Sunday, April 22, 2018

Growing Into It - THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION


Some movies click with you instantly.  Some fail to connect right from the gate.  Then there are those movies that by every measure you should love, that you want to love, but for some reason you never completely fall for.  Fortunately, the heartbreak doesn’t have to last forever.  Time can’t change a movie’s content or message, but it can change the viewer.  People mature, their values change, their perspectives widen (hopefully).  Revisiting a movie years later may elicit a completely different experience.

I've had to grow into certain movies.  Carpenter films are a perfect example.  BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA hits the bullseye at any age, but you need to have lived a little to appreciate the pacing of THEY LIVE.  THE THING puts the monster right in your face (or wearing your face), but the existential evil of PRINCE OF DARKNESS requires a bit more contemplation.  

It doesn't work for everything.  Every five years or so I come back to NIGHT OF THE COMET certain I’m going to unlock all its joy.  The joy still alludes me.  I know everyone adores it, and Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart are amazing, but the story never lives up to the potential.  So, I was nervous returning to another beloved cult classic.  Was I finally ready to sip from the nerd grail that is THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION?


The Capsule:
Neurosurgeon, martial artist, particle physicist, speed racer, and rock singer Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) has just achieved his greatest accomplishment, driving his rocket car straight through a mountain, via a side trip across the 8th Dimension.  Unfortunately, his well televised success catches the attention of Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow), a megalomaniacal alien who, 45 years earlier, escaped the 8th Dimension by way of body-jacking the brilliant scientist, Dr. Emilio Lizardo.  Seeing the opportunity to free the rest of his imprisoned followers, Whorfin sends his Red Lectroid underlings, John O'Connor (Vincent Schiavelli), John Gomez (Dan Hedaya), and John Bigboote (Christopher Lloyd), to kidnap Banzai’s mentor, Professor Hikita (Robert Ito), and steal the oscillation overthruster.  Banzai momentarily thwarts Whorfin's plans, despite being distracted by a suicidal blonde, Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), who looks hauntingly like his dead wife.  Meanwhile, a representative from Planet 10, John Parker (Carl Lumbly), brings Banzai and his team an ultimatum from the leader of the Black Lectroids, John Emdall (Rosalind Cash): stop the renegade Whorfin from escaping Earth or her orbiting ship will start World War III.  Also, Jeff Goldblum is dressed like a cowboy.

For so long I wondered why I couldn’t quite gel with BUCKAROO BANZAI.  I was down with other cult films, like REPO MAN and ERASERHEAD, why couldn’t I crack BANZAI?  Well, after 34 years (!), I’m happy to announce that this time, I finally got it.  I can follow the plot, I can sync with the tone, and can get behind the performances.  And yes, it is wonderful.  I also see why my younger self had such a hard time with it.  This movie is so densely packed with crazy it’s like a neutron star.  Before the movie even starts, we're hit with the ridiculous title, the strange graphics, the bizarre Casio theme song, and a delirious text crawl.  It only gets stranger from there.

The world of Buckaroo Banzai is a dizzying mix of clever satire, overacting, underacting, violence, silliness, and heart.  I’m convinced the first draft was crafted by a genius 12-year-old, either confused about how the world really works, or pining for how it ought to work.  Banzai, played with understated brilliance by Weller, is a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Albert Einstein, Captain Kirk, Toshiro Mafune, and Elvis Costello.  He pivots from performing brain surgery, to hosting a science symposium, to rocking out on stage without missing a beat.  He is so well respected that the President of the United States has to schedule an appointment for his time.   He's always ready with a six-gun or a philosophical insight. Weller’s earnest p, without a hint of irony or cynicism, is what keeps the rest of the insanity comfortably riding the rails. Banzai is unflappable, whether he’s squaring off against aliens or stopping a rollicking rock show to quiet the tears of a despondent woman.  If all action heroes were this centered, they could get a lot more accomplished.

This movie has one of the largest ensemble casts I’ve ever seen.  Banzai’s entourage alone is gigantic, ranging from his band/compatriots, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, to a robust support staff of technicians and guards, to a nationwide civilian task force, the Blue Blazer Irregulars, who can be called upon at a moment’s notice.  Add in the different factions of Lectroids and a DR. STRANGELOVE-esque contingency from the US government and you should be drowning in character soup.  Director W.D. Richter does an incredible job of constantly juggling the cast so that everyone, from a simple mental ward orderly (Jonathan Banks, Mike from Breaking Bad!), to a machine gun toting junior Blazer (Damon Hines), has a memorable part.  The characters are so distinct, like Banzai's manager Rawhide (Clancy Brown), that their presence adds up to more than their scant screen time.

