On Halloween in Brooklyn, New York, a lowly parking enforcement officer named Joe finds what he thinks is an invitation to a costume party. But something’s rotten in the BK and it’s not the corpse of Biggie Smalls. Turns out that the invitation Joe innocently discovers is actually for something far more sinister. Joe prints himself some directions, bakes some pumpkin bread and builds the most epic suit of cardboard armor you could adore. Off into the night, he leaves behind the familiar and safe Brown Stones and hops the train to the gentrified and industrialized Williamsburg. Off the beaten path, away from the fellow holiday revelers, Joe finds a desolate warehouse where he meets his hosts for the evening. And this is how we are invited to 2007’s Murder Party, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
Things don’t seem quite right at first, but our lovable loser Joe is looking for some excitement to shake up his dreary life and he’s about to get more than he could’ve ever bargained for this evening. Tonight’s event is actually a self-indulgent excuse for a rogue troupe of ambitious hipsters seeking to cash in on documenting the shocking murder of a random stranger and selling it as art.
Each character embodies the worst characteristics of Brooklyn’s newest inhabitants, meandering through the old world landscape of Brooklyn, feeding emotionally and artistically off of all those around them. Come to New York City today, jump on the L train and you’ll find every version of these collective ass-hats as if they were holding some kind of convention, minus the Halloween costumes of course. This clan of artistic degenerates includes the seasonably dressed Sky, a zombie cheerleader, Bill, a video gaming Baseball Fury, Macon, a beer swigging Wolf-Man, Lexi, a self-doubting Pris from Blade Runner, and Paul, a sexually ambiguous Vampire. The actors are convincing enough as they deliver a performance usually sequestered to daytime television. The motivation for the party’s festivities soon becomes personified by the arrival of Alexander. They are all vying for the attention of this supreme douche bag for his connections to the art world and grant money. Alexander’s attendance amplifies the festivities, pushing their drug fueled plans further into motion. But Alexander has ulterior motives of his own for the evening. It’s a fairly accurate send up of the modern art world currently festering in Brooklyn and damn if it isn’t funny.
The group passes the time indulging in the morally reprehensible, but also the mundane, partaking in a game of barbiturate filled Truth or Dare while the degradation rolls on. The body count starts early on but not in the way you’d expect. Each death is attributable to the bat-shit start of the evening and staggers on as almost a means to an end, a way to hold each other accountable for committing to the horrific no matter the sense of irony. It’s Joe that steals the show, playing our everyman, who’s trying to figure a way out of this parody of hell.
The special effects are spot on for a low budget horror film. A favorite is Macon, face melted from smoking while soaked in flammable alcohol, searing his Wolf-Man mask to his bearded face. The cast was fully committed to this project as they literally injected themselves with saline for their Truth or Dare scenes. The camera work is pretty impeccable as it tends to dive in for these events rather than pull away. The filmmakers definitely take the credo of their tag-line “Everybody Dies” to heart as well. To question that is to meet the business end of Ol’ Painless head on. Watch the flick and that reference may haunt your dreams.
As a feature film, Murder Party embraces its low budget attributes. Most of the action takes place in a warehouse, with a peppering of exteriors and art scene loft parties to keep a sense of pacing and greatly showcase the borough of Brooklyn as the last frontier of New York’s depravity. What sells the story is the connection you develop with Joe over the course of his hellish evening and the colorful dialogue that holds it all together. The film has been described as Napoleon Dynamite meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I’d tend to agree with that. The laughs play a bit more than the terror, but the fact that they can draw comparisons to Leatherface is testament to the many things this picture show does right. Much of the film’s stars contribute to the writing, producing and special effects make-up of the film. They deliver a riotous film worthy of any horror fan’s attention.
The special features of the DVD offer a how-to build your own cardboard suit of armor, the famous pumpkin bread recipe and a thorough peek behind the lengthy history this cast and filmmakers share. You soon realize why it sells out midnight screenings and won the Audience Award at the 2007 Slamdance Film Fest. Murder Party is the movie that you always hear a group of friends say they’re gonna make and its one hell of a fun promise realized.