The "SPM" movies don't have a grip on our pop-culture consciousness like the "Friday the 13th" or "Halloween" series, probably because the villain changes in each one. In fact, the films are only barely related; any can stand on its own and, despite similarities, makes for a markedly different experience " and not just because they're all written and directed by women.
In the 1982 original, a girls' basketball team (whose players suck on the court, it should be noted), shack up for a night at Trish's (Michelle Michaels) house, which coincides with the prison escape of serial killer Russ Thorn (Michael Villella). It's surprising he's able to remain so low-key, given his weapon of choice is likely the loudest.
What's most surprising, however, isn't that girl power saves the day — well, give or take a few corpses — or that they can't do it without the help of Valerie (Robin Stille), the classmate they didn't invite, but that the amount of gore is tame. You don't see the drill get the girls. Like "Psycho," the point of entry is all in your head.
What "Evil Dead II" was to "The Evil Dead" — a flat-out comedic follow-up to a fairly straight spook show — so is 1987's "Slumber Party Massacre II." It's the high point of the series, even if I'm not sure all its hilarious moments were intentional. Trust me: You haven't seen anything quite like this, as it exists in another world of logic ... especially considering that Playboy Playmate Kimberly McArthur stays clothed.
Still a few years away from a respectable gig on "Wings," Crystal Bernard is Courtney, the little sister of Valerie, who's now in the loony bin after her participation in the original "Massacre." Instead of visiting Crazy Big Sis, Courtney joins her pals at a condo for the weekend and aims to lose her virginity. She also dreams of a driller killer — not Thorn, but some 1950s-esque rockabilly greaser whose spiky-shaped guitar sports a massive drill bit on its end.
He appears for no reason whatsoever, nor is any explanation ever given. But like one Freddy Krueger, he's able to jump in and out of her dreamworld and into ours — all the better to slaughter her friends. That's unexpected. So is the scene featuring an attacking frozen chicken, not to mention all the third-act musical numbers, one of which includes breakdancing.
Its silliness is epic, which makes 1990's "Slumber Party Massacre III" a real letdown in comparison. It's the most stereotypical slasher of the three, and therefore, the most graphic in its violence and the least imaginative. It's also the most overt in terms of the drill being used as a phallic stand-in, leading to a disturbing near-rape in the last 10 minutes. An overall pallid feeling sucks much of the fun from the picture.
Released as part of the "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line, all three films feature cast-and-crew commentaries, but the extra you've gotta see " afterward, of course, and provided you liked what you saw — is the hourlong doc, "Sleepless Nights," which devotes roughly 20 minutes apiece to the making of each movie. It's telling that so few cast members chose to participate; they have nothing to be ashamed of. Well, mostly. —Rod Lott