Almost as important as Buckaroo himself is New Jersey, played to perfection by Jeff Goldblum.  As the newest addition to Buckaroo’s crew, New Jersey is the audience’s surrogate.  While Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith) and Reno (Pepe Serna) have a jaded, seen-it-all attitude, New Jersey is in a continual state of bewilderment.  On his first day, he shows up in a ridiculous cowboy getup, not because it’s meaningful or he wants to, but because he thinks it’s appropriate for the crowd.  We've all been there.  He’s the guy we can relate to, the guy who asks why there is a watermelon randomly hooked up to a gizmo in Banzai headquarters.  Like us, he’s just trying to figure out what the shit is going on.  

If Banzai is on one end of the composure scale, then Lord John Whorfin is at the extreme opposite end.  John Lithgow gives the looniest performance of his life, which is no small feat, given his colorful history.  Appropriately enough, Whorfin is introduced in the nuthouse, hooking electrodes to his tongue to experience flashbacks.  Inheriting his host body’s Italian accent and a faulty recollection of popular sayings (“home is where your wear your hat”), Whorfin babbles like Geppetto on meth.  Lithgow is at 100% mania from start to finish, which might be why I had a hard time with this movie in my youth.  Whorfin is a lot to handle.  Like Weller, though, Lithgow totally commits to the role, leaving no room for knowing winks.  Unlike all the other Lectroids, we never see Whorfin’s true alien visage, since no amount of makeup could be more convincingly alien than Lithgow’s physical performance. 

The thing I didn’t entirely put together until recently is that even though John Emdall, leader of the the Black Lectroids, considers Whorfin to be great threat to her planet (she equates him to “your Hitler”), the maniacal criminal is, for the most part, completely incompetent.  The same can be said for all the Red Lectroids. The mothership they have spent years constructing is hobbled together from junk.  Their secret base at the Yoyodine Propulsion Systems factory looks more like a squatters’ camp.  Either they have really slacked off during their exile on Earth, or John Emdall is seriously overreacting. These losers couldn’t take over a Denny’s, much less a whole planet.

The one exception is Whorfin’s put upon lieutenant, John Bigboote.  He is a bit like New Jersey in that he seems to be the only one concerned about the madness around him.  While New Jersey is free speak his frequently blown mind, Bigboote is forced to grumble to himself, because no one listens.  Either his partner John O'Connor is too preoccupied with torturing a scantily clad Penny Priddy (in a weirdly kinky plot point), or his boss is too busy being a ranting nutjob.  Adding to the insult, Whorfin goes out of his way to torment him, like always pronouncing his name as “Big Boody,” no matter how many times he is corrected (“Boo-ta!  Ta! Ta!”).  When a frustrated Whorfin screams at him “You’re the weakest individual I ever know,” Bigboote can only express his impotent rage by giving him the finger when he turns his back.  Take your petty vengeance where you can, John Bigboote.
 
Tucked away under all the flash and circumstance are a few surprisingly progressive elements for a 1984 sci-fi farce.  Barkin’s Penny Priddy seems like a typical ditzy blonde love interest when first introduced crying in a nightclub.  While she certainly has her ditzy moments, Penny is a tough, resourceful, and brave addition to the team.  She also has at least a passing understanding of quantum mechanics, so she is more than meets the eye.  And while there are precious few other female roles in the enormous cast, at least Rosalind Cash gets to be the leader of a whole planet.

Although Black and Red Lectroids look the same as aliens, it seemed a tad insensitive that all the Black Lectroids in human disguise were given Jamaican accents and dreads.  Looking closer, though, it’s more of a quietly subversive wink.  The good guy aliens, played by black actors, are technically advanced, organized, and have a very funky fashion sense (John Parker is dressed like Rick James).  The bad guy aliens, all played by white actors, are the exact opposite.  Their inventions barely function, they are constantly bickering or goofing off, and they all dress like insurance salesmen.  No one ever brings this up, except the doofy president (Ronald Lacey), who thinks John Parker is talking about starting a race war rather than fighting aliens.  Everyone just ignores him, because we all know what doofy presidents can be like.

