In a genre typically considered “for the guys,” it’s time to give a nod to the ladies. Uterus Horror is a subgenre of horror films that focuses on the uniquely female experience of puberty and coming into their sexuality, using horror elements to emphasize and/or act as a metaphor for that experience. These films are often ignored in theaters, but […]
In a genre typically considered “for the guys,” it’s time to give a nod to the ladies. Uterus Horror is a subgenre of horror films that focuses on the uniquely female experience of puberty and coming into their sexuality, using horror elements to emphasize and/or act as a metaphor for that experience. These films are often ignored in theaters, but quickly develop cult followings. Columnist Molly Henery, who named and defined the subgenre, tackles a new film each month and analyzes how it fits into this bloody new corner of horror.
Last month, I examined a modern classic and how it relates to Uterus Horror with Raw. This month, I’m taking you back in time. The year is 1987. The film is Slumber Party Massacre II. This campy cult favorite was written and directed by Deborah Brock (Andy Colby’s Incredible Adventure, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever). Slumber Party Massacre II was Brock’s debut as both a writer and director. She was hired to quickly make a follow-up to the 1982 slasher favorite, Slumber Party Massacre.
In the first Slumber Party Massacre, we watched as a deranged maniac known as the “driller killer” brutally murdered teenagers at a slumber party. The only survivors of that attack were Trish and sisters Valerie and Courtney. When we first met Courtney, she was a young girl, likely in middle school, starting to show interest in boys. Slumber Party Massacre II jumps ahead a few years. Courtney (Crystal Bernard), now a senior in high school, is coping with the mental and emotional aftermath of the first massacre while also dealing with normal teenage troubles.
On the one hand, Courtney still has nightmares about the driller killer and feels guilty that she is living her life while her sister, Valerie, is locked up in a mental institution. On the other hand, she wants to be a normal teenage girl, partying with her friends, playing in their band, and dating boys. The band goes to stay at a vacation house in Palm Springs. It’s here that Courtney begins to see things no one else can see. Is she dreaming or is this real? Her strange and gory visions come in the form of an attractive, sinister rock star (Atanas Ilitch) who wields a gnarly electric guitar fitted with a deadly drill at the end of it. In the climax of the film, this new rock ‘n roll driller killer escapes the dream world to kill all of Courtney’s friends. It leads to gore, breakdancing, catchy tunes, and plenty of bloodshed. The final moments show Courtney in the same institution we saw her sister in, clearly out of her mind, with the driller killer continuing to torment her.
So how does this film connect to Uterus Horror? Going into Slumber Party Massacre II, we already know Courtney has experienced a lot of trauma from the events of the first film. She was just a kid when she witnessed some truly horrific deaths at the hands of a maniac. While on the surface she seems more well-adjusted than her big sister, Courtney is clearly dealing with PTSD symptoms. This is why we see her dreaming of the first driller killer, and why later on she dreams of a new, rock star driller killer. This new driller killer is the physical manifestation of Courtney’s trauma, co-mingled with her budding sexual desire.
There is a gradual progression throughout the film. It begins by showing us flashbacks of the first driller killer in Courtney’s dream. Then we are introduced to Courtney’s hunky crush, Matt (Patrick Lowe). This is when her image of the driller killer changes as well. Courtney pictures him younger and good looking. She loves music so now he’s a musician, but he’s still evil, because the driller killer she knew was evil. Every time Courtney experiences sexual arousal, typically when dreaming of Matt, that arousal turns into visions of the new driller killer. As her arousal becomes stronger and more frequent, the killer’s powers grow. At first, he is only able to manifest in Courtney’s dream, very similar to the much-beloved Freddy Krueger. Later, he is able to make Courtney see grotesque and horrifying things while she’s awake, but none of her friends can see them. The moment Courtney and Matt are finally about to have sex, all hell breaks loose, literally. This encounter finally allows the killer to break into the real world, wreaking havoc on Courtney’s unsuspecting friends.
Slumber Party Massacre II is generally regarded as a cheesy 80’s B-movie with a nonsensical story and fun practical effects. Yet, if you look at it as a Uterus Horror film, the pieces begin to make more sense. Courtney bottled her emotional and mental suffering and buried it deep down. Her interest in Matt, and their increasing connection, intertwined with her troubled past to create a dangerous new killer; this eventually allowed a physical manifestation of what was inside Courtney’s head to break into the real world. There are even arguments that Courtney’s manifestation of the driller killer relates to her closeting her queer desires. This argument suggests the manifestation of the driller killer happens because Courtney is trying to “play it straight” and can’t come to terms with the fact that she is attracted to women. Ariel Fisher is one writer who takes a stab at explaining this point of view in her article on SlashFilm. Whether you agree or not, it still goes back to Courtney’s budding sexuality, making it another fantastic addition to the Uterus Horror club.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough reviews for Slumber Party Massacre II to have a Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. Scrolling through the reviews shows that a majority of them are marked Rotten, and the film sits at a sad 37% audience score. Likewise, IMDb has the film currently sitting at a score of 4.6/10. I was unable to find any confirmed numbers for the film’s budget and box office numbers, but one can assume the budget was relatively small. As for how it did at the box office, considering the track record for Uterus Horror films, one could surmise it wasn’t a blockbuster hit.
Despite the seemingly low scores and likely mediocre box office earnings, it still has quite the cult following. Fans of Slumber Party Massacre II can easily find t-shirts and other memorabilia related to the film for sale online and at conventions (when it wasn’t COVID times and conventions were still a thing). The film was even featured on The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs for his Summer Sleepover special in August, which introduced it to a host of new fans. I was also a guest on The Blood Buddies Podcast to discuss the film with the two hosts, Brian and David.
Slumber Party Massacre II uses humor, camp, and dreams to convey the marriage of trauma and sexuality in a teenage girl. It’s a surprisingly serious topic considering how this film is generally regarded as a cheesy teen slasher. The nuanced underlying theme of trauma and attraction can be taken a step further if you consider the theory that Courtney might also be questioning her own sexuality. Between this subtle messaging and the iconic look of the new driller killer, it’s no wonder horror fans are drawn to Slumber Party Massacre II. Not only is it part of a franchise that represents some of the only slasher films written and directed by women, it also delivers a layered plot that allows for the viewer to interpret the film in their own way. If people are still talking about and analyzing this film after over 30 years, it’s obvious this Uterus Horror film has more to offer than meets the eye.