FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 5, 2019

SHOCKtober Day 5: KILLER PARTY (1986)


I want to call Killer Party a cult classic, but I'm not sure if that term actually applies or whether it's just that I think it should be a cult classic because I like it so damn much. It's never really gotten the attention it deserves, I don't think, and it's rarely discussed as the hidden gem it is. Where are my fellow Killer Party stans? I know you're out there! This is a safe space, feel free to voice your love.

For how could you not love a movie that is positively rife with charm, that is not strictly a comedy but also doesn't take itself too seriously, that turns so many horror movie tropes on their heads, and, most importantly, features a theme song sung slightly off-key by the three heroines of the film? What are you, some kind of monster or something? Listen to said slightly off-key theme song and fall under Killer Party's spell!


The super short of it: The vengeful spirit of a dead frat boy wreaks havoc on college students during a Hell Week party.

Sounds simple, right? Straightforward, even? Oh no, my friend. Killer Party is full of twists and turns, pranks and misdirections, and tricks and treats. The original title was April Fool (but then, you know, April Fool's Day happened first), which gives you much more of an idea of the story. Not to say the party in Killer Party isn't killer, of course. Sorry. I know I'm blathering., but this movie defies a summary that is under 100 pages long. It's complicated. There's a movie within a music video within a movie. For a little while, you might think Killer Party is a slasher movie. Oh no wait, maybe it's a ghost movie. Nope, psych! It's a possession movie! Yes, the possessed person has corn teeth. Of course I love it.


Perhaps all these feints and dodges will leave you feeling underwhelmed as a viewer, who can say? It takes about an hour, at least, for any of the real horror hijinks to kick in, and when they finally do, they're pretty tame. There's a bit of blood, but the kills often take place frustratingly out of frame; look, I'm not a gorehound by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes a little explicit slasher movie violence is, dare I say, fun. You won't get any of that in Killer Party.

So what will you get that makes it a fave? First and foremost...okay, first and foremost is that theme song. But that theme song wouldn't be the same without Killer Party's greatest gift to us, in the form of sorority pledges Phoebe, Vivia, and Jennifer. As far as I'm concerned, this trio is second only, perhaps, to Annie, Laurie, and Lynda in Halloween. I love them so much! These girls are perfect. They're loyal to one another, even to their own detriment in the end. They're smart. They're funny. Their friendship is sweet and real, and you want to hang with them–or, at least, for them to survive and thrive when the credits roll. But hey, this is a horror movie, so don't count on it.


Killer Party came along during the end of the slasher phase, and it manages to tweak all the chestnuts and tropes without being meta or something. (Scream, after all, was still a decade away.) Jennifer (Joanna Johnson) is signaled to be the Final Girl from the start. Of the three girls, she's the most conventionally attractive and the most of a buzzkill. She's only pledging Sigma Alpha Pi because her friends are. She's not as adventurous as her buddies are, more content with staying home and being a total pill than, say, breaking into a frat house for some shenanigans. She gets a romance with a hunk. But a-ha! APRIL FOOL'S, BITCH! Not only is Jennifer not the Final Girl, she becomes the killer, once she's infected with that dead frat spirit and the accompanying corn teeth.

Jennifer's hunk, Blake, is played by Martin Hewitt, just a few years out from his turn as a hunk in the controversial Franco Zeffirelli film Endless Love. It wouldn't be outrageous for him to save the day or at least survive this killer party, but again...APRIL FOOL'S. Blake is dead in a bathtub, and he ain't comin' back.

The pastiche style of it, the slasher-possesso-haunted house-meets-Canadian-Porky's vibe of Killer Party might turn off folks who just want the movie to be one thing, to have one tone, dangit. But I am not those folks! Killer Party is a bizarre little gem that works for me all the way through. The soundtrack is rad; the scrunch socks, Reeboks, crimped hair, and leg warmers even radder. I love a bonkers possession flick and Jennifer is a hoot, gnashing those corn teeth with demonic glee. But more than anything it's the Jennifer-Phoebe-Vivia friendship that keeps me coming back. I want them as the triple leads in every horror movie. These are the best times!

3 comments:

Bob Johns said...

I feel like I have seen this before it sounds familiar anyway. That song tho oof not so sure on that one, lol.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha, it's so good! Or, at least, it's stuck in my head. That's a sign of quality, right? No? PLEASE GET THIS SONG OUT OF MY HEAD

P. K. Nail said...

I was literally rewatching this when I saw this post! I was kind of meh on it when I first saw it a few years ago, but it has definitely grown on me and I could not agree more about the Jennifer-Phoebe-Vivia squad. I love the way this movie constantly subverts your expectations. I love how the entire first ten minutes -- prime real estate for any movie, especially a horror movie -- are devoted to that brilliant "April, You're No Fool" sequence that has NO RELATION WHATSOEVER to the rest of the movie! (Though I guess if the movie had kept the name April Fool, it would have at least been a nod to the title.) And there's something about a horror movie with people in costumes -- Terror Train, Hell Night, Trick 'r Treat, and this movie -- that makes it extra fun.