Cast: Chris Sharp, Skei Saulnier, Macon Blair, Sandy Barnett
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Outtakes, Video, Recipe, and more
Out of the blue, from a studio I had never heard of, I found a DVD called "Murder Party" on my desk. With a cover that somehow conjured up images of "Army Of Darkness" in my mind, I am not exactly sure why I decided to give this particular film a spin, but I did and found that it isn't all that bad as one would expect from a completely unknown indie production.
Chris (Chris Sharp) is a bit of a loser. A nerd with a low-paying job writing traffic tickets, living in a tiny apartment and seemingly without any friends. It is Halloween Eve and he finds an invitation to a costume party on the street. He decides to visit this mysterious "Murder Party," crafts a last-minute costume out of a cardboard box, bakes a pumpkin bread and off he goes.
When he arrives at the scene he quickly realizes that this party is more than just a social gathering. The objective is to kill him. Put together by a group of deranged artists, the party is meant to turn his murder into a piece of art – or multiple pieces for that matter.
But before the group of nutcases go to work on their piece de resistance it's time to party it up, with cocaine, booze, and some truth serum. With every minute this "happening" is getting more and more out of control and it doesn't take long before the first bodies pile up, setting into motion a splatterfest in the best of the genre's tradition.
"Murder Party" does have an interesting premise and certainly offers a colorful range of characters, but sadly the production is not fully keeping up with the aspirations. While at times the film works quite well, at others it comes across as a ham-fisted amateur effort, like a YouTube video on steroids, and both the writing and editing of the film could have used a helping hand.
The writing screams of inexperience, I am afraid to say, as dialogues are often horribly bad and scenes stretch to a tedium that compels you to fast-forward to some moment of activity. The writer, Jeremy Saulnier, tried hard to give the characters depth, to make them tangible and some of them despicable, but sadly goes a bit overboard with this character development with too much talking and too little action.
The same goes for the editing. While some sequences work very well – especially the chase tow3ards the end of the movie – others are not nearly as efficient. Weird jump cuts, edits that cut too fast before the action is over, and other little mistakes give the film the unprofessional feel it has.
But it is not all bad. There are some cool moments of surprise in this film that you just don't see coming, there is a bit of black humor in the film, and most importantly, there is plenty of blood splattering going on. These visual effects are actually pretty well done and are probably the film's strongest suit, as fountains of blood shoot from holes in people's heads, as faces are lacerated, skulls split, and limbs chopped off. It is this kind of splatter action in the movie's last third that makes it fun to watch and more than once did it remind me of Peter Jackson's "Brain Dead" in sentiment -totally off-the-wall, uninhibited mayhem, simply for the fun of it.
The movie is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer on the disc that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. Given the movie's low budget it is hardly surprising that it looks accordingly plain. It has a distinct digital home video look to it in many scenes, complete with low def artifacting stemming from the video camera itself, weird off-colors under difficult lighting conditions, slightly bleeding colors and more. It is therefore hard to judge, how much of these issues are part of the original production and how much may have been introduced by the DVD authoring.
The disc contains a 5.1 Dolby Digital track, but don't expect too much from it, as it hasn't been created for effect. Nonetheless, dialogues are will integrated and always understandable, and the overall frequency response is as you would expect from an independent production of this type. I was very pleasantly surprised by the film's music. After all, any movie serving up Jimi Hendrix is alright by me. :
The disc also contains a number of bonus materials, such as a commentary track featuring the filmmakers and cast members, a number of outtakes and bloopers, the pumpkin bread recipe, a guide to make your own cardboard costume, a video diary and a making of featurette. All nice additions to this release.
"Murder Party" was a welcome diversion in a sense. While I didn't like the movie in its entirety, it does have a charm and had some great moments where it goes all out. With higher production values, a revised script to iron out dialogues, and tighter editing, this film could actually have had the potential for a real cult hit. It certainly has all the elements and visuals going for it. Still, if you want to see something off-beat for a change that doesn't follow the same old formula over and over again, you should give this film a try some time.