Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Murder Party

Jeremy Saulnier | 2007 | 74 mins | USA

When Chris Sharp, one of the lead actors in the quirky comedy-horror film Murder Party, came up to the stage at the closing night of the Toronto After Dark festival to introduce the film, his words made me a bit nervous. He referred to the low-budget labour of love as something akin to The Breakfast Club, but with more killing.

In theory, a murderous Breakfast Club sounds fantastic – the culmination of everything a pre-teen me wanted out of a film. Romance, dancing, precautious introspection, and of course, blood and guts. If Noah Baumbach made a slasher film about urban dilettantes being brutally massacred by the bloodthirsty ghosts of the Algonquin round table, I’d be first in line at the theatre. But under normal circumstances, being warned in advance that a horror film is going to be “pretty talky” feels a bit like a death knell.

Nonetheless, Murder Party was far from disappointing. The film is talky in a way that works, relying on witty banter and self-consciously mocking dialogue between the failed-artist characters, who have gathered on Halloween in order to kill a random stranger for the sake of art, and the respect of a mysterious figure named Alexander, who has access to a lot of grant money. As the night wears on, the characters' roles are reversed (the strong become meek, and the meek go on murderous rampages) and all the dialogue-driven setup makes the violent mayhem that much sweeter.

The premise is funny, the dialogue realistically hilarious (I almost wanted to complain about the overuse of the word “dildo”, until I realised that if I had a nickel for every time one of my friends had said “douchebag” in the past year, I’d have been able to finance this film in full) and the violence satisfyingly gory. The art world is an easy target for comedy, but Murder Party manages to attack it without resorting to pretension or inside jokes that would be lost on a non-artschooled audience. Plus, any film with a good chainsaw-to-the-face sequence is ok in my books.

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