MURDER PARTY (October 13th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier is held in high regards by man genre fans – mainly because of two movies. Blue Ruin and Green Room. Although neither are strictly horror, they are on the fringes of our beloved genre. His latest film 'Hold the Dark' is another unsettling dark thriller, although it's not received quite so much love from general audiences. Saulnier's first foray into directing however is a film that's probably been missed by many and it's one that's quite different in tone to his usual sparse, gritty style. I'm talking about 'Murder Party', a horror-comedy that was released all the way back in 2007.
Murder Party starts with a very ordinary (and lonely) man called Tim finding an invitation to a Halloween party called 'Murder Party', flitting around on the street. So he does what all of us would probably do; he constructs a knight costume out of cardboard and heads to Brooklyn where the party is at. However, his quest for some drinks and music and cos-play fun, is soon replaced with terror as he realises that he has walked into a trap. Once at the Murder Party, he is apprehended and tied up by a group of deranged art students who plan to murder Tim and frame it as a piece of artwork to impress a shady art patron called Alexander, who is offering a shit load of cashola to anyone worthy of his attention. When Alexander turns up, he brings his drug dealer buddy Zycho and his dog Hellhammer. The evening quickly unravels and descends into unbridled chaos and carnage.
This film is bonkers to the extent that you just never know what to expect (or can predict) what is going to happen one minute from the next. The humour is really, really dark. It's also quite gory in places. People are set on fire, heads are lopped off, faces hacked in half) but it establishes quite quickly that none of this is to be taken very seriously at all. The art students are a collection of complete weirdos but they're well written and intriguing weirdos who give the movie a lot of energy and intensity. They are in constant competition with each other throughout the film and each gives a note perfect performance. You're never rooting for any of this nutters but they're quite fun to hang around with. Well, to observe anyway. They're a bunch of vacuous, amoral artists who will do anything for success. Maybe Saulnier had some people in mind when he was making this...? Most of these actors were pretty untested too – which makes it even more impressive. Although Macon Blair has since gone on to be something of a Saulnier muse.
The set up allows Saulnier to work with quite a modest budget as most of the running time takes place in one room. Characters get to stretch their legs in the final fifteen minutes or so when things go completely insane and when it feels most like a slasher movie. Up until this point it's quite a different movie however, with lots and lots of talking, bungling, squabbling, drug taking and pretentious art commentary. It's a unique blend, but it works. The comedy is suitably offbeat and kooky too – in fact, there's not much that is mainstream or regular about this movie but then again that's exactly why it has a bit of a cult following amongst horror aficionados. The mixture of graphic violence and inane comedy is a tough juxtaposition to get right but it is possible. Severance (2016) is a film that married these two quite nicely and Murder Party achieves it with aplomb too.
The last act isn't quite as satisfying as the first two – but that's mainly down to the fact the comedy element is pushed aside for the horror, which admittedly just feels a little crazed at that point. However the fact remains that Murder Party remains a shining example of a original, worthwhile and entertaining indie film being made on a shoestring budget. This isn't just a film for Saulnier completists, everyone should check it out.