Murder Party (2007): Art You Glad You Came?

As we get into the Halloween season, there is an extra worry that enters my mind. No, not how much candy to buy, how many times to watch The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, or even which pop culture icon to turn into a pun based costume (The answer is not Let's Go Brandon Lee in which one dresses up like Joe Biden in Crow make-up.). There is often the extra worry of an impending Halloween party, full of acquaintances, strangers, and drunken debauchery which we both anticipate and simultaneously fear.

I've been dragged to so many last minut Pumpkin Day festivities, and you never quite know what you're going to get into. For a couple of years when I was younger, I went to a party hidden deep in the woods, down a long dark, private drive where the ambitious hosts, who were friends of friends,  had spent months hanging fake bodies from the trees and setting up gory displays. By the time I finally arrived at the trailer and bonfire, existential dread had also arrived. Thankfully, it was just a wild party with acquaintances in the woods, and it wasn't some kind of Murder Party.

Sad sack parking cop Christopher has no plans for Halloween night.  So, when he finds an ornate invitation inviting someone to a Halloween night Murder Party, he decides to go. Constructing a suit of armor from cardboard, Chris sets out for Brooklyn to attend the party only to discover that this wasn't just an All Hallows Eve bash. A group of artists, in an attempt to please their patron Alexander (Sandy Barnette), have lured a hapless victim in to murder the rube in the name of art. However, as one might expect an art collective acts, it still does when murder is concerned and soon back stabbing, jealousy, and lies become their undoing.

When I was looking back trying to decide what film to add to the Lair, I was surprised I had never covered Murder Party. I caught it with my good pal Fran Goria on a whim rental, and I've been a fan of Jeremy Saulnier's subsequent colorfully named films Blue Ruin and Green Room. In recent years, his career has hit a roadbump when he had to reshoot his newest film Rebel Ridge after John Boyega left the project amid turmoil.

Years before he was dealing with the complexities of having stars in his films, Murder Party was produced on a shoestring budget by a group of friends. However, similar themes prevail. Where Anton Yelchin's musician accepts a gig without knowing all the details and ends up in a world of hurt, so does Chris Sharp's Meter Maid when he answers the invitation. Being hapless, confused, and bewildered at the cruelty of the world is a constant running theme in Saulnier's work, and, while played for laughs and couched in gory satire, it makes no less a better argument than its more somber predesseors. It also touches on the social decide between the idle rich who indulge in art to the point where life is meaningless, and Chris' dreary, poor existence where all he does is "ruin people's day" until he finds hope in his fatal invitation. 

Now I know that doesn't make it sound like a laugh riot, but it is. While I have laughed endlessly at inept horror films made by art students, but I would much rather watch inept art students try their hand at hosting a Murder Party. The artists start to perish even before and murder can take place, and, a bit like Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, the deceased are more often victims of them own stupidity than anything else. In one of Murder Party's funniest moments, photographer Paul (Paul Goldblatt) refuses to die even after multiple gunshot wounds because he just wants to get one good shot!

Murder Party feels like someone put their back into it and made the best Troma film that Troma didn't make. Subversive, smart, and gory, it gets its point across even if a few eggs have to be cracked (or killed off due to ingestion of inorganic raisins). It's the kind of flick that deserves a cult following that it never seemed to get. Some 15 years after its release, I find few others singing it's praises, and, while it has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that's based off a pitifully small six reviews.

So before you dust off the old Pumpkin shaped platter and start getting the Horror D'Orves ready, then check out Murder Party as a reminder to read your invitations closely. Even better it's Streaming for Free on Pluto TV now. Check out the trailer Here.

Bugg Rating 

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