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Friday, March 12, 2010

MURDER PARTY -- movie review by porfle

MURDER PARTY (2007) starts with a neat opening titles montage of Halloween images in an urban neighborhood--jack-o-lanterns on doorsteps, costumed kids running up and down the sidewalks, and a nerdy guy named Chris (Chris Sharp) renting some scary movies on his way home from his job as a parking ticket distributor for the NYPD. He notices a strange black envelope on the sidewalk and picks it up--it's an invitation to a Halloween party. Or, more specifically, a "murder party."

When he gets home to his cramped apartment, he pours a bowl of candy corn and pops in one of the cheapo flicks he's rented. But his cat, Sir Lancelot (Puff Snooty), won't get out of his favorite chair. So the painfully non-assertive Chris decides to skip the movie, don his totally crappy homemade cardboard-and-duct-tape medieval knight costume, and give the "murder party" a go. After all, the name has to be a joke, right? Right? WRONG, CHRIS! It's a REAL murder party!

After a scary trudge through the bad part of town, Chris ends up at an isolated warehouse. Inside, he discovers a small group of costumed goofballs hanging around in a dingy storeroom. There's Paul (Paul Goldblatt, who also did the film's special effects) in a bad Lestat-type vampire suit, Lexi (Stacy Rock), who looks like a poor-man's "Pris" from BLADE RUNNER, Macon (Macon Blair), who has on a werewolf mask but mainly looks like he's dressed as Kevin Smith, and Bill (William Lacey), done up like one of the "Baseball Furies" from THE WARRIORS. There's another girl named Sky (co-producer Skei Saulnier), but she doesn't last long because she's allergic to raisins, and Chris brought some pumpkin bread with raisins in it to the party, and when Sky eats some of it she keels over dead.

Just as Chris is beginning to realize he should've stayed home with his cat, they jump him and tie him to a chair. He soon finds out that they're all aspiring avant-garde artists who plan to murder him in an artistic way in order to impress Alexander (Sandy Barnett), a smug, pseudo-sophisticated art enthusiast, and get a grant from him for up to half a million dollars. Alexander arrives with his new best friend, the dangerous-looking Zycho the Psycho (Bill Tangradi), and announces that they will all stab Chris to death at the stroke of the witching hour. Till then, much interpersonal interplay ensues (augmented by a round of truth-serum injections and other narcotics), while the bound Chris looks on in wide-eyed apprehension.

Well, all of this is very nicely filmed for such a low budget--there's even a special credit for the Steadicam operator--and pretty well acted, and some of it is genuinely funny. But MURDER PARTY is often boring and just a tad too tedious. The truth-serum sequence is fairly deadly, with the cast sitting around on the floor woozily mumbling various confessions that sound mostly improvised, and not very well at that. The constant bickering among the characters also gets rather grating after awhile.

At some point deep into the second half, things finally start to happen. There's a shocking discovery about Alexander, somebody tries to light a cigarette while wearing his mask and sets himself on fire, Zycho finally goes psycho, and everybody else goes psycho, too. There's gunfire, axe wielding, chainsaw swingin', and other violent activities that are about as graphic and realistic as that scene that was tacked on at the end of the movie SNUFF--meaning not all that realistic-looking at all, but sorta fun. Some boobage finally makes an appearance at the eleventh hour, albeit covered with body paint, and there's a frenetic chase when Chris finally makes his escape and runs for his life with two of the others in hot pursuit. One of them is wielding the chainsaw, but it's an electric chainsaw, so he has to keep finding places to plug it in whenever he runs out of cord.

Probably the funniest moment in the whole movie is when Chris locks himself in a closet and the others wait outside for him to come out. He frantically scans the surrounding items--a high-tension spring, a plastic jug, an extension cord, a pulley, a fire extinguisher, an exhaust hose--and just as we expect him to have a brilliant McGyver-type inspiration, he suddenly bursts from the closet with all that junk in his arms, throws it at his pursuers, does a lame fake-out move, and runs away.

Surprisingly, the closing credits for MURDER PARTY are five minutes long. For a minor movie like this, there were a heck of a lot of people working on it, and it looks as though most of them did their jobs pretty well. It's just too bad the collective result couldn't have been more worthwhile. MURDER PARTY isn't all that bad, though, and is sporadically entertaining--I give it two-and-a-half jack-o-lanterns for effort.

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