Murder Party Review Jeremy Saulnier's madcap debut

Murder party

A fairly pathetic parking ticket hander-outer has nothing to do on Halloween but watch bad horror movies on VHS with his cat. He finds a random invitation to a Halloween “murder party” on the street, cobbles together a bad costume out of cardboard, and heads out to a crummy warehouse downtown. There he finds hipsterdom gone violently awry…

Murder Party is the debut of one Jeremy Saulnier – a director that after only three features (the others being Blue Ruin and Green Room, both excellent) is already becoming one of the most talked about new talents in the biz. While Blue Ruin and Green Room have similar stark, deliberate, non-glamorous tones, Murder Party is much more playful. It’s a horror comedy, and one of the few that manages to be equally effective at both. 

For most of the movie the main character is a passive, nearly silent observer. It’s the colorful cast of would-be murderers that give the movie its charm. They’re all uber pretentious, self-conscious art hipsters desperate to gain the approval of the higher tier hipsters in their ridiculous scene. Murdering somebody and making it into some kind of performance art, they figure, is a good way to do that. But they’re not particularly experienced (or smart), which lends it some of its best comedic moments, and I’m floored that this aspect doesn’t deflate all the tension while it’s making you laugh. As established very early in the film, the hipsters’ idiocy, practiced detachment, and obsession with peer validation are actually what make them so dangerous, even as they’re calling each other dildos and playing period-appropriate PSPs.

Murder party 2

What’s most remarkable to me is that a well-received movie from 2007 revolving around Halloween would take so long to come under my radar. This is a classic Halloween movie through and through. It begins with a montage of Halloween-at-dusk imagery: Paper ghosts, jack o lanterns being carved, candy bowls being filled, trick or treating toddlers heading out in costume. I knew from these opening moments that the movie had me. All it had to do was deliver on that promise, and it does. Like all the best Halloween staples, it’s gory, hilarious, scary, and occasionally super fucking weird. Great soundtrack too.

While I’d love to be able to say you can spin this up on Netflix right now, it’s only available for “free” viewing on Shudder, the horror-only streaming service. But since this is a such a perfectly toned, Halloween-centric movie, I’ll definitely be hosting a screening of it once Autumn hits. I imagine watching it in that environment will make it even more enjoyable.

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