Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work and then share the most interesting parts. In this issue, Rob Hunter celebrates Chloe Zhao’s historic win as best director at the Oscars by revisiting another female-directed classic, The Slumber Party Massacre.
This may surprise you – and should annoy you – but Chloe Zhao’s most recent Oscar for directing Nomadland is only the second win for a director. That’s crazy. To highlight more female filmmakers, let’s take a look at another rarity, a slasher film made by a woman. The slumber party massacre (1982) was directed by Amy Holden Jones, and the two sequels were directed by two other women.
It remains a big deal, and while Jones directed only three other feature films, she has been a writer with credits as diverse as Mystic Pizza (1988), Beethoven (1992), Indecent Proposal (1993) and The Relic (1997). Not bad for someone whose first recognition as assistant director was in a small film called Taxi Driver (1976). Read on to see what I heard on her comment on The Slumber Party Massacre!
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Commentator: Amy Holden Jones (Director), Debra De Liso (Actor), Michael Villela (Actor)
1. The houses are on Mountain View Ave. in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Jones discovered it while living near Venice. It was also pretty close to New World Pictures and producer Roger Corman.
2. Corman insisted that they use Sleepless Night as a title while trying to convince homeowners to let their properties go “to make people think it’s a classic thriller”. He’s always been a smart man.
3. The composer Ralph Jones is the director’s brother. “He recorded the entire score on a small Casio synthesizer.”
4th Jones was hired to direct after just reading the prologue to Rita Mae Brown’s screenplay and never seeing popular slashers of the time such as Friday the 13th (1980). She later discovered the levels of violence and sex, but she worked on adding fear and humor herself when “I don’t think her script was funny at all.”
5. As with an early no-top scene, Jones points out that the shower sequence was a request from Corman. She shot it very much by the numbers just to check the boxes.
6th Jones had worked as an editor and documentary filmmaker, but this was her first feature film.
7th She suggests that horror films were looked down on then, but that they are much more respected now. “I was denounced for it back then, but now when you go and do turistas, you’re an artist.” This will be news to John Stockwell.
8th. Villela recalls that he shaped the look and movement of his character after a peacock. “It was all peacock.”
9. Brinke Stevens appears in the commentary just as her character is about to bite her. “This was my very first death scene in a movie.”
10. You see a man riding a motorcycle at 4:25 p.m., and while they disagree on who it is – a production manager, a member of the electrical crew – Jones admits that at first she thought it was Joe Dante . It is clearly not Joe Dante.
11. Villela created a whole backstory for his killer character that goes way beyond what’s mentioned in the film. He stayed in character even while filming, which helped creep the young women out. “It was my first acting job.”
12th De Liso is a teacher and she mentions that students approach her from time to time and mention that they recently saw the film. “Your students must be ‘woo hoo!’ Going, “adds Jones as Kim (De Liso) does a topless scene. “They kind of look down when they talk to me now,” added De Liso.
13th You filmed for three weeks.
14th Jones recalls how Corman occasionally turned down her daily request for a generator, adding, “You can do it, Amy, I remember once I had a scene and we just circled the cars and turned on the headlights.” She needed them for indoor shots, however, so fortunate that the electricians could climb the utility poles and use public power. “If we had enough lights, the streetlights in Mar Vista could be seen dimly,” says Jones.
fifteen. Jones then directed three more feature films, and contrary to that experience, she said that each of them featured a “difficult” actor or two. Her biggest hit remains Maid to Order, a romantic comedy, in 1987, and she mentions that if she wanted to continue making rom-coms, she would likely “have another directing career.” All four of her films were grossing, including her most recent film, a thriller called The Rich Man’s Wife (1996) starring Halle Berry.
16. The glass lamp at 47:10 belongs to Jones and she also included it in her follow-up film Love Letters (1983). She still has it.
17th Jones points out that despite the film being beaten up for its “violence against women,” most of the women here are killed off-screen while the boys suffer some bloody on-screen deaths.
18th Jim Wynorski’s cheerleader Massacre (2003) was originally planned as the fourth film in the Slumber Party franchise. There is a fan remix that adds Ralph Jones’ score from that film and a connecting prologue that is said to be online.
19th In the original ending, the killer was killed in the living room, but Corman dug up the film and gave Jones a little extra money to write and re-shoot a bigger ending. It was the right call, as this ending not only castrates the killer (by breaking off his drill), but also allows Jones to emulate something she learned on the cab driver. She was watching Martin Scorsese’s classic again as she rewrote this ending, and the constant screaming of pain in the finale of that film hit her. “It’s very annoying.”
20th Villela remembers saying “Mama” during his last death scene, but Jones destroyed it for fear that it would earn the killer sympathy.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“This is classic Roger Corman, you have to get naked within the first two or three minutes.”
“We ran with Rita’s drilling metaphor.”
“For what it is, it’s a great title.”
“We sure had a lot of girls in hot pants.”
“There we have the insert boob.”
“It’s not like we tried to do Barry Lyndon here.”
“If you don’t get the humor, you’re dead.”
“I lost my penis.”
The contestants here all remain proud of the film and what they achieved, but do mention how more than some of the cast distanced themselves from The Slumber Party Massacre. The comment has some anecdotes and general thoughts, but it falls silent and / or occasionally points out what is happening on the screen. Though rough at times, it’s fun to listen to fans of the film and filmmakers alike.
Read more comment comment from the archive.