Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Murder Party (2007)

With the great Blue Ruin from a few years back, and hotly anticipated release of Green Room next month, Jeremy Saulnier is one of the more exciting young filmmakers working today. He joins the ranks of guys like Jeff Nichols and Jim Mickle, a generation of directors raised on 70s classics and John Carpenter's windscreen visuals who are making completely sincere genre pieces that have a classical concern for character development and psychology. 

A lot of people probably think Blue Ruin was Saulnier's first film, but he actually made a horror comedy back in 2007 called Murder Party, which I don't believe ever got a theatrical release, but did play at some fairly big festivals. It's got a pretty original premise in which a lonely man named Christopher foregoes his Halloween tradition of eating candy corn and watching shlock VHS horror movies to attend a party, an invitation to which he found in the streets earlier in the day. He puts together a cheap cardboard knight costume, bakes some pumpkin bread, and ends up at the party that consists of a group of strangers in a warehouse who plan to kill him. 

It's all played for laughs, but the film's neither very funny nor that entertaining, and even though it's only 80 minutes really starts to drag once we realize that most of the film is simply Christopher bound and gagged and watching in terror this group of weird sickos argue over how to carry out their plan. It does finish strong, though, as the blood bath that the title suggests eventually arrives and the film manages to fit in some memorable moments, like a clever use of a conveyer belt and one of the more disturbing uses of a chainsaw you'll find in a horror movie. 

Though it's weak overall, it's still fun to see Saulnier harness his steadicam chops, which he would put to much more effective use in Blue Ruin (which he also shot and made after a three year hiatus in which he worked exclusively as a DP on other projects), and also to see that film's lead actor, Macon Blair, show up as one of the friends at the party. It might be worth checking out while waiting for Green Room, which actually sounds vaguely similar to this but that I hope and expect to be far a far more accomplished work. 

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