Maybe I just wasn’t ready for Buckaroo Banzai’s mind-bending, comic book Zen back in 1984.  Unfortunately, I was not alone.  The movie bombed at the box office, and even though the credits assured us it would, the next adventure never came.  It's a shame, because no one can watch the ending sequence, where Buckaroo's crew triumphantly join him on a march down the L.A. Basin, without longing to see what happens next.  Crazier things have happened, though, so maybe one day we will get to see Buckaroo Banzai against the World Crime League.  I'm sure Goldblum wouldn't mind breaking out the woolly chaps one more time.



C Chaka

Monday, April 2, 2018

Hip to Be Square – AMERICAN PSYCHO


It’s been a month dedicated to horror directed by women, and I’m closing it out with perhaps the most unexpected, Mary Harron’s pitch perfect adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ ghastly1980's yuppie satire, AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000).    



The Capsule:
Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) has it all.  Good looks, a successful job, a beautiful girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), a Manhattan apartment, and an insatiable bloodlust.  Not for business, for actual blood.  Because, when Patrick is not cheating on his girlfriend, taking lunches with people he despises, or struggling to find the perfect business card, his favorite pastime is murder and mutilation.  Underneath his perfectly curated shell, Patrick is hollow, desperate to feel anything.  No matter how much blood he gets under his expensively manicured nails, though, no one seems to notice.  Because in his self-obsessed Wall St. world, life and death means less than getting good dinner reservations. 

It is particularly delicious irony that the story of such a reprehensible misogynist is directed by a woman.  Mary Harron doesn’t downplay any of Bateman’s woman hating tendencies, or the culture that accepts and encourages them.  It starts off casually, like the way he belittles his girlfriend for prattling on about their future wedding when he is trying to listen to the new Robert Palmer album.  The fact that he is cheating on her with one of his colleague’s girlfriends (a very medicated Samantha Mathis) is less from desire than a kind of social obligation.  Mistresses are like clothing accessories to men in his position, you can’t have the tie without the tie clip.  He's also the type of guy who orders for his date at a restaurant and tells his secretary (a very put upon ChloĆ« Sevigny) how to dress.  Other times, she is less subtle, like when Bateman—naked, holding a chainsaw—is chasing after one of his victims, Christie (a very dead Cara Seymour).  I’d say that was the pinnacle of misogynistic imagery. 

Forget Bruce Wayne, Patrick Bateman is Christian Bale’s masterpiece performance.  Dancing between deadpan, narcissistic sincerity and near Nick Cage levels of manic excess, Bale makes Bret Easton Ellis’ misogynist business monster come alive.  It’s hard to say which is worse, Bateman’s murderous inner life, or his intensely bland and conformist outer one.  It turns out that being an amoral sociopath devoid of human emotion is a winning trait on Wall Street. Bateman spends more time and energy modeling himself on what he views to be the pinnacle of success, the 80’s NY yuppie, than he ever does on his actual job.  In fact, you never once see Bateman doing any work at all, because his real occupation is pretending. 

The big joke is that aside from his homicidal urges, Bateman is exactly like everyone else in his social orbit.  None of his friends and associates do anything other than meet for drinks, berate servers, and do drugs in the bathroom.  Patrick fits in perfectly with these corporate backstabbers, despite literally stabbing people in the back.  The key to success, specifically in Bateman’s case, but seemingly across the board, is to be as indistinguishable as possible. 

The brilliant Business Card Duel scene says it all.  Bateman and his friends smugly lay down their business cards, preening about the font, color variant, and stock thickness, only to be crushed by the next person’s imperceptibly superior design.  Except, anyone who is not a soulless douchebag would realize that all the cards look exactly the same, just plain white (or off-white, or bone) cards.  Not even the positions are different.  Everyone is a vice president of the same company, and all equally useless. 

This exaggerated uniformity leads to a big theme in the movie, mistaken identity.  Everyone is so obsessed with themselves that they barely take the time to register who they are talking to.  Paul Allen (Jared Leto), the Alpha Schmuck of Bateman’s circle (his card even has a watermark), consistently thinks Bateman is another executive named Marcus.  Bateman never bothers to correct him because Allen would never bother to remember.  It comes in handy when he lures Allen back to his apartment to off him, leaving a fake trail pointing back to Marcus.  He covers his tracks with far more care than any of his other crimes, because he thinks that—opposed to his sex worker and homeless victims—people will care if an executive disappears. 

