You're Invited to watch "Murder Party"


3/25/2021

Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier’s breakthrough film was the 2013 crime thriller “Blue Ruin”.  Loved critics and audience this was not however his first film.  That came in 2007 with hilarious gore-filled and underappreciated “Murder Party”.


“Murder Party” is a short 79 minute feature that is low budget but high on creativity and craftsmanship.  It takes place in New York City in the early to mid 90s and involves a lonely guy, (Chris played by Chris Sharp), looking for something to do on Halloween night.  He rents a stack of VHS horror movies and on the walk home finds a fancy Halloween party invitation on the ground.  He picks it up, looks it over, and takes it with him.  At home, he gets ready to watch his videos but his cat Sir Lancelot refuses to move from his recliner.  He then takes a second look at the party invitation and decides to go.  He makes a DIY costume out of cardboard and duct tape and becomes who else Sir Lancelot.  He bakes a loaf of pumpkin raisin bread, prints out directions to the party, and leaves.  Chris is a regular mild-mannered guy who is extremely relatable to the movie's target audience (like me).  A dry humor flows from his character.  Together with the ridiculous situations and characters, he faces it makes for a fun and entertaining little movie.


He eventually finds the place, a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, and cautiously enters.  He startles a group of people in costumes who have gathered.  Feeling nothing but stares and awkward vibes he tries to make small talk only to have them pounce on him and tie him to a chair.  The group of 2 girls and 3 guys are all struggling artists looking to secure grant money from a guy named Alex.  Unfortunately, before he arrives one of the girls is accidentally killed and stuffed in a chest freezer.  Chris learns he has become the unwitting victim in a contest to find the most creative and artful way to kill somebody, with the winner receiving the grant money.  Alex arrives with Zycho, his drug dealer, and Zycho’s dog.  As the group argues about what food they should order, Chris manages to free himself and briefly escapes, only to be recaptured and tied up again. 


With the drugs free-flowing the group plays an extreme version of truth or dare.  Lather on when they find out that Alex is full of shit and has been lying about everything, things start to jump the rails.  The carnage begins and doesn’t let up, the group turns on each other and in the mayhem Chris is freed.  He is now on the run for his life and manages to run into a modern art opening.  The whole bizarre craziness of the modern art world is at the forefront of this movie and it never ceases to be hilarious.  With one exhibit, shall we say, being extremely modified by Chris and the guy chasing him.  This still fails to elicit a response from the melancholic art crowd.  After a stroke of luck, which has been hard to come by for Chris, he finally emerges victorious and heads home.  Still wearing his costume through the whole ordeal, but now caked in blood.  He rides the subway home and seems to fit right in with the crowd.  Arriving home he goes back to his recliner to see the cat still sitting there.  Once again asking Sir Lancelot to move and after being what he’s been through jumps down.  Chris plops down and flicks on the TV.  Roll Credits.  I love this movie.  With such a short run time and the number of characters involved Saulnier really makes the most out of every scene.  The performances from the cast are all strong and the gore effects are top-notch.  A lot of horror comedies will either try way too hard or go so far over the top it can be unwatchable.  “Murder Party” strikes a good balance between character, humor, and horror.  It is currently available to watch for free Amazon Prime.


Fear, Anxiety, and Paranoia "It Comes at Night"


3/22/2021

Rewatching “It Comes at Night” during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on a new appreciation of the film.  Over the past decade or so apocalyptic survival films have seen a resurgence.  Whether it’s a virus, zombies, or aliens the fear and paranoia became all too real in 2020.  While not to the extent that the movies went to, it definitely feels like it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  The threat of a global virus is real and although zombies and aliens might seem out of the question, after living through 2020, would you really be surprised?


“It Comes at Night” was written and directed by Trey Edward Shults and takes place in a virus-ravaged world gone mad.  We open with an elderly man covered in sores and wheelbarrowed into the wood by people in gas masks.  The man is shot, burned, and buried.  He was a loved one and is now sorely missed.  This is the backwoods house of Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah, their teenaged son Travis, and Stanley the dog.  When someone becomes infected tough decisions can’t be made from emotion but out of the need for survival.  The family has strict quarantine measures and they must be followed.  In these types of stories, it all comes down to trust.  People are by nature social creatures and as we found out with Covid, being stuck indoors with only your immediate family can start to wear on you.  When the thin walls of society start to crumble trusting people can be as deadly as the virus itself.


When Paul catches a late-night intruder (Will, Played by Christopher Abbott) at gunpoint, he says he is just looking for a safe place for his family.  Without hesitation, Paul knocks him out and ties him to a tree.  The next morning he interrogates him.  The burden of trust goes both ways as you can never be truly certain if the other person is telling the truth.  We then come to another big theme in these types of movies and that is faith.  Not in a religious sense but faith in humanity.  Does Paul risk the lives of him and his family to help this man?  Eventually, he does.  Will, his wife Kim, and their infant son Andrew move into the house.  We then start to focus on Travis who continues to have bad dreams.  For people growing up and living in isolation, especially teenagers, it takes its toll on your mental health.  His feelings of loneliness and isolation are helped somewhat by talking to Kim.


No matter how much the families get to know each other, there will always be this underlying sense of doubt and skepticism.  Things are going along smoothly until Stanley the dog runs after something in the woods.  He doesn’t return until sometime overnight, mortally wounded he walks into an open front door.  The candy apple red front door that we keep returning to separates the outside world from the inside.  Who opened the door? Was Stanley sick?  Is the virus now inside?  So many questions.  The title of the film “It comes at Night” does not refer to a monster or something supernatural but the fear, anxiety, and paranoia each of the characters face.  The razor-thin thread of trust that exists between the two families disintegrates in a hurry as Will’s infant son Andrews begins to show signs of sickness.  Things reach a boiling point when Will gathers his family and tries to leave.  Everything goes so bad, so quick leading us to one of the most soul-crushing endings you’re likely to find anywhere.  This film fits right into the “Art House” horror genre and some people might be put off by it and are expecting something else.  Another movie that I would recommend as part of a double feature would be the 1984 British film “Threads” about the after-effects of a nuclear holocaust.  As people found out with the Coronavirus civil society can lose control at the drop of a hat.  Just look at the people hoarding toilet paper and canned goods.