Horrorfied! Halloween Edition, MURDER PARTY – It’s Always the Quiet Ones
Murder Party is absolutely one of my favorite Halloween movies ever. It is a clever, intelligent, super fun film that took the indie horror film world by surprise in 2007, winning the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival and giving the rest of us a mixture of giggles and nightmares. Besides, who couldn’t love a horror movie that pays homage to The Warriors? This Brooklyn-based film answers the question, “what could possibly go wrong?” with “everything”. Murder Party is nothing if not unique in a genre that such a thing seems impossible.
A group of art scenesters who consider themselves hyper-stylized uber intellectuals decide that they will kill someone at their Halloween party themed as a murder party in order to get grant money from Alexander (Alex Barnett), whom they all worship. The person who happens upon their one and only invitation to the part turns out to be unassuming, schedule-following, boring Christopher S. Hawley (Chris Sharp), who lets even his cat push him around. Christopher puts together a costume and sets out, coming upon the warehouse which houses the party. As he walks in, everyone is so surprised that anyone showed (considering the event is referred to as a “murder party”), that it takes them a moment to get their bearings. After getting over the initial shock, the hapless party hosts quickly subdue and restrain poor Christopher who was going for an obviously rare night out, dressed in a knight costume made from cardboard. To learn how to make your own cardboard knight costume, you can check out Christopher S. Hawley himself in the instructional video below.
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Shortly after the party starts, one of the potential murderers dies when she eats bread that Christopher brought with him as a gift for the party hosts. She is allergic to preservatives, gets dizzy, falls down and cuts her head open ultimately killing herself in the process. Since Sky (Skei Saulnier) was Christopher’s only hope at escaping his ultimate fate, he is now certainly doomed to death.
Alexander shows up in short order with Zycho (Bill Tangradi), his drug dealer in tow, taking suggestions from each of the party attendees as to how they determine will be the most meaningful and artistically relevant medium in which to dispatch Christopher. A large part of the atmosphere is determined by the fact that all of the plans to kill Christopher are made with him sitting in the room and listening to everything. Eventually the consensus is that Christopher will be taken down at the witching hour with each person taking turns stabbing him to death. As the misguided group decides what they will have for dinner since they have to wait for a certain time, Christopher makes his first escape attempt, using his cleverly constructed costume as camoflage in the warehouse full of cardboard boxes. His freedom is short-lived and his restraints beefed up to ensure no more escapes are possible. Chris’ performance as the bewildered Christopher, despite not even being able to speak due to a bandana tied around his head, is fantastic. He gets across all of the emotion and distress that Christopher would be feeling without overdoing it at all.
As the party progresses, Zycho, supplies everyone with “truth serum”, though Alexander doesn’t really take part in injecting it, and they sit in on their own extreme truth or dare circle as they wait for the witching hour to come around. Each character is so believable, and you will recognize some of them as people you went to school with or if you ever have taken part in the art world, you will recognize each and every one of them from your experiences several times over. Christopher joins them in their effed up circle of friends and the game is on. Initially the secrets shared are minimal, Lexi revealing her fake boobs in her bra, Paul mentioning that he thinks he can still lie. Things get weird very quickly once Paul mentions he is bisexual and Macon (Macon Blair) announces his obsessive infatuation with Lexi. This gathering ends with Bill (William Lacy)’s feelings being hurt due to the revelation that the rest of the group is kicking him out of the collective and the character who has been all but hiding in the corner this whole time seems to have a major mental shift. Christopher does his own sharing, letting everyone know that he took a dump in his pants at his cousin’s wedding. He gives too much information, letting everyone know that the world would never even know he was gone if he went missing, especially since he didn’t tell anyone he was going to the party. The moments that are shared during this circle time are very reminiscent of discussions had while high and sleep deprived.
The party rages on with drinking, hard drugs and devolution of Bill’s psyche as he discovers the group heckling his artwork. Alexander’s inflated sense of self increases exponentially. Things start going downhill quickly, beginning with Macon setting himself on fire because of his smoking habit crossing his liquor doused costume. This results in a wicked half man/half wolf/completely burned monster effect. It is truly one of the best movie monsters I have ever seen and it’s not even really a monster. When Alexander is given his own dose of truth serum he admits he is a fry cook who plans to kill all of the artists and sell the work they have sent to him since art isn’t worth anything except posthumously. The real reason Alexander brought along Zycho is to take out the entire collective. On Alexander’s order, Zycho kills Paul and Lexi attacks him. Macon is still alive and comes to her rescue with a chainsaw, cutting off the drug dealer’s leg. Poor Christopher is sitting still chained up, watching all hell break loose in front of him. Lexi sets him free and receives and ax to the back of the head courtesy of a psychotically broken Bill. Alexander tries to escape, but Hellhound, his dog, eats half of his face after imbibing a shitload of crank.
Bill has completely lost it, and is the only person besides Christopher that isn’t grievously injured or dead. Christopher makes his way through the warehouse to save himself, but Bill is in hot pursuit. The chase scene is one that could rival any film with a conveyor belt that makes me laugh out loud every time I see it, as well as a pee break that Christopher apparently just has to take while Bill is still in hot pursuit and wristwatch alarm that goes off at an inopportune moment. There are moments that Chris Sharp as Christopher reminds me tremendously of Weird Al.
The chase is taken to the streets and into another party where no one can see that this shit is real until Bill takes an ax to them. Oh the beauty of a Halloween murder spree, no one knows it’s real until it’s just too late. No one helps poor Christopher to escape or call the authorities. Ironically enough, Christopher ends up hiding in an art installation. In his finest artistic moment, Bill makes a statement no one can deny and everyone is present for as he becomes part of the show.
The matter of fact nature with which everyone talks about killing Christopher, just the same as they talk about what they want for dinner and their own insecurities make this film exceptionally entertaining and is a fantastic commentary regarding how unaffected we have become and what lengths people will go to when it comes to making a statement, regardless what the reason behind such a statement may be. I used to have a copy of Murder Party but it is lost to that place that all good movies go, an old roommate or someone I once loaned it to. I found the film on iTunes and will be picking up a hard copy from Amazon.com here. I really enjoyed the special features, moreso for the story of the friendship between everyone involved in the film and anecdotal evidence of the adventure it was taking on this project. Along with the unique story and painful but hilarious outcome, I really love that this film is the result of a love for film shared between a group of friends and their determination to make it happen no matter what.
What is your favorite offbeat Halloween flick? Share in the comments!