Judge Gordon Sullivan never hosted a psycho sleepover, but his psycho poker night was non-fatal.
Don't forget your body bag…I mean…uhh…sleeping bag.
The sleepover horror genre is a venerable one, with roots going back to the initial slasher craze of the 1980s and Black Christmas. Heck, you can probably trace its roots back to Psycho. What do you do in a motel but sleep over, after all? Like many of the more identifiable slasher offshoots, the sleepover subgenre almost immediately fell into parody after the initial highs of Black Christmas and The House on Sorority Row, the genre quickly went south. If Slumber Party Massacre wasn't a parody, its sequel Slumber Party Massacre II certainly was (and is still for my money one of the best-worst movies of all time). In our modern world everything old is new again, and Troma has released an indie effort with the loving title of Psycho Sleepover. It falls prey to all the usual cheap film pitfalls, but makes up for them with some seriously surreal humor.
Debbie (Rachel Castillo) had to kill her last boyfriend because he was a serial killer. Since her dad turned out to be a serial killer, too, she's in dire straits. Luckily, some friends from school have invited her over for a slumber party. On the bad side, the local insane asylum has just accidently released forty serial killers. Things aren't going to go well at this Psycho Sleepover.
So many indie films try to differentiate themselves by going extreme. Often that means lots of gore, or lots of nudity. Few films travel the road of Psycho Sleepover. Yes, it has its share of gore and nudity, but it differentiates itself with mega-doses of surreal humor. Sure, the sleepover plus psycho killer combo has been done before. More than once. This takes it to the next level. Not one, not two, not even three psychos menace our heroine Debbie. No, we get forty. That kind of genre excess epitomizes the film. Where we expect one or two things to happen, twice as many happen instead. It leads to a level of surreality that's surprising in an indie horror film, and one that's appreciated.
Troma brings us Psycho Sleepover in a fine package. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is surprisingly clear. It looks a bit digital (which it was shot on), but colors pop and black levels tend to be consistent if not perfect. No serious digital artifacts mar the presentation. The Dolby 2.0 stereo audio keeps the dialogue audible and well-balanced. Distortion isn't a problem, though directionality isn't particularly impressive.
Extras start with a commentary with four member of the production team. They chat about the trials of independent filmmaking in between cracking jokes on one another. It's the kind of commentary that other indie filmmakers could learn a lesson from, if only to avoid the $2,000 production's pitfalls (like pissing off your roommates when you film in the shared house). In addition, we get a set of deleted scenes that runs 5 minutes, and a set of outtakes that runs a minute longer. We also get a 15-minute being the scenes featurette that's split into two parts that contains both on-set footage and interviews with the cast/crew. Finally, we get a small photo gallery and the film's trailer.
To be fair, Psycho Sleepover will likely only appeal to people who think Psycho Sleepover sounds like a good idea. It has all the problems of a low-budget horror feature. Acting ranges from pretty good to laughable. Effects are good for low budget, but won't fool the average cinemagoer. The plot isn't nearly tight enough to sustain the 77 minutes of running time if it weren't for the bizarre humor keeping things afloat. Continuity is a bit of a joke as well. I'm willing to forgive the film these faults because it brings a level of strange humor to the indie horror film that has been lacking for a while, but many other viewers will not be quite so willing to look kindly on the film. This is also one of the saddest DVD covers I've even seen. The front cover poster art is great, very evocative, but the back cover looks like a cheap Photoshop job. The worst part, though, is that the back cover gets both the running time (84 minutes versus the real 77) and the aspect ratio (1.33:1 instead of the real 1.78:1) of the DVD wrong, so buyer beware.
Psycho Sleepover is a surprisingly good independent horror flick. It's got a strong sense of surreal humor and a big heart. It's been given an especially strong DVD release (especially for Troma), with good picture and sound and a decent set of extras. However, despite its strengths it still suffers from the same problems that usually plague indie productions, like cheap sets and bad acting.
It's guilty, but with a name like Psycho Sleepover, who cares?
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