It took me a good 15 - 20 minutes before I could get into what Jeremy Saulnier was slinging with his scrappy little Murder Party flick. But once the tone of the movie and my expectations kinda "clicked," I was more than happy to tag along and see where this funny, freaky flick was headed. It's broad, it's odd, and it's definitely low-budget, but it's also surprisingly well-acted, fast-paced, frequently amusing and packed with some really crazy kills near the end.
The movie opens on Halloween with a New York nobody called Chris. He finds a windblown invitation on the ground, and since Chris is obviously a big Halloween enthusiast, he heads home make some pumpkin bread, cobble together a cardboard costume, and eventually make his way to the mysterious party. Imagine Chris' surprise when, only a few minutes after his arrival at the shindig, one person is already dead and our semi-hero finds himself strapped to a chair. And everyone's pointing weapons at him. (Plus two of 'em are dressed in full-bore movie geek costumes, which I found very amusing. See if you can spot 'em in the picture!)
Seems that the party is being sponsored by Arrogant Art Students, Inc., and they've hatched a sickly little scheme: Have a stranger check in at their party -- so they can tie him down and murder him in the most "artistic" fashion imaginable. One of the gang wants to throw Chris in front of a train, another one's wielding a chainsaw, a third has a rather creative video presentation in mind. On the line for the most murderously creative student is a large chunk of grant money, and these jerks apparently have no problem whatsoever with killing a stranger or two if it validates their art (and lines their wallet).
If the first half of the 80-minute Murder Party gets just a little chat-heavy and circuitous, be sure to stick around for the ending, because that's when all hell breaks loose -- and it does so in dual capacities. The flick's got a dizzyingly dark sense of humor (and it helps that most of the indie actors are talented enough to hold our interest), plus it works as a fun-time horror flick as well. I wouldn't go so far as to call Murder Party a scary movie, but it's got some solid gore and some really snarky attitude ... plus I get the impression that Saulnier is lampooning the Art Student moreso than admiring them. And if there's one stereotype that can always use a good shish-kabobbing, it's that of the artsy-fartsy, know-it-all art majors.
Murder Party won the Audience Award at Slamdance and earned some really raucous reactions at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival. I doubt that anyone would call the thing a flawless piece of genre filmmaking, but it's got a low-rent charm and just enough of a brain to warrant my recommendation. Geared mainly for the old-school horror fans (or perhaps anyone who went to art school and hated it), Murder Party is a grungy, grass-roots winner. And if you don't warm up to it right away, trust me, it gets better the longer it runs.