He needn’t have bothered.  In any other movie, the appearance of Kimball the P.I. (Willem Dafoe) would mean the noose was tightening around Bateman.  Not here.  Kimball’s calculating smile and suspicious eye gets under Bateman’s skin, but Bateman’s narcissistic colleagues have unintentionally confirmed his flimsy cover story with their faulty memories.  Marcus, Bateman’s intended fall guy, even told Kimball they had dinner together the night of the disappearance.  Alibi by indifference.  Rather than being Bateman’s dogged adversary, Kimball just shrugs and goes on his way.  As the film continues, Bateman is less concerned that he will be caught for his increasingly sloppy murders, and more that no one bothers to notice. 

Bateman understands one-sided yuppie banter so well that he tosses out casual confessions during cocktails, assured that no one is really listening.  When he announces, “I’m into murders and executions,” everyone at the club half hears it as “mergers and acquisitions.”   His girlfriend never notices him scribbling bloody corpses on the restaurant tablecloth as they have dinner.  The question “did you know I’m utterly insane?” bounces off Paul Allen’s head as if Bateman had asked him about his favorite kind of cat.  Only real people, the ones outside of the glossy, upwardly mobile lifestyle, ever pick up on what he really is.  Even the most human person in the movie, his secretary, Jean, is blinded by an extremely misguided crush, until discovering his doodle filled day planner opens her eyes.

Oh, by the way, if Patrick Bateman starts talking about pop music, get the fuck out.  His worst acts of violence are usually proceeded by a dissertation about the most soulless, commercial drivel imaginable.  He lectures a couple of prostitutes on the virtues of Phil Collins before brutalizing them (thankfully off-screen).  An ode to Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All inspires even more vicious treatment of his houseguests.  Then there is his passionate, almost frenzied defense of Huey Lewis and the News as he prepares to slaughter Paul Allen.  Apparently, their early work was a little too New Wave for his taste, but they really came into their own on Sports.  Allen is more interested on why the floor in front of his seat is covered with taped down newspaper.  Bateman does have a point, as Hip to Be Square turns out to be the perfect musical accompaniment to chopping up your business rival with an ax. 

I’ve heard a few different interpretations of the ending [Spoilers].  After Bateman’s madness culminates with a random shooting binge that claims an old woman, several cops, and security guard who thinks he’s “Mr. Smith”, he leaves a detailed confession/cry for help on his lawyer’s answering machine.  The next day, the citywide manhunt that he expected never materializes.  When he returns to Allen’s condo, which he has been using as an abattoir, he finds the hanging bodies removed, the blood-soaked walls freshly painted, and a real estate agent acting like this is just another property.  His lawyer thinks the confession was joke, because he just had lunch with Paul Allen in London a few days ago.  So, was it all just an invention of a fractured imagination?

Hell no, it wasn’t his imagination.  Not only does the film’s tone point to Bateman’s murders being real, it backs up how he unintentionally gets away with them.  Would a real estate agent in this world really let a horrific crime scene stand in the way of selling a luxury Manhattan condo with a high-rise view of Central Park?  She would haul the bodies out over her shoulder if she had to.  And Kimball already demonstrated what unreliable witnesses self-centered social climbers make.  Bateman’s lawyer only thought he had lunch with Paul Allen, because all of these impeccably groomed bastards look, sound, and act alike.  He doesn’t even recognize his own client when he’s talking to him face to face.


In Ellis’ twisted satire, this is Bateman’s ultimate punishment.  He will never be caught.  He will never be stopped.  He will never be noticed.  His most extreme acts are now just as hollow and meaningless as every other part of his existence.  Nothing changes.  He is in yuppy hell.  Not exactly the most satisfying comeuppance for an unrepentant serial killer, but absolutely the most appropriate in this case.

Mary Harron does a brilliant job translating Ellis’s notoriously uncinematic and troublesome prose while keeping, and perhaps accentuating the jet-black satire.  She doesn’t attempt to judge or moralize Bateman’s actions, because that is obvious to any sane person watching.  Her depiction of Jean is more sympathetic and less complicit than Ellis’ version, but she keeps Bateman clearly in the driver’s seat, and doesn’t flinch from making it an unpleasant and uncomfortably hilarious ride.  Even more impressively, she gave Phil Collin’s Sussudio a justifiable reason to exist.  That is true directing magic.


