Lauren (Melanie Lynskey) is house sitting in a quiet, wealthy neighborhood and decides to throw a slumber party for her officemates. Unfortunately, only two show up: her spunky friend, Gina (Sheeri Rappaport), and the quiet new girl, Grace (Mary Lynn Rajskub). Could the lack of party guests be due to the well-known fact that there is a crossbow-wielding rooftop-loitering serial killer on the loose in the area? Unfortunately, they spend too much time discussing this, and they hear footsteps coming from above.
This film has finally received a DVD release in the US. The title change was changed from the appropriate Claustrophobia to the misleading Serial Slayer. The packaging, which features an evil Vin Diesel lookalike with a crossbow standing by a dark and creepy house, is also misleading. This film is actually an attempted subverison of the slasher genre. The terror is mostly psychological and not the type you would see in an ordinary slasher: the film takes place entirely during the day, there are only a few characters in an enclosed space, the perspective of the killer is never shown, and there is little on-screen violence and gore. Unfortunately, this interesting concept is poorly executed. The film obviously was made in a short period time on little-to-no budget, so it is understandable, but it is hardly an effective thriller.
The main problem with Serial Slayer is the unbelievable plot. A rooftop serial killer who draws his victims out of their homes so he can shoot them with a crossbow is a great premise. Having a slasher film set during the day, so that the killer cannot lurk in the darkness, is also a neat idea. Combining these two concepts does not work, at least in the context that is set up in this story. According to a radio announcement at the beginning of the film, this serial killer has already claimed a handful of victims. So it makes sense that the neighborhood is a little empty, as most people would probably go elsewhere until the killer is caught. However, apparently nobody drives through this neighborhood (including cops, who should probably be patroling the area), because nobody notices a guy on the roof in broad daylight.
But more importantly, why the hell would you have a slumber party in an area where everyone knows there is a killer on the loose? Early-on, there are some funny conversations (I'm assuming this is why it is listed as a "comedy" on IMDb--but this is no horror/comedy!) between the girls about serial killer hysteria and the chances of being a victim, which would be acceptable in any other context, but it just sounds ridiculous here. They also discuss how the past victims were all killed outside of their homes, which apparently brings them a sense of safety...even though none of the windows are locked, these women seem 100% convinced that the murderer is not going to break-in and kill them. There are several laughable instances where the characters try to draw the attention of the neighbors that make absolutely no sense. If you can get past some of these ridiculous premises, then some scenes in this movie could probably be really suspenseful.
The acting in Serial Slayer is unfortunate. All three lead women have proved in the past that they are damn fine actresses. Probably due to lack of time, good direction, and horrible dialogue, their performances here are really low-key and their fear is not at all believable. Some of the interactions between the characters are amusing and you wish the film would become the character piece that it is so obviously striving to be.
Another huge problem with the movie is the ending. After watching the film, I skipped around the director's commentary and was shocked that I completely misinterpreted the ending. Sadly, the way I saw the ending was much more exciting and made much more sense than what the ending actually turned out to be. It isn't meant to be ambiguous and open to interpretation, it is just poorly done.
On a side note, the movie also features a small "comeback" performance by Judith O'Dea (Barbara in the original Night of the Living Dead), but it is nothing to write home about. As I said before, this movie is extremely low-budget (made with hand-held digital video) and I'm sure the cast and crew worked extremely hard to get it done in time, so I hate to rag on it. It has a cool concept and a little bit of suspense, if you can get past the non-sensical behavior of the lead characters. But it is really not a well made film. Rent Slumber Party Massacre instead.
My Rating: 2.5/10
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