Murder Party (2007) Review
Written by: skfan
The tagline on the back of the DVD case for "Murder Party" at least party describes the film. The line is "Napoleon Dynamite meets Texas Chainsaw". The first half of the description is actually very accurate and the film does possess a very off kilter humor and the characters seem to have been lifted right out of the film Napoleon Dynamite itself. As for the part about TCM I'd have to say that the comparison between the two films couldn't have been more wrong. Aside from the fact that there is an electric chainsaw used in a couple of scenes in the film there was absolutely no similarities between the two films. If anything "Murder Party" is in a lot closer relation to early Peter Jackson efforts, rather then any type of more serious horror film. That doesn't always have to be a bad thing though and although there aren't many, there are a few films through the years that have managed to successfully cross the horror genre and comedy but it takes a certain element and a talented filmmaker to pull it off. Unfortunately "Murder Party" doesn't quite succeed but it certainly isn't for a lack a trying. The film isn't a complete failure and at times there are true flashes of brilliance, not to mention that the filmmakers should be commended for attempting to try and make something fresh in the horror genre which is very rare these days but the film never seems to come together or find an even tone. Its very uneven throughout and the pacing at times was downright awful. Its the combination of these elements that bring down this little genre hybrid into the average straight to video market instead of the better status it deserves.
The storyline is simple but interesting and well flushed out It fallows an average joe loser named Chris (think of him as Napoleon but about about 15 years older). Chris lives by himself with his cat in an apartment and works a dead end job and its clear that he isn't exactly living a fulfilling life. On his way home from work on Halloween night, Chris comes across an envelope labeled "Murder Party" on the sidewalk. Chris brings it home and discovers that its an invitation to a "Murder Party" later that night on the other side of town. Assuming that its an invite to a Halloween party and clearly up for anything besides spending another night in with his cat, Chris decides to go to the party. Before he goes though he bakes a loaf of pumpkin bread (theres a recipe for it in the special features of the dvd) and makes a knight armored suit out of cardboard as a costume. Once he arrives at the address for the party, which happens to be a run down old warehouse he discovers that the party is hosted by a group of bizarre and drugged up collage art students and he seems to be the only guest of the party. It doesn't take long before Chris is tied up to a chair in the middle of the room and the student are planning out how to kill him in the most artistic way possible for the chance to win an art grant. Its never explained how they actually expected anyone to ever show up or why the invitation was just thrown on the ground for Chris to find but it doesn't really matter as the final hour or so of the film pretty much just takes place in and around the warehouse (excluding the final showdown). There isn't much of a plot either, just lots of talking that varies from funny to terrible and boring for long stretches and a few sprinkles of gore thrown in the final half of the film for fun.
The direction through the film was very uneven and at times was certainly a weak point of the film. The biggest problem with the direction was that director Jeremy Saulnier (who also wrote it) seems to go out of control with the camera in scenes. There isn't much restraint on his part and the choice to spin and whip the camera around the characters in certain scenes was a terrible one and made parts of the film very annoying to watch. Its clear that Saulnier knew that some of the more talky scenes might be a little bit boring to some viewers so he decided to try and keep their interest by consistently keeping the camera moving and never staying on one single character for more then a few seconds. Its something many filmmakers are guilty of doing and certainly some that are a lot better then him. Even Oliver Stone has been guilty of trying to use the camera to keep the viewers' interest and in almost every case it doesn't work and in this film its no different. The problem is even when a scene might be a little slow or uninteresting, the second you start quickly cutting and moving around the camera the viewer is taken right out of the scene and it actually makes the scene even more boring because you are no longer focusing on the characters or what they are saying. There are numerous scenes in this film that fall into that category and they are the main reason why this film isn't nearly as entertaining as it could be. I understand what Saulnier was trying to do and with a running time of just 79 minutes the film couldn't have afforded to be cut down anymore but I still think with a little more skill and a different choice of scenes, the film could have been a lot better. That being said though there are still a lot of positives to what Saulnier did. There is no doubt that he has a knack for shooting over the top splatter, with a great sense of dark humor throughout. He also is a fairly talented writer and there were a handful of scenes that made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately they were too far and few between but I still think that Saulnier is a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on and he could easily make a great genre film someday, this just isn't that film.
The acting on the other hand was strong throughout the film and was on par with anything in a comedy like Napoleon Dynamite. In fact the lead of the film Chris Sharp, seems to be attempting to pull off his best Jon Heder impersonation, even down to the facial expressions and line delivery. The rest of the cast did a very good job with what they were given and from a cast of relatively unknown actors it was impressive what a good job they did.
The gore was also very good and for the most part could stand up against anything a major studio has put out. The problem though is there was not nearly enough of it too keep me interested throughout the film and there where long stretches of nothing in the first half of the film with not a drop of blood in sight. That being said though the gore factor was turned on in the second half and the last ten minutes or so were pretty over the top. The highlight in the gore department would have to be a certain scene involving an electric plug in chain saw and an unlucky human face. Need I say more?
Overall I'd give this a recommend or at least a rental with some reservations. If your looking for an over the top horror/comedy this is probably not the best choice. If on the other hand you have a little patience and enjoy off kilter odd ball low budget films then you'll probably enjoy this film to at least some degree.