Pillow Party Massacre aims for that classic 80s slasher feel with the heroines in various stages of undress as they try to survive a costume clad killer in a cabin in the woods.
Once the murders finally crank up, the film gets more interesting but a lousy final act and reveal undo any slowly built goodwill for what could have been a mildly satisfying nostalgia horror thriller.
A group of friends reunite two years after an April Fools prank gone bad. The Panther Squad — Sam (Laura Welsh), Miles (Allegra Sweeney), Alana (Jax Kellington), Barb (Chynna Rae Shurts) and Mikki (Nicolette Pullen) — prank their pal, Ash (Savannah Faye Jones), by humiliating her with a fake make out session with her crush.
Ash doesn’t laugh off the prank like they assumed and instead reacts in a manner that sends her to prison.
Two years later, the Panther Squad comes together over their college summer break for a weekend at the woods.
Sam is the most in tune with their role in Ash’s fate while the others try to push past their feelings since they presume there’s nothing they can do at this point.
Just to make things more interesting, there’s an escape from the nearby prison. One of the characters mentions an escapee from a mental hospital and girls alone in a cabin sounds like a horror movie. It’s never as clever trick as the filmmakers assume to have the characters call out silly scenarios to beat the audience to the punch.
Director/screenwriter Calvin Morie McCarthy clearly has an affinity for the genre sticking closely to all the predictable yet expected tropes. In large part, McCarthy delivers on the essential beats yet can’t make them work throughout the film’s brief run time.
Whether it’s bad dialogue or questionable choices, the film doesn’t hold up to even the most basic horror movie logic.
Give McCarthy credit for making good on the title with a slow-mo topless pillow fight for no legitimate reason. Admittedly with the title there’s no reason to suddenly demand some high-level horror from a movie called Pillow Party Massacre.
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Surprisingly for a low budget horror film the performances are mostly decent. The killer delivers the worst, which ironically kills the final act deader than any murder.
The soundtrack leans heavy into 80s synth pop even while the film is set in the modern era with cell phones that get crappy reception in the mountains.
McCarthy opts to shoot from the killer’s POV too often, which quickly gets old especially with the combination of the Darth Vader-like heavy breathing.
There’s some decent kill scenes that largely overcome the meager budget. The kills definitely capture that inspired 80s slasher vibe even if some of the practical effects look dated.
McCarthy ’s decision to go for some CGI kills wasn’t the best option as these look excessively cheap and low-budget. It’s a case where Montgomery’s commendable effort to diversify the kills is adversely affected by the costs.
One significant problem is McCarthy struggles to find the most effective camera angles often making scenes more disorienting than necessary.
Another annoyance is the killer is weirdly inconsistent with their murder weapons. The iconic ones have a signature tool of death and dismemberment — think a chainsaw, machete, butcher knife or razor claws. Here, the killer regularly trades out a weapon like a machete for something basic like a bag of rocks. This feels even sillier with the reveal of the killer, which retroactively casts some serious doubts on earlier kills.
Slasher fans are traditionally the least discerning of horror aficionados. Stick to the basic tenants and they’re generally happy with a B-level effort.
Pillow Party Massacre comes close to making good on its premise, but ultimately hits a little too soft to be an effective slasher.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Breaking Glass Pictures