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Murder Party (2007)
6th Aug 07
It’s Halloween in Brooklyn. Chris finds an invite to a party and decides to attend. He shouldn’t have bothered – and neither should you.
I had high hopes for Murder Party, the debut feature from Jeremy Saulnier and his Lab Of Madness team. Arriving on the back of its Audience Award at this year’s Slamdance festival the buzz was good on this picture, but if this was the winner then I shudder to think how bad the other competing movies must have been. With its blood-soaked double-chainsaw wielding cover I was expecting a low budget feature akin to Peter Jackson’s Braindead – but sadly brain dead is exactly what you’ll have to be in order to enjoy this woeful effort.
The omens are bad right from the set up. Opening with a blatant riff on John Carpenter's classic Halloween theme we follow Chris (Sharp) walking home through his neighbourhood as the locals prepare their costumes and carve their pumpkins for the evening ahead. On the way he picks up an anonymous flyer advertising a cryptic “Murder Party” which he finds blowing along the street. Rather than dispose of it in the nearest trashcan, he pockets the invitation and you just know he’ll end up going along before the night is out.
Maybe it's me, but I struggle to have much empathy for a man who has clearly lined up a quality night of horror entertainment (on VHS no less) with a full bowl of candy at his side who then decides to attend a random party - noting its "come alone" warning - purely on the basis that the cat is hogging his favourite armchair. It's obvious that Chris is supposed to be a loveable loner, but his character is flat and compounded by the casting of Sharp, the least charismatic choice of leading man since Jameson Parker toplined John Carpenter's Prince Of Darkness.
Dressed in a hastily assembled costume fashioned from some brown cardboard boxes and armed with some freshly baked pumpkin bread, Chris arrives at his destination - a room in a downtown warehouse. Five other strangely attired individuals await him including Macon (Blair) the hairy one wearing the Wolfman mask, Lexi (Rock) the highly vocal girl dressed up as Daryl Hannah's character from Bladerunner, and the lovely Sky who we soon discover is allergic to raisins. However there are no canapés or wine for Chris, instead he's quickly gagged and bound to a chair with a roll of gaffer tape.
Yes, surprise surprise, it's all a trap; his fellow partygoers are in fact a bunch of art students who intend to film his murder in order to secure funding for their own individual art projects. The group claim that they've been planning this escapade for a whole year and they never really expected anyone to turn up. You could be forgiven for thinking they're talking about Murder Party itself, but no they really are referring to their half-baked scheme to make a snuff movie.
This bunch make Chris seem inoffensive by comparison - they're the most superficial, self-obsessed characters I've seen on film in a long time, but maybe that's the point Saulnier is trying to make. It’s safe to say I don’t think he’s a big fan of pretentious art students! Things don't improve with the arrival of their benefactor Alexander (Barnett) along with his crazy drug dealer Zycho and his skeleton-costumed dog, the 'amusingly' named Hellhammer. As if the film needs any more unlikeable characters. Needless to say Alexander has his own agenda and tensions within the group threaten to spill over...
When one of the group dies unexpectedly the film finally shows its hand - it wants to be a slapstick horror-comedy. Yet for 45 minutes (of the trim 80 minute running time) very little actually happens, aside from a lot of bickering and a drug-induced Truth or Dare session. The second half of the film - if you haven't already switched off by then - is marginally better as the murders begin and the action moves across town to a different location, yet it's hard to care about what happens to the characters when not one of them is interesting or engaging in any way. When there's no emotional involvement to the action then it totally loses any impact that it might have.
For a film purporting to be a horror-comedy alas it's painfully unfunny, aside from one great throwaway gag involving a mobile phone. The horror element is slightly more rewarding; whilst lacking any atmosphere or suspense, there is a liberal splashing of blood especially as the film approaches its chainsaw-led finale. Saulnier and his crew work best in this area creating some effective scenes and impressive make up effects, especially noticeable when Macon's mask fuses onto his own face.
It's always tough as a reviewer sticking the knife into new talent when they've had the balls to actually go out and make something, but with Murder Party it's hard to pick out many positives. In its defence, the film has found an audience out there although I’d wager that any enjoyment to be had is dependent on being part of a booze-fuelled group of like-minded fans. Otherwise there's little to recommend here, it's just amateurish in the extreme and not worth your time. So if you're ever asked to attend this Murder Party then I strongly advise you send your apologies and decline the invitation.
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