Thursday, October 23, 2014

Killer Party (William Fruet, 1986)

I don't mean to imply that the rest of Killer Party (a.k.a. The April Fools) is complete crap, but the first eight or so minutes of this Toronto shot slasher flick are freakin' amazing. And... Okay, I might as well get this out of the way before I continue: There's a scene in this film where an American flag can be seen lurking in the corner of a university library (it's lurking behind Paul Bartel to be specific). I know, I said it was "Toronto shot," and the last time I checked, Toronto wasn't in the United States of America, but the makers of this film clearly don't want you to know that. Anyway, getting back to the opening eight or so minutes. Were the first eight or so minutes and what transpires afterward made by the same people? I mean, the opening is bursting with creativity, while the other stuff is bursting with nothing whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, I did love what Elaine Wilkes, Sherry Willis-Bunch and Joanna Johnson brought to the table as a trio of collage age best friends who want to join a prestigious sorority at a Toronto university, but they can't compete with black seamed pantyhose and pink and blonde crimped hair.


Just to clarify, the black seamed pantyhose were attached to the shapely legs of Elizabeth Hanna, who plays Stephanie, the daughter-in-law of the dead woman in the coffin at a church funeral,  and the pink and blonde crimped hair belongs to Danielle Kiraly, who plays April, a bubbly teen attending a drive-in movie with her boyfriend.


Now, you're probably thinking to yourself: What are these characters doing in the same movie? That's just it, they're not in the same movie. Are you ready? Here it goes: Stephanie's a character is in the movie April is watching at the drive-in. Isn't that wild?


What's that? You say lot's of movies do the old movie within a movie gag. Oh yeah. Things get even wilder when we discover that April is actually a character in a Thriller-style hard rock music video by White Sister. See what I mean? Weird, wild stuff.


Anyone care to guess who's watching this Thriller-style hard rock music video? That's right, one of the college age women from that trio I mentioned earlier.


I don't mean to continue to rag on everything that occurs after it's revealed that April's in a music video, but it's almost as if the people behind this movie decided to throw in the towel after the eight minute mark.


Though, to be fair, "Best Times," written by Alan Brackett and Scott Shelly–the song that plays while Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Bunch) and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson) ride their bikes to class–is a thousand times more awesome than that White Sister song.


Opening with a funeral service for a woman named Annabel, we watch as the bereaved family members leave the church. Just as the aforementioned Stephanie is about exit, she asks the priest if it's okay to go back in to pay her respects one last time. Hmm, isn't that sweet, I thought to myself, Stephanie must have really loved her mother-in-law. Oh, wait, she just told Annabel that she hopes she rots in hell. After she says this, multiple times, mind you, Annabel grabs Stephanie and pulls her into the coffin. As she's pulling her in, we get some great shots of Stephanie's black pantyhose as she struggles with what I assume is Annabel's reanimated corpse.


Just as the coffin is about to be set alight in the church's crematorium, we're whisked to a drive-in movie theatre where April and her boyfriend (who is all hands) are watching Stephanie burn to death.


Hankering some popcorn, April walks, or, I should say, skips, to the theatre's large, neon-light adorned concession area. Only problem is, there's no-one there. On the bright side, the neon lighting does an excellent job accentuating the 1980s overkill that is April's overall look.


The crimped hair, the kooky tights, the pink gloves, the white lace scrunchie, everything about her ensemble practically screams shopping mall new wave.


Suddenly, out of nowhere, a rock video featuring bombastic lead singers with hairy chests, keyboardists in torn football jerseys and zombies starts up.


As the music video is winding down and the band "White Sister" finish singing: "April! You're no fool!" We're whisked (yet again) to a living room, where Phoebe is watching the White Sister music video.


It helps to know that this movie's original title was "The April Fools" going in, because if you didn't (like I didn't), you would no doubt wonder what the hell is going on.


If you're like me, and you love '80s synth-pop with detached female vocals, think the University of Toronto campus is beautiful, especially in the fall, and wish more movies would sport chicks riding bikes, then the next sequence is for you.


While her friends Phoebe and Vivia are gung-ho about joining the Sigma Alpha Pi sorority, Jennifer is a tad apprehensive.


It wouldn't be a collage set horror film without pranks, and we get a real doozy of a prank when the slobs at Beta Tau unleash a jar of bees next to a backyard hot tub filled with naked Sigma Alpha Pi ladies. There are numerous things to like about this scene. But I think the appearance of the great Terri Hawkes (Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II) is the real reason to cheer. Quirky fun-fact: Terri Hawkes provides the voice of Sailor Moon on the series of the same name.


If Phoebe, Jen and Vivia want to join Sigma Alpha Pi, they're going to have to convince the sorority's leader, Veronica (a wonderfully unpleasant Alicia Fleer), they're worthy. And if that means reciting childish nonsense ("I, myself prefer a big fat cucumber") or stealing t-shirts from Beta Taus, than so be it.


Even though Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul), who plays an English professor, makes an allusion to it, I still love the fact that no explanation is given as to why Phoebe, Jen and Vivia are all wearing one red item and one white item on their feet (mismatched sisterly solidarity perhaps?). If memory serves me correctly, Phoebe has on one red shoe and one white shoe, Jen is wearing one red sock and one white sock, Vivia is rocking one red legwarmer and one white legwarmer.


Surviving "Goat Night," Sigma Alpha Pi's elaborate initiation process (a process where Terri Hawkes and Alicia Fleer appear in togas), Phoebe, Jen and Vivia are on the fast track to becoming fully fledged members of the sorority. Yay!


Fashion-wise, I don't know which I liked better: The sight Sherry Willis-Burch rocking a pink sweater with a yellow neck or Alicia Fleer gliding down the school's hallways in a tight pencil skirt. Ahh, talk about your tough decisions. Either way, nothing comes close to topping the ensemble Danielle Kiraly wears during the film's much ballyhooed opening.


I don't know why movies like this bother to hire make-up artists and special effects people if all they're going to do is edit out all the blood and gore. The film might be called "Killer Party," but not a single character is killed onscreen. Boo!


On the plus side, the so-called "Killer Party" does feature some killer looks. And if I was going to give out the prize for best costume at Sigma Alpha Pi and Beta Tau's Costume Party: April Fools Night, I would have to go with Phoebe's aerobics get-up: Tights! Legwarmers! Leotards! Headbands! Armwarmers! Oh my! Second prize would go to Martin (Ralph Seymour), the film's primary red herring, for his Madame Bovary costume.


Would have Killer Party been a lot better had the blood and gore not been edited out? Maybe. But still, if you like '80s fashion, '80s music, or are a fan of Toronto... in the '80s, you should check this flick out.


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