Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 19 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Chris Sharp, Macon Blair, Stacy Rock, Skei Saulnier, Paul Goldblatt, William Lacey & Alex Barnett
MURDER PARTY was made on a shoe-string budget and doesn’t make any qualms about that. Despite being an amateur filmmaker/screenwriter, Jeremy Saulnier displays a remarkably professional sensibility in his feature debut. It’s not without its problems (two big ones), but MURDER PARTY is probably most enjoyable as a party movie (slightly ironic given the title and plot). It’s not necessarily a film to stick on by your lonesome, which is probably why I didn’t care for it as much as other people have. That’s not to say that I didn’t like MURDER PARTY. I liked it just fine, but it’s only an okay flick. This is nothing too special about it, but it’s alright.
Chris is a loser planning on spending Halloween night alone on his couch watching B-flicks with a bowl of candy corn. His plans change once he comes across envelope on the street that holds an invitation to a “Murder Party.” Chris puts together a makeshift costume of cardboard boxes and arrives at the promising Halloween party only to find that the Murder Party is completely literal. Chris has walked into an abandoned warehouse where a gang of psycho-hipsters plan on killing him for their performance art. That scenario sets itself up for a lot of good comedy and possible gore. The film definitely relies far more on laughs than blood. There are a couple of messy moments, but the dialogue of these pompous assholes make up the majority of the film. That’s both its blessing and its curse.
MURDER PARTY has a good opening and a strong conclusion. The biggest problem in the story is the tedious middle section. Evil characters are colorful douchebags with their own unique costumes, while Chris is more like an anonymous nobody who isn’t given a personality to begin with. In fact, he really doesn’t say much through the film. This is partially from being gagged for a good portion of it, but mainly from being a boring protagonist. The hipsters are mostly defined by their costumes (all of which are creative to some degree) and personality traits. Their attitudes automatically told me what kind of jerks these people were. If you hate pretentious douchebags, then you’ll be rooting for these incompetent psychos to die a horrible death. The film does deliver in some creative kills, but I actually found a few demises to be underwhelming (though the first one is hilarious).
Little bits of quirky humor actually got me laughing way more than the deliberate attempts at comedy. Essentially, MURDER PARTY is running off the one joke premise of murderous hipsters. While the movie does get a decent amount of steam off that, the middle feels really dull. A game of extreme truth or dare becomes an agonizingly boring sequence that’s entirely free of a single chuckle and it lasts for almost 10 minutes. Small touches in a chase scene involving a conveyor belt or the villains fumbling with their weapons in silly ways did make me laugh pretty hard. The final 25 minutes offer a lot of pay-off, but the unnecessarily slow-paced middle section seems too long and left a bad taste in my mouth already. It greatly benefits MURDER PARTY that the film goes out on a really high note, but its not enough to overlook that bad stretch in the middle of the flick.
In the end, I’d rank MURDER PARTY alongside another low-budget Halloween indie by the title of SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER. It’s an apt comparison because both films are cheap, silly, stupid, get a fair amount of laughs, and also run a little too long while following uninteresting protagonists. In fact, SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER and MURDER PARTY would be ideal films to stick in the background of a Halloween party. There might be a couple of people watching the whole thing, but they’re more like films that someone might occasionally glance at and chuckle before going back to their conversation with friends. It’s entertaining enough and definitely has its moments, but the middle stretch and lack of a compelling lead make for just an okay flick overall.