Having worked in a video store in the late 80s, I’d thought I’d seen them all …until now.
First I watched 1981’s Night School starring Rachel Ward, who would later go on to star in a Phil Collins music video alongside Jeff Bridges….
Night School isn’t a typical formulaic slasher. It tries to be more sophisticated, giving us a detective, a murder mystery, suspense, and visual setups that have a delicious Dario Argento vibe. Plus, there’s juicy lesbian sex, Rachel Ward taking a shower, and tons of beheadings to satisfy slasher fans. Even the killer’s anthropological motivation is a fresh angle for the genre.
Meanwhile, despite the title, the kills happen not on a school campus, but in some unique locations. Sure, there are female students being targeted, but the focus of the film isn’t partying kids getting offed one by one (we’ll save that for the next film). What we have here is the Cool Rider from Grease 2 killing women around the city. That’s right. A black leather clad motorcyclist maniac. I kept waiting for the cast to break into a chorus of Who’s That Guy.
The big bummer about the movie is that it tries so hard to keep you guessing with in-your-face clues that you know pretty much immediately who the killer is. And even when this obvious “twist” is revealed, there’s another “twist” that you can guess immediately. This all leads up to one of those cheese-on-crackers jump scare endings we adore in 80s slashers.
HOW did I never know this 1986 movie existed? It has everything you want in an 80s slasher.
It begins in a foggy cemetery. There’s a funeral. There’s a blatantly gay priest giving a Wizard of Oz themed eulogy. There’s a woman dragged into a coffin. There’s a girl at a drive-in theater wearing classic Madonna fashions. There’s a zombie outbreak. It turns out it’s all for a music video by an unknown 80s metal band called White Sister (I have both their CDs…).
And that’s just the first 5 minutes! Following that, we get classic 80s teen flick hi-jinx (including a Porky’s-esque bad boy prank involving a hot tub and naked girls). The 3 main girls rock. The bitch is awesome. The geek is better dating material than Ducky ever would have been. And the two lead guys are cute as all hell. Plus there’s Paul Bartel of Rock N Roll High School, who always seemed to play a teacher in the 80s. I don’t know how this film wasn’t huge.
Next we have the 80s music. Aside from the rockin’ White Sister, the soundtrack includes KC & The Sunshine Band’s post-70s hit “Give It Up” and Laura Branigan’s “The Lucky One” (which should have been a huge hit), plus several awesome songs by a mystery girl group that sounds just like Bananarama.
But of course, this is a horror movie. A horror movie that was going to be called “The April Fool” before April Fool’s Day stole that idea. Yet it seems to take place in the fall, and one character even mentions trying out a costume for Halloween. Whatever holiday it is, the result is a masquerade party.
There’s no clearly defined horror plot, endless flaws, and nothing is explained, but it doesn’t matter. The sorority party takes place in an old abandoned house with a history and a lone tombstone in the yard. We get a glimpse of a corpse sitting in the basement, but it’s never referenced again. And from what we can tell of the killer POV, the girls are being stalked by a mere mortal.
Yet supernatural things happen. This movie turns into Night of the Demons two years before that movie was even released! There’s awesome possession and a chick flicking her extra long tongue, climbing up walls, and jumping on chandeliers. Killer Party has it all. Killer Party is now officially one of my favorite horror films of the 80s.
Trust me. Your life as an 80s child isn’t complete until you’ve seen Killer Party.