Sunday, June 15, 2008

"I didn't sign up for Second Degree Assault Party"

We're gonna have a murder party tonight. All right!

Sorry, but every time I see the title for the 2007 indie release Murder Party, I get Black Flag's old hit "TV Party" stuck in my head. That line about "why go into the outside world at all? It's such a fright!" actually seems pretty a propos.

I'd heard this movie tagged as "The Breakfast Club as a slasher film," mainly due to a game of "truth or dare" played midway through the film, which is clearly meant to invoke a John Hughes vibe. Lately, I keep seeing odd comparisons online to Napoleon Dynamite, as if that film invented the concept of social ineptitude.

At any rate, as the film started, the only name in the credits I recognized was Beau Sia, a performance poet known for his book A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge, a parodic response to the collection of poems published by Jewel in 1999. He also appeared in the movies Slam and SlamNation. Right there I thought, that's kind of odd, and the rest of the movie pretty much fulfilled that expectation.

On Halloween night, lonely guy Chris (co-producer Chris Sharp) finds a wind-blown invitation to a "Murder Party." The quiet opening minutes establish him as likeable, if so socially inept (see above) that he can barely relate to his hilariously deadpan cat, and I was already rooting for him to survive the evening's events. Impulsively, he decides to go to the party, where he is quickly taken hostage by the members of an artists' collective. They're all competing for a grant from the Bret Easton Ellis-esque Alexander, who says that he'll give the money to whoever comes up with the best way to kill Chris, now an unwilling, bound and gagged "collaborator" in the artistic process.

At first it's mostly all talk and mind games -- just one accidental death to start muddling up their plans -- but eventually it turns into a crazed, murderous free-for-all, with suprisingly good effects for such an obviously low-budget production.

While the pretentions of the New York art scene may be a tired target for satire, it's definitely a fresher setting for a killing spree than, say, a campground full of teenagers. These things are all relative. I particularly enjoyed that one of the key characters was dressed for the costume party as Blade Runner's Pris, and another as a Baseball Fury from The Warriors. And there were all sorts of interesting oddball touches, like when the kill-crazy artist bursts into a neighboring Halloween party and, having lost his victim in the crowd, goes to the bar and casually orders a drink. For a minute, he reverts back to the way he'd have been if he'd gone to this party before he snapped, which is a nice touch.

Not the greatest movie I've ever seen, but it doesn't pretend to be. Those of us with a taste for quirky, low-budget horror have all seen a lot worse. It may even leave you wanting to rent the non-existent horror movie our hero had intended to watch: Scene Wolf.

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