves their comments into a smooth, snappily-paced spoken history of the series. There are plenty of highlights, like Villella’s discussion of the offbeat Method-acting techniques he used to create his killer character in Part 1 and Brock revealing what happened to the famous drill-guitar from Part 2. The piece also includes fun fan-related footage to flesh things out, including a tour of the house from the first film and a clip of a kid flipping out when he gets a Slumber Party Massacre VHS as a party gift (note: that kid grew up to be Tony Brown, the commentary moderator on this set).
Other extras on this set include trailers and still galleries for each film, plus a fun set of liner notes from Collum that discuss the history of the films and his relationship with them as a super-fan. As with many of Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman reissues, it’s an impressive package that is more comprehensive and ambitious than any cult movie fan would have expected for these films. If you dig slasher flicks, The Slumber Party Massacre Collection is a must-have for your collection.