You know who’s trending nowadays (apart from the obvious)? Jeremy Saulnier! Ever since he directed Green Room and laced it with some grit-filled realism and a brutal representation of Neo Nazis and their antics within our time, he’s made a household name for himself. Critics are now bowing at his very presence. Well, before that film, Blue Ruin and his Netflix original, Hold the Dark, Saulnier kickstarted his career with the low budget, indie, but completely blood-soaked Murder Party. And I’ll be brutally honest here and say that this film is going to divide many critics and even Saulnier fans alike.
For one, its tone is completely disparate from all his other works. Saulnier’s movies act more like gritty case studies of various subgenres and how they’d function in a more realistic and logical setting. Blue Ruin is an examination of how a revenge plot could potentially end up as in the real world, Green Room showcases how unforgiving and disturbing slashers would become if you were to come across such a scenario in actuality, and while I haven’t seen Hold the Dark as of now, it appears from first glance to be a realistic depiction of survival horror in a snowy wilderness. Murder Party in many ways, is kind of like that, but without any of the grit. Nope, Saulnier’s first outing is a straight up comedy along the same lines as Shaun of the Dead and Tucker and Dale vs Evil.
Murder Party stars a bespectacled loner, Christopher, a man who’s only living companion appears to be a cat in which he nicknames “Sir Lancelot.” He comes across a poster advertising a party on Halloween and, in a last-ditch attempt to make friends, decides to give it a shot. He exits his home, a tub of pumpkin bread on one hand and decked in armor (albeit one made entirely out of scraps of cardboard boxes taped together) and begins to venture out into the urban wilderness. When he comes across the site however, he finds out that it’s a trap; a ploy to lure unsuspecting party goers so they can be murdered, and their body parts put on display for an art exhibit. However, nothing is as it seems for the assailants. And thus, this is the main story of Murder Party – a new take on the slasher genre by portraying the killers as incompetent buffoons who care more about boning one another, getting high and talking about sex, than they are about murdering their victims. Hijinks ensues.
The violence here is portrayed too much in a serious and grisly sight to be even remotely comedic. When characters get hit, stabbed, burned, sodomized or whatnot, they don’t just scream, they react in the most horrific manner imaginable. It feels way too grounded to be used in this type of horror comedy and, as a result, ends up being far more disturbing than it is comedic. The deaths in Edgar Wright films are hilarious, because seeing someone wobble around with a church spire in place of their head is outlandish. Seeing Kung Fury in his titular film kicking Nazi’s heads off their bodies is hilarious for exactly the same reason. Seeing someone getting a chainsaw slowly ripping their head in half while screaming in agony as it happens, isn’t funny in the slightest. In fact, its actually kind of fucked up, and even saying that is an understatement.
Plus, this film just didn’t feel comedic at all. Sure, characters end up in a lot of sticky situations to their stupidity and ignorance, but other than that there aren’t many visual gags, crude jokes, one liners, or laughably over the top kills. The bulk of the humour is meant to be seen in the conversations between the mentally unhinged characters. Lots of improvisation, foul language, and meaningless banter, its as if Murder Party wants to be a Quentin Tarantino movie, but lacks the necessary hallmarks and witty dialogue to pull it off. Most of the time, its as if I’m just witnessing an everyday conversation between a group of friends, and that can be extremely dull if it goes on and on for what seems like an eternity. Keep in mind, I’m an introvert, so there’s always going to be this moment where I’m just going to nonverbally signal to you to shut your trap (if you’d pardon my uncouth language there).
Also, what’s with the music in this. Its as if some inexperienced amateur were trying to imitate the soft retro themed tracks of the 80s. It just feels unappealing to listen to and lazily made. If the composers wanted to go for a more 80s type feel, they needed to have worked harder on those tracks. See Kung Fury for instance, to catch a glimpse of how to string together sythnwave tracks with ease and brilliance.
So, it’s safe to assume I didn’t like this film. It was boring, it took way too long to get to the good bits, and the music and kills failed to excite me (and I get my adrenaline rushes from horror flicks mind you). Considering its Saulnier’s first outing, I’ll give it some leeway considering he made Blue Ruin and Green Room later down the line. But honestly, Saulnier’s trademark use of graphic, realistic, nail-biting violence is not best served for a comedy. I’d recommend watching Turbo Kid if you’re looking for something exceedingly and comically violent and starring an adorkable loser as the lead. Not a travesty by any means, but it’s one that will appear polarizing towards some viewers. Its got similarities with another film: Free Fire, what with its lack of different set pieces and some obvious social commentary shoehorned in so it could seem smarter than it already is. Watch it only if you’re an indie nut, with a fascination for all things avant-garde, unique and made with passion rather than corporate greed.
And no, the protagonist doesn’t dual wield chainsaws as the poster seems to suggest.
Final Verdict: 4/10
PS: I actually survived my encounter with Michael Myers last episode. Couldn’t say the same for my laptop though (rest in peace, friend).