Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #693
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 12, 2007
Sub-Genre: Horror Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 79 minutes
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Producers: Skei Saulnier, Chris Sharp
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier
Special Effects: Paul Goldblatt
Visual Effects: Chris Connolly
Cinematography: Jeremy Saulnier
Score: Brooke Blair, Bill Blair
Editing: Marc Beroza
Studio: The Lab of Madness
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Stars: Chris Sharp, Sandy Barnett, Macon Blair, Paul Goldblatt, William Lacey, Stacy Rock, Skei Saulnier, Alex Barnett, Bill Tangradi, Sampson Saulnier, Beau Sia, David Zellerford
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Leslie Gore “It’s My Party”
 45 Grave “Party Time”
 We Are Scientists “This Scene Is Dead”
I do love a soirée. Apparently I’m not alone as there are literally dozens of different themes you can choose for your social gatherings. We have office parties, craft parties, wine tasting parties, karaoke parties, back to school parties, school leaver parties, pool parties, zombie parties, members only parties, masquerade ball parties, costume parties, ugly sweater parties, toga parties, housewarming parties, sleepover parties, Mardi Gras parties, swinger parties, frat parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, and of course, Anti-Trump rallies. Whatever your whimsy, there’s guaranteed to be a jamboree to cater for your taste and the only requisite is that a good time is had by all.
Choosing to host a party can be a nerve-wracking affair as it’s a sure-fire way of finding out whether anyone actually likes you. There are always gate crashers to help boost the numbers although they’re something of an unknown quantity and have a tendency to get a tad unruly when infiltrating some other poor sap’s comfort zone. One thing is for sure, when you receive an RSVP for any upcoming jamboree, it is accompanied by a tremendous feeling of affirmation. Unless of course, the flyer reads something like this.
Okay so perhaps trepidation would be a more fitting noun for this particular invite. It’s a touch vague isn’t it? To be fair, mild-mannered meter maid, Christopher (Chris Sharp) is in no position to bitch or gripe as this particular summons literally blew straight under his foot whilst returning home from work on Halloween night. You’d think he’d be a little wary wouldn’t you? Not so as Christopher has absolutely nothing better to do this evening (or any evening now you mention it). This nonentity’s social calendar is as barren as Pauly Shore’s honors list and the lonely life he leads is better described as an existence most pitiful. Let’s have a look at how an average evening pans out in Christopher’s crib shall we?
Return from a hard day writing out tickets, greet the cat, feed the cat, turn on the soap box, prepare a bowl of candy-coated confectionery, request that the cat vacates his comfy chair, slump down into said recliner, fall into televisual trance for 2-3 hours, snap out of it, say goodnight to cat, put on pajamas, go to bed, sob into his pillow. Occasionally he’ll throw an impromptu restroom break in there just to mix things up a little but you get the general gist. Christopher could suffer a massive coronary right where he’s perched and it would be months before anyone so much as registered his absence.
If ever there was a good time to say “fuck it!”, then this would surely be it. Actually Christopher’s more of the “darn it” kind of colorless pleb but the sentiment is not too dissimilar. After all, he’s a grown man, free spirit and the master of his very own destiny so really what’s to mull over? If he wishes to attend a faintly sinister sounding murder party without any assurance whatsoever that he’ll live to see sunrise, then who’s gonna tell him he shouldn’t? His cat Sir Lancelot? Negative, at the very worst, he’ll come home to a cold look of disdain.
Besides, when the worst that could happen is clearly stated in bold letters, at least he has an idea where to set that bar of expectation. Aim for being murdered in cold blood it is then and anything less will be an added bonus. First things first, he’ll need to rustle up a costume on the fly. It’s gotta be strong, it’s got to be sure, and it’s gotta be larger than life. Something edgy but inconspicuous will do just fine and dandy.
You’d think the viking helmet would buy him some respect but it appears that cardboard knights don’t provoke a great deal of blind terror on the subway these days, particularly when grasping a loaf of home-baked pumpkin raisin bread for dear life. His armor’s hardly what you would call the chain mail of crusaders is it? One brief downpour and he’ll be soaked through. Nevertheless, our paladin has a fortress to plunder and it will take more than the fear of the gods to make him wuss out. Anyhoots, this appears to be the correct address so I guess it’s high time we mingle. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll fit right in.
