Monday, 1 May 2023

Pillow Party Massacre (2023) - Horror Film Review

Pillow Party Massacre
is a throwback eighties style slasher that comes from writer and director Calvin Morie McCarthy. I have to admit, going from his previous films I have watched, such as Conjuring: The Beyond and An Amityville Poltergeist, I wasn't expecting much. Those were both derivative in feel as well as quite slow. This movie is also quite derivative, but by wearing its influences so keenly on its sleeve this managed to remain entertaining throughout.

At an end of school disco, a cruel prank played by five girls on their friend, Ashley (Savannah Raye Jones - The Blair Witch Legacy) goes horribly wrong when the girl in her anger guns down a boy involved. Two years later and the friends have all gone their separate ways, they decide to meet up at the remote summerhouse of one of the friends in order to try to reconnect and reconcile with what they inadvertently caused. Sam (Laura Welsh), Alana (Jax Kellington - Conjuring: The Beyond), Barbara (Chynna Rae Shurts - Conjuring: The Beyond, A Haunting in Ravenswood), and Miles (Allegra Sweeney - Zombiegeddon) find their old friendships becoming rekindled, but the shadow of what they inadvertently caused hangs over them, while an apparent breakout at the mental institute where Ashley was sent gives them pause for concern. It seems they were right to worry, as a masked killer has arrived at the remote property with murder on their mind...

This was very nearly a great movie, and to be honest it only just missed out on a higher score due to a few moments that let this down slightly. At its heart this is an ode to eighties slashers with some elements being very obviously lifted and aped from classic slasher films of yesteryear. You have a killer who is shown from a first person Black Christmas style perspective for half the movie, before being revealed as a 'Ghostface' style figure in black robes with a white mask. Some of the kills are lifted entirely from other films, such as when a victim is pinned to a tree in much the same way a victim is pinned to a door in the original Halloween. Elsewhere, the killer's initial weapon of choice being a machete, and with them able to seemingly teleport around locations both brought to mind Jason from the Friday the 13th series. These elements were all fun things to spot, but Pillow Party Massacre also takes some of the less good tropes, such as a killer who has been silent the whole movie suddenly becoming very chatty as soon as their identity is revealed. As to that identity, I guessed it immediately and was correct, the swift finish to the film was one of the reasons it got marked down slightly.

Being a slasher, the kills are the highlight of the movie, and they are varied, with none of the moderate body count matching each other. Often the actual kill is shown slightly off screen with it left to the viewers imagination, but this still worked for the past part. A highlight being a toss up between someone being chopped in half vertically, and someone whose face is pushed into hot coals. There were a few CG effects which stood out due to them obviously not being real, but mostly when things are shown on screen it is decent practical effects. In terms of body trauma these effects were not so good, someone being sliced up with a box cutter for instance didn't actually look like the cutter was doing anything other than spreading lines of fake blood on the victim. For a film that includes a severed limb and a decapitation, this was surprisingly tame when it came to blood, only one person bleeding heavily, everywhere else people seem weirdly blood free despite whatever trauma is inflicted on them.

I have said of the directors previous films that it often felt they were ineffectually trying to copy the best bits from better horror films. Here, that usage works much better, perhaps due to this leaning more heavily into the genre it is going for, and by leaning into the tropes of the slasher genre. Outside of a few bad moments (the title refers to a cringe inducing pillow fight montage scene where the girls inexplicably strip down during their play fight for no apparent reason other than viewer titillation), this was entertaining, I didn't even mind that it didn't really get properly going until the halfway point. If you're in the mood for a low brow classic feeling slasher then Pillow Party Massacre isn't a bad place to head, it can be found on digital platforms such as Amazon Prime Video.


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