After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
It all started with Halloween.
A slasher set around a holiday. A time traditionally reserved for fun and games was now being haunted by a maniac hiding behind an expressionless mask and carrying a big knife. From there many more holidays would see their name synonymous with terror of some sort – from Thanksgiving to Christmas to birthdays and even Independence Day. One holiday you would think fairly low on the list would be April Fool’s Day, but sure enough it got covered. Maybe even too much.
In 1986 three different studios and crews were working on a horrified take on the prankster’s favorite day. It all started with the appropriately titled April Fool’s Day and months later came Slaughter High. These two films bookended our pick for this week’s HMN, a Canadian production directed by William Fruet (Blue Monkey) that was ultimately called Killer Party.
Three girls pledge a sorority and, after all the humiliation, get accepted. Now they have to prepare for the big annual April Fool’s Day party which is to be held at an old abandoned Frat house. Long ago one of the pledges was killed in a hazing stunt and then buried in the backyard! Because that’s a perfectly acceptable gravesite, I guess. As the party draws near it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want this party to happen. A couple people lose their lives, but that’s nothing compared to what will happen during the party itself.
No matter how hard it tries this movie cannot figure itself out at all. There are so many weird little bits that either conflict with one another or just flat out make no sense to the point that it kind of becomes a fun game. Guess you could add alcohol and take a drink anytime something makes no sense. Of course this might lead to severe liver damage or alcohol poisoning, so proceed with caution.
The insanity starts from the very beginning with a double fake-out intro to the movie. You see a funeral where a woman is pulled into the coffin by the “deceased” and then they are cremated together. Great start, right? Soon you realized that this is just a movie that a couple is watching at the drive-in. Ok, ha-ha, you got me. The girl gets up to head to the concession stand and we see that it has been infiltrated by a mid-80s rock band, White Sister, and as they play their hit song – with the lyrics “April, April / Why do you play the fool? / April, April / You’re no fool” – the drive-in is soon overrun with zombies. What the hell? The song comes to an end we zoom out yet again and see that this was a music video being watched by one of our leading ladies. Finally the real movie can begin.
From here on out the movie becomes more of a college comedy or rather tame teen sex flick. Sure, a couple people die in this abandoned frat house along the way but the majority of the film just follows the girls at college pledging Sigma Alpha Pi, dating and just doing the normal crazy teen stuff. It’s not until the final twenty minutes that things start to get really deadly, and the numbers add up quickly. The only problem is that there is very little blood or footage of the murders taking place. It’s like someone edited this out for TV. Allegedly the studio behind the film at the time, MGM, edited down any of the gore before its American release so no one has seen the full cut. At least not in the States.
The other really confusing part of this film is the timeline. When the film starts these three girls are pledging a sorority, which usually takes place in the fall, but the big party is on April Fool’s Day which would mean that it would be six months or more in the future. Near the beginning, while they are still pledges, the housemother goes to look at the old frat house and speaks to the grave of the dead pledge in the backyard before being killed inside. She knew they were planning the party there and apologized to the grave about it before trying to spruce up the place. Why would she do this months in advance? One of the girls pledging, Vivia, plays an awesome prank on the sisters during their final night of hazing. Which itself is pretty odd. If you really wanted to get into a sorority would you spend your time trying to make those in charge look stupid? Oh well. It is made clear that her pranking talents are what got her into the sorority. It has been decided “to hold next spring’s April Fool’s party at the old frat house,” so she needs Vivia to help scare the hell out of everyone. Next spring, huh? That would mean this movie might take place, at the least, over a few months, if not a year, but there is no evidence of that. In fact, one of the girls is already dating some guy and by the party they have yet to sleep together. How many college kids do you know who are going to wait that long?
Then there’s the whole Greek system. This is something I’ve never understood. Fraternities/Sororities just seem absolutely ridiculous. You pay money and go through hell just to have these “awesome” friendships that will, supposedly, last a lifetime. I call bullshit. Why don’t you save that money and effort and use it to make friends like normal people? This way you don’t get put through all of the hazing stuff and can spend that money on more important things, like beer. This movie has a perfect example of how ridiculous this system can be. The three girls are great friends and all want to make it in Sigma Alpha Pi together. When it comes down to them finding out they are super worried about Vivia, the jokester, not making it in the group. So what would happen if she didn’t? Are they going to just turn their backs on a real friend? What is so important about making into this exclusive group of girls that they would put their existing relationships on the line? I guess it’s just something I’ll never get.
There are two real highlights to this movie (not counting the ending) and the more important of those two is the music. Not only does the film start out with that rocking tune “You’re No Fool” by White Sister, but even that is nothing to compare to the film’s anthem. A song called “Best Times” that you will hear during the opening and ending credits, as well as a time or two in between. There is no listing in the credits for who performs this epic tune, only that it was written by Alan Brackett and Scott Shelly. I know it’s not that duo performing, because it’s a female voice(s) doing the duties. It kind of sounds like a monotone version of The Go-Gos being played on a record player set to the wrong speed. Take a listen to the epic tune for yourself!
The other highlight in the flick are the pranks. Vivia’s epic joke played on the sisters of Sigma Alpha Pi is pretty funny, and a couple guys from their linked fraternity, Beta Tau, pull a good one at the party as well. But they can’t outdo themselves from something they pull early in the film. A couple of the nerdiest frat guys this side of the Tri-Lams at Adams College toss an open jar of bees near a hot tub full of the nude girls and videotape the aftermath. This prank is not only awesome for the token nudity it supplies but for the guys’ complete disregard for safety. Any thoughts of the girls getting hurt or being allergic to bees takes a backseat to getting to see some boobs. Ah, the true college experience. Also, in a great callback the “Bee Guys”, as they are credited, wear bee costumes to the big party.
Alright, I have to give you a bit of a SPOILER WARNING now because I have to discuss the crazy last few minutes of the movie. If you haven’t seen this yet and don’t want to know just skip the next paragraph.
Throughout the movie you see people getting killed in the normal POV fashion common in the slasher genre. At the party you finally see a shot of someone doing the killing but they are dressed up in an old diver’s uniform. It’s not until the last ten minutes (!) of the flick that we find out one of our leads, Jennifer, has been possessed by the spirit of the dead frat guy. Amazing! From here until the end she tries to kill her friends by doing all of the normal things associated with the possessed – crawling on walls and ceilings, talking in a gravely voice and slobbering everywhere. It’s not really a bad thing that this happens it just comes out of nowhere. You think this is a simple slasher and it suddenly turns into some weird demon possession flick. Crazy! Of course this also means that the first two kills don’t really make any sense since she would not have been in the house to commit them. Logistics… meh.
So there you have it, Killer Party is a fun flick with a few moments of cool, even though there’s very little gore. It has been only released on VHS for quite some time now but don’t fret, this fall it’s going to make its DVD premiere through the Warner Archive (a burn on-demand program). Because of this I’m sure there will be no extras but at least maybe more people will be able to see the film. No word on if it will be uncut for the first time, but I wouldn’t count on it. Make sure to buy it when it’s released and then you can have the April Fool’s Day horror triple bill that I will soon be having in my house!
Until next week – I’ll be having the best time of my life.
Body Count: 10, plus everyone else at the party – allegedly
First Kill: 22:10
Best Kill: Spear in the butt
Number of Times “These are the Best Times” is Sung: 26
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-9/7/11: The Kindred (1987)
-9/14/11: Flesh Eating Mothers (1988)
-9/21/11: BYE Week for Fantastic Fest!
-9/28/11: BYE Week for Fantastic Fest!
-10/5/11: Demon Wind (1990)