Or not as the case may be. Not wishing to point out the obvious but you really didn’t see that one coming did you Sir Christopher? You see, this particular get-together comprises a group of disaffected art students whose motto appears to be “Fuck the scene! Everyone dies!” and no prizes for guessing who’s up first for the chop. Their last one in, first one out policy is desperate news for the late arrival, whose sole responsibility is to die horribly. On the plus side, it’s all for the sake of art and there’s a hefty grant up for grabs for most creative method of dispatch, scant consolation I know. Regrettably there appears to be some rather stiff competition for Best Costume and I guess we should take a closer look at the other young hopefuls while we’re bound, gagged and doused in vinegar.
All bases appear to be soundly covered. We have Paul (Paul Goldblatt) – who does a fairly decent impression of a Gothic vampire; Sky (Skei Saulnier) – who is the dead ringer for a zombie cheerleader complete with pom-poms; Macon (Macon Blair) – who has a penchant for howling at the full moon; Lexi (Stacy Rock) – who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain replicant from Blade Runner; and Bill (William Lacey) – who has clearly watched The Warriors way too many times to be considered anything less than psychotic.
The man tasked with making this thankless decision is tonight’s sponsor Alexander (Alex Barnett), and to help him weed out the wheat from the chaff, he has enlisted the services of friendly neighborhood drug dealer Zycho (Bill Tangradi) – who has come as the friendly neighborhood drug dealer and bought along his prize pooch, Hellhammer. Now that we’ve all been formerly introduced, it’s time for the party to approach full swing and what better way than a harmless round of truth or dare to get the wrecking ball rolling?
On second thoughts, perhaps injecting truth serum into a troop of disillusioned artists with more skeletons in their closet than handy household items to help Christopher flee his abductors, wasn’t the best laid of plans but it’s certainly in the spirit of group bonding. Moreover, it buys him a handful of much-needed minutes to suss out how to bow out disgracefully before the planned bloodbath kicks off in earnest. They all seem fairly indisposed divulging their innermost secrets and darkest desires so what could possibly go wrong that a mop, bucket and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease couldn’t fix?
Murder Party is the directorial debut of Jeremy Saulnier, who has since gone on to dazzle audiences worldwide with the likes of Blue Ruin and Green Room. Made on a shoestring and with a group of old college buddies masquerading as indie collective, The Lab of Madness, it takes a satirical dig at the scene it’s emulating and pulls it off with no end of enthusiasm. While 79 minutes isn’t exactly a great deal of time to party hard, Saulnier grabs the opportunity with both hands and is assisted no end by a colorful and distinctive cast. The exchanges between our artists are incalculable, dialogue sharp to the power of Mach 3, and gut-busting pratfall hyper-abundant throughout. Indeed not a solitary minute feels wasteful and this assists this intimate little oddity no end in exceeding its reach.
What we have here Grueheads is grass-roots filmmaking at its very greenest and it’s clear that every last merrymaker was in on the act. It’s fruitless to pick a standout but Blair’s wolf man is a hairy-palmed delight, particularly when his unrequited feelings for Lexi are brought out into the open. She’s a joy to observe also, bounding about in her bodacious get-up with beans aplenty. It’s too bad she wont live, but then again who does? Not to be a dick but the clue’s kinda in the title with this one.
Freaks and geeks aside, it’s the nerd in this herd who supplies glee most absurd and not a word of his home-baked pumpkin raisin loaf should be slurred. The bloody murder they’ve incurred shall not be deferred; as it’s just plain unfair being seen but not heard. You’re damn right he’s perturbed and the fully juiced chainsaw he wields can stir up one helluva curd.
The name Murder Party pretty much speaks for itself, but while Saulnier is mindful that actions speak louder than words, he also understands the importance of the journey undertaken to get there. Like Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things long before it, his film is at its strongest when reminding us that we knew someone just like any one of its revelers back in our college days. This may not be not for everyone and some may find it too Art School Confidential for their personal palate; but I can think of few better ways to let your hair down than saddling up with our knight in duct tape and cardboard. Now are you going to inform Christopher that the cat has pilfered his comfy chair or shall I?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: When you consider the limited funds at his disposal, what Saulnier knocks up in the way of staging murder most bloody earns no end of commendation from this particular partygoer. Baseball bats hit sixers, axes split, head injuries gush, chainsaws rev, faces are dissected, arty crime scenes crafted, furry masks made permanent – and you can hardly accuse Murder Party of not supplying its guests precisely what the flyer states. ☢ OPTICAL SPOILERS INBOUND ☢
Read Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things Appraisal
Read Braindead (1992) Appraisal
Read The Evil Dead (1981) Appraisal
Read Green Room Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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