C Chaka

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Rock N Roll Nightmare – SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II



Formula is not necessarily a bad thing.  Like a recipe, a formula can reliably provide just the thing you are in the mood for.  Just because a formula promises certain results doesn’t mean it has to be predicable or unoriginal.  Rollercoasters have a very established formula.  Go up, go down, the faster the better.  Within that framework, however, is room for almost infinite variation.  A good rollercoaster gives you the thrills you were expecting but doles them out in innovative ways.  The same is true for movies.  Slashers, for instance, thrive on formula.  A vulnerable group ends up in an isolated place were, unbeknownst to them, some nasty fellow bumps them off one at a time.  The fun—if that’s your bag—lies in the who, what, and especially how the mayhem goes down.  Nothing says you can’t find a creative way to travel from A to B to C (usually standing for Alcohol, Blood, and Corpses).

Slasher sequels can fall into a tricky position of having to double down on formula.  Not only do they have to follow the basic roadmap, they also need to tie in to the previous film.  Some play it safe, like the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies (the loony JASON GOES TO HELL not withstanding).  Others try to mix it up.  Then there is Deborah Brock, who was tasked with intersecting pillow fights, sexy shenanigans, and power tools for 1987’s SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II and did so in a way no one could have seen coming.



The Capsule:
Years after surviving a horrific night with a slumber party crashing driller killer, Courtney (Crystal Bernard) has put the past behind her and is living the life of a normal teen.  She plays guitar in a band, is all about pastels, and is getting attention from the dreamy and frequently shirtless Matt (Patrick Lowe).  Sure, she has the occasional post-traumatic nightmare, but she’s in better shape than her fellow survivor and older sister, Valerie (Cindy Eilbacher), who is wrapped up tight in the nuthouse.  Courtney is so confident in her emotional recovery that she agrees to join her bandmates, Sheila (Juliette Cummins), Sally (Heidi Kozak), and Amy (Kimberly McArthur), at a secluded beach house, for what could be considered a party of the slumber variety.  Sure, her nightmares are becoming more vivid, and happening while she is awake, but that’s all just her imagination.  She isn’t going to let a few hallucinations ruin her fun, especially when her not-so-secret crush shows up.  One night in Matt’s hunky arms makes all of Courtney’s dreams come true.  Unfortunately, one of those dreams was about a demented, leather clad rock n roller with a wicked drill-tipped electric guitar (Atanas Ilitch), and he will turn this slumber party into a nightmare for everyone involved.

Growing up in the days before online databases and on demand movie consumption meant living with unsolved mystery.  Without easy access to every film ever made, tracking down obscure films took considerable leg work.  Who has time for that?  This left me fruitlessly pondering things like, what the hell was that movie I caught a few minutes of on HBO where a Stray Cats reject was chasing a bunch of girls around with a cherry red drill guitar?  Did I dream that shit? 

While this particular driller killer was unique, a killer with a drill was not.  There is THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, the first SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, and plain old DRILLER KILLER, plus that drill murder through the ceiling scene from BODY DOUBLE.  That is a lot of drilling to keep track of.  I finally stumbled upon the answer after falling down a click-hole in IMDB which led me to the poster.  Thank you, Internet, for helping us sort out all the various drill killing films 

There might be a lot of driller killer movies, but I’ve never seen a story structure like this one.  The first SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE was your standard maniac hunting high school girls’ affair, with a slight feminist turn.  The sequel is a supernatural thriller more akin to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, yet not quite that, either.  Aside from Courtney’s escalating—and nutso—hallucination (a hand-burger, being mauled by a raw chicken), nothing much happens until the Rockabilly killer literally bursts forth from out of nowhere, completely unexplained.  The last act is a brilliantly mad dash, tearing through Courtney’s friends in record time.

It’s a good thing, because the rest of the cast is hands down the blandest bunch of white people ever put in front of a camera.  Crystal Bernard, or as she is better known, that chick from Wings, does a decent job when freaking out, otherwise she is Pastel Barbie.  Amy and her boyfriend, um, Jeff (Scott Westmoreland, thanks again IMDB) practically blend in with the beige wallpaper.  If you thought Courtney’s flare-free fashion sense was bad—and you should--Amy dresses like a zoo tour guide.  Sheila is only interesting because she is a perv, but she shines compared to the others. 

Matt, the dreamy, mid-twenties teen that Courtney constantly fantasizes about isn’t anything more than a hunky face, but I appreciate how Deborah Brock inverts the typical expectations by having the camera ogle the himbo rather than the bimbo. Not only is he always shirtless in Courtney’s daydreams, the scene where he is talking to her on the phone is shot like a Calvin Klein ad, only with ‘80s color gel lighting.

