Pool Party Massacre
What started out as a relaxing summer day by the pool for a group of high maintenance young socialites quickly becomes a nightmare when an unknown killer begins stalking and murdering them one by one.
Kristin Noel McKusick
Destiny Faith Nelson
Admittedly, my almost three years writing for the good folks of Horror Freak News, isn’t some long tenure which should make troves of writers envious.
But I’m awfully proud of my work here and amongst all of the lessons I’ve learned – not only in my film criticism, but also in my own screenwriting endeavors and eventual filmmaking possibilities – one of the biggest lessons is this:
Just because you’re paying homage to a particular sub-genre of horror film, or a beloved era of horror cinema – or even trying to be a smart-ass by skewering those tried and true tropes of horror’s yesteryear – you still need to provide a build, a story and at least some characterization.
Or your enjoyable film might just come up short – in pacing or in novelty.
Such is the case with the horror indie release – Pool Party Massacre.
But before we dive (see how I did that?) into the specifics of what did and didn’t work, here’s the lowdown.
Now usually, my brief synopsis of what you’ll see in a film, will be a solid paragraph of information. But for Pool Party Massacre – this will be adequate: A bunch of bitchy college co-eds have a pool party at one of the girls’ lavish desert homes. A killer shows up and offs them one by one.
And that’s about all you need to know.
Clearly, the film is a tribute to the slasher films of the ‘80s, and it effortlessly hits all of the marks it intends. And those parts of the film are a nostalgic and very fun throwback.
You’ve got bimbos showing their boobs, young couples having sex and being murdered for their “sins”, shower scenes, drinking, plenty of practical splatter effects, a big final reveal of the killer’s identity and a whole lot of bad acting.
So these parts of the film, you’ll no doubt find enjoyable. I know I did. You’ll groan over so many things you’ve seen hundreds of times before, but you’ll also appreciate some of the very funny and biting dialogue.
As for those aforementioned practical effects, you’ll laugh (not sure if this was intended or not) at the varying colors and viscosity of the blood as well as the blood-stains and their complete lack of coherent continuity. For me, it seems clear that all of this mismatched goodness was part of the fun. And there are some creative kills. This slasher has access to an entire workshop full of various sharp tools, and the fact that he puts them away in their pre-ordained “markered” area, only adds to the fun. The “death by hammer” is the most inspired.
The film’s biggest problem is its pacing. It’s already just shy of 80 minutes, but it felt as though it could have used a further trim. The introduction to the girls and their snarky Mean Girls-bitchiness and the process of bringing the audience into this nostalgic piece – it all works. You’re on board pretty quickly. But at the midpoint, it begins to sag terribly. Again, it’s the fact that you can’t make an entire feature film on a promising (what amounts to an) inside joke.
I’m reminded of some brilliant short films of the past several seasons – where these ‘80s slasher themes are played out in a much shorter (and more effective) fashion. Night of the Slasher and The Babysitter Murders are the first to come to mind. They play on all that we as horror fans know and love, but there’s more depth to them. We’re on board from the start to the very final moment. The characters are real people.
The fact that we start to check our watch at the halfway point of Pool Party Massacre – proves my point that we need more than the knowing nod of “you love the stupidity of these ‘80s horror classics, so we’re simply gonna roast them”. This idea can take you far, but it can’t get you across the finish line.
While I enjoyed much of the dialogue, the extended sequence/discussion of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Fight Club was a perfect example of a necessary trim. For my avid readers of 2, you know that I have issues with the mention of classic films – which then make for some lengthy diatribe about said classics. All it says to me is that the filmmakers needed to fill some space in their run time and that they wanted to show off their pop culture knowledge. Lots of times, these mentions of the films we grew up with are acceptable, but this one went on forever.
The acting in the film is actually pretty good. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that “bad acting” is an art unto itself. And that’s the case here. I think most of the actors in Pool Party Massacre pulled off the over-the-top, terrible acting we’re used to seeing in this type of film. Which tells me that most of these folks are pros. In other words, they get it. They fully understand what this genre expects of them.
The bottom line is that the film hits all of the right clichés and reminds us of those late-night, sometimes awful horror flicks which used to play on HBO. But you also have to note that in a film like – I don’t know – Friday the 13th Part 2 – that Ginny (played by the great Amy Steele) still felt like a real person, through her performance and even from a somewhat flimsy (but it was still enough) background.
And then you can remember and appreciate that Friday the 13th Part 2 also had plenty of blood-letting, creative deaths, bouncing boobs and characters making idiotic choices.
Had Pool Party Massacre gone that route of keeping intact all of the badness, while still offering up some deeper goodness, it would have been a solid winner. As is, it doesn’t quite make it out of the shallow end of the pool.
Now available on DVD/Bluray, Pool Party Massacre is a bloody good time, but it out-stays its welcome.