Within the horror genre, there are plenty of unique films for multiple reasons, a classic design, cool characters, phenomenal locations, exquisite storyline, and then there’s those movies with those special twist endings commonly found in Scream  and thereafter such as the recent No Escape . However, this concept existed before these movies, with one creating an interesting memorable premise, one that many will obviously watch one-time each year, due to the title nevertheless other films share those cherish twisted conclusion such as Sleepaway Camp . It simply uses the slasher subgenre as its foundation and then crossover to holiday horrors, with a measure of comedy added into the mix, giving the audience an enjoyable viewing pleasure. Recall for a moment, the heyday of the slasher glory at the box office was coming to a close except for the franchises of Freddy, Michael and Jason, this film was considered a tone-down version of Friday the 13th, with a group of primarily carefree college students having a reunion at a remote location, accessible by ferry only.
Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls ) helmed the fun film on a budget of $5-million and earned a meager $12-million, with Danilo Bach as screenwriter. There are many critics and reviewers that hold this sole movie for slaughtering the slasher genre, sadly they’re incorrect, first no one movie is ever responsible for ending a subgenre and secondly that statement was used against both Halloween III  and Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning . Some point to the facts of box office revenues were diminishing for the slasher films, but in 1986, there were 28 movies that used that keyword, included Sorority House Massacre , Mountaintop Motel Massacre , and Girls School Screamers  these all primarily found life on the then new rental market of VHS. However, trends in all genres were changing once again, sci-fi was making an impact The Terminator , Aliens  and Predator , but the impact of slasher movies have had a lasting impact of on the overall genre, with inclusion of that keyword in descriptions, plots, line references in films – so much that in the years of 1987 to 1989 there were 140-movies which contained the term slasher. Oh, one last thing, there was two other movies, in 1986 that were place on April Fool’s Day which are Slaughter High  (released in United States in 1986) and Killer Party .
The movie has the typical slasher film opening, a group of mostly college friends gather for Muffy (Deborah Foreman (Waxwork ) birthday celebration during spring break at her wealthy parents’ estate which is located on an island only accessible thanks to a ferryman, who runs it only on weekdays, and of course its Friday. Hence, faulty power/phone lines, remember there’s no cell phones, hence no way to signal for help, simply they see civilization but no way to avail themselves to it, the currents around the location far too deadly. The friends use a video-camera to document the trip, but in a found footage manner, and formerly start to introduce themselves as Nan (Leah King Pinsent) arrives at the dock for the ferry, we meet Kit (Amy Steel (Friday the 13th, Part II )), Nikki (Deborah Goodrich), Arch (Thomas F. Wilson), Skip (Griffin O’Neal (Wraith )), Chaz (Clayton Rohner (The Relic )) who carries around a video camera for devious reasons not for any found footage manner. Then two late arrivals Rob (Ken Olandt (Leprechaun )) and a thoroughly out-of-place Hal (Jay Baker) around out all the principal players. The boat ride has an interesting collage of conversations and a knife playing game between Skip and Arch called Stretch, devolving into an argument and Arch stabbing him, sending him overboard, everyone in panic but April Fools. However, soon enough the pranks start becoming injury and death traps somber moods hangs over the group; the first night includes harmless practical jokes (whoopee cushions, dribble glasses), with a clear understanding that this group shares fun and laughs. By following day has sex quizzes, suggestive moments and then things start going sideways, learning about Muffy’s psychotic twin Buffy, discovering a disturbing audio record of a baby crying adding layers into a strange plot, friends missing, and twisted series of deaths, who’s really the killer, when the screaming ends, you’ll know your fate.
Bach, strived to make the script as strong as possible based on the materials and location, while trying to cover any major plot-holes, and yes, a few minor ones exist, to nitpick if you choose to analyze the script to death. However, what worked to aid the screenplay during filming, thanks to Fred who gathered the cast together for about a week prior to production officially starting as a means to have them develop their characters and rapport within their group to ensure the believability of friendship, although the character Harvey (Jay Baker), was casted late, he was the outsider, and hence treated as one by the rest. Everyone present does achieve some screen time, some more than others, but Wilson almost steals any scene he starred in, with his comedic ability and personality, it’s also interesting to some that the Muffy role was originally slated for Linnea Quigely however her commitments to Return the Living Dead  required her to turn down the role. In addition, the most argued over scene in the film by both critics and fans is the jack-in-the-box tacked on ending by the insistence of produced Frank Mancuso Jr. (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter ) its inclusion is simply weird you’ll see, watch very carefully. Steel’s attachment to the film, assisted in keeping the film popular and grew a cult following from its repeat late-night airings, thanks to a brief amount of editing, it all worked in keeping the movie popular, so much that it led to a remake in 2008. If you still want to know more about this film that comes in the form of Jeff Rovin’s novelization involving the character Skip to square off against Muffy, often a book tie-in follows the course of movie, not here, perhaps that is because this was ending he knew before in the book, to time it for the release date. If there appears that production stills exist of this scenario perhaps a future anniversary will have them, or they were just lost on a cutting room floor. Lastly, the song below was written by composer Charles Bernstein and performed by Jerry Whitman and played over the end credits.
As it commonplace nowadays to include a twist near the end of film. Back in 1986 that was a rarity and only a few films incorporate that into their films prior however the pranks deployed on the cast, were switched between them and only knowledge among was the director and limited crew. Once again showing that the director must do things to catch the cast off-guard to achieve the proper response. It handles the typical horror clichés adequately well and generates an enjoyable film that fans of the 80s horror should seek out for their holiday fun.
- Last one out’s… a goner. …A cut above the rest.
- Guess who’s going to be the life of the party?
- Childish pranks turn into a bloody battle for survival!
- Good friends… with some time to kill.
- Join eight guests who are dying to have fun.
- It’s the party to end all parties!
- Get ready to party till you drop!
- Don’t let the joke be on you!
IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10