The only notable personality in the group is T.J. (Joel Hoffman), and it is for all the wrong reasons. T.J. is a remarkably obnoxious take on the California surfer dude horndog. At least half of his lines in the script must have just been “uh-huh-huh-huh” stoner laughs. Every single time he opened his mouth I wanted to punch him in the face. His death scene takes forever to arrive and is not nearly satisfying enough, though I doubt any death could be brutal enough for this guy. True to character till the end, he manages to get out one last “Whoa,” before shuffling off the mortal coil.

Placed against these clowns, Atanas Ilitch’s long delayed entrance as the Rockabilly Driller Killer is absolutely electric. Iltich, who only did a couple of films after this, chews the hell out of every scene he is in. His delivery and swagger remind me of Billy Zane in DEMON KNIGHT, despite being saddled with mostly song lyrics for dialog. Not as pitch perfect as Zane, but with similar chaotic energy. It becomes a completely different movie after his arrival, and all lulls are forgiven. Pulling off a plot twist like this takes an actor with crazy confidence, and even more to wield a weapon of this caliber.

Keep your machetes, pitchforks, hedge clippers, and knife gloves, the silver horned, cherry red, drill tipped electric guitar is unquestionably the most impressively ridiculous killing device ever. It’s even more ludicrous than the flying guillotine. For one thing, it is huge. With all its twisted hooks and fangs, it's the size of a cello, yet Rockabilly wields it like a psychotic Eddie Van Halen. It’s also very versatile, great for slashes, bashes, and,of course, impalings. And how many other murder weapons allow the killer to pause in mid-pursuit for an impromptu music video?

The feminist angle is harder to pin down here than in the first SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, where the girls banded together to overcome (and castrate) their murderous male stalker. The most notable thing with this one is that all the girls have a genuinely close relationship. None of them are catty or bitchy with each other. At first it seems like Sheila will be the diva of the faux Bangles band, maybe even having eyes for Matt. Nope, she’s just a bit of a nympho (with her own boyfriend, only). Given how clearly nuts Courtney is acting, all her bandmates are notably supportive of her. Sally is a bit oblivious, always equating Courtney’s hysteria with her acne breakout (to the point where Courtney hallucinates Sally’s face is one giant zit), but otherwise, they are very protective.

The funny thing is Courtney does not return the favor when the shit hits the fan. Rockabilly chases a wounded Sheila back to the house, where Courtney and Amy have barricaded themselves in a bedroom. When Courtney hears Sheila banging on the door, they try to let her in, but Rockabilly gets her while the door is still closed. At first I thought they were just comically bad at moving the small dresser blocking the door, but rewatching the scene, Courtney actually moves the dresser back when she hears Rockabilly is out there, too. She lets her friend get skewered rather than risk opening the door. The door that Rockabilly busts through in about 30 seconds. Later, another friend tips over the edge at a construction site and dangles above a three-story drop. She pleads with Courtney “Don’t let go!” Guess what happens at the first sign of danger? They should really vote Courtney out of the band. Posthumously.

Brock also gives the stereotypical slasher attitude on sex a twist. Instead of the “have sex and die” model, in Courtney’s case, it’s “have sex and everyone else dies.” Even before the bodies start dropping, all of Courtney’s bloody hallucinations occur after someone brings up the topicof sex. The girl clearly as some serious hang ups. Once Courtney and Matt finally go all the way (against dream Valierie’s express warning), Rockabilly jumps straight out of her repressed nightmares and into the real world, via a very phallic drill through Matt’s chest. There is zero explanation about why or how this happens. All I know is that I am grateful it does.  

Okay, that is not entirely true, since we find out that [Spoiler] the rampage was all a dream. Courtney wakes up in Matt’s bed and everything is fine. Lame. But wait,that was just a dream, too! Courtney really wakes up in the same nuthouse as her sister, screaming and hallucinating (?) a giant drill ripping through her rubber room. A popular theory is that she went nuts after the events of the movie, but that makes no sense because the events were entirely supernatural. I prefer my own theory, in which Courtney has been in the nuthouse since the end of the first movie, and Valerie is the sane one. We can only hope that Rockabilly was merely a figment of Courtney’s cracked imagination, and more importantly, so was T.J.

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II didn’t make Deborah Brock a household name, though it did lead her to direct RETURN TO ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, which I’m sure is great. I would like to have seen what other horror tricks she had up her sleeve, but if her legacy turns out to be a nightmare Elvis impersonator in fringy leather, wielding a drill guitar, that’s something to be proud of. I don’t know if she is, but I certainly am.



C Chaka

Bonus: More shots of Rockabilly, because I love this guy.