An old friend of mine recently rolled into town needing a place to set up camp for a while, so of course I came to the rescue. She's the type of pal who I can just pick back up with after not having seen her for years. One of the great memories we share is when we would wreak havoc at slumber parties.

Nothing beat getting together with a gang of my best girlfriends, devouring sugary snacks, playing ridiculous games and watching movies by the bucket load. My friend often hosted these gatherings and had two very laid back parents who left us to our own devices, which allowed me to become indoctrinated into the world of some delicious video nasties. It also helped that she had an older brother who was always followed by a billow of smoke, wore Evil Dead t-shirts and quoted every nerd-tastical horror flick you can possibly imagine. He granted us access to his nefarious VHS collection and for that I will be forever grateful. My horror schooling at home was strong, but there were some movies -- The Last House on the Left comes to mind -- that were just a wee bit uncomfortable to watch with my parents.

Since my friend has arrived, we've spent most of our nights curled up in blankets and digging into my movie collection, revisiting some of the flicks we adored watching during sleepovers. We used to watch all the classics (The Exorcist, Evil Dead II, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.), but the nights we went beyond the standard fare were always more memorable. Pass the cheese doodles, turn off the lights and get cozy with my top five slumber party picks!

Faces of Death
(and pretty much most Mondo films)

The allure of "Banned in 40 countries" and "Real! Uncensored! Shocking!" was too irresistible for my impressionable young mind to take. Faces of Death was a regular sleepover favorite as several of the girls (myself included) would spend at least an hour trying to scare the crap out of the uneasy party members, which I guess in our heads meant we would surely convince them exactly why they needed to watch this movie. There was also a lot of deal making with this film: "You promise to turn it off after the execution scene?"

I also credit the Faces of Death series in part for the reason I became vegetarian. Like Brian, I'm not a huge fan of animal deaths in film and Faces of Death is loaded with it. Even though a lot of the Mondo footage is faked, it didn't make it any less horrifying for me to watch -- in particular a slaughterhouse segment and the infamous monkey brains dinner. During the scene, you see a group of people sitting in a restaurant and a belly dancer performing nearby while the waiter brings some unique dinnerware to the patrons. After, he carries a screaming monkey to the table, slides it into a hole in the center -- leaving just the head sticking out. The diners start to hammer at his noggin, then the waiter cuts the head open and the group starts spooning out the brains and chows down. Barf city.

Probably the scene that sticks out to me most was the cheesy cult ceremony, which depicts a bunch of dirty hippies pill-popping, chanting and playing the sitar. There's a human sacrifice with gory close-ups and then topless chicks eat the guy's heart and smear blood all over their breasts. Hot.

Slumber Party Challenge: eat 4 slices of pizza with extra grease (+1 point if you don't dab it with a napkin first; +8 points if you put cat food on someone's slice and convince them that it's ground sausage [true story])


Being a native New Yorker, my parents have told me tons of sordid stories about living in the Big Apple during the 70's when I was just a glimmer in their eye. The city was at its gritty best and William Lustig's Maniac conjures that vibe perfectly. Joe Spinell (who also has writing/producer credits) gives an incredibly unnerving performance as Frank Zito -- a serial killer who stalks the night and its women, slices and dices them, but saves the scalps to dress the mannequins he has hanging out in his apartment. One reason this film is sleepover-worthy: gore. This is an uncompromising look at a killer and what he loves to do, so expect a lot of the red stuff. You're also greeted by the mugs of two Ron Jeremy lookalikes: Spinell and FX maestro Tom Savini who also appears in the film as a disco God in a gruesome scene that always elicited squeals from the slumber party gang. Caroline Munroe stars as the lovely who catches crazy Frank's eye. Fun fact: the song Maniac from Flashdance was originally written after songwriter Dennis Matkosky was inspired after watching the film. The lyrics were rewritten so it could be used for the 1983 dance flick

Slumber Party Challenge: take 5 chugs of Coke and Pop Rocks (+10 points if you actually explode like Savini's head after drinking it)

Phantasm/Phantasm II

Tall Man Angus Scrimm was the stuff of many nightmares for me during the reign of sleepoverzilla and Don Coscarelli's Phantasm flicks were beyond creepy. Of course, the films provoked some laughter because you can't talk about "balls" in a room full of horny girls without stirring up ridiculous jokes about boy parts. But once the snickering subsided we were left with the magical splendor of freakish characters (a mix of carnies and Jawas), a mortuary, alternate dimensions, mirrors you can get pulled through and killer spheres (balls!). The score for the films is reminiscent of some of the Italo horror greats with a little Carpenter thrown in for good measure. P.S. balls.

Slumber Party Challenge: spend 13 minutes in a dark bathroom playing Bloody Mary (+7 points if you can convince the rest of the group that you saw a ghost in the mirror; +5 points if you persuade them to play with the Ouija Board afterward)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Holy hell we watched this film dozens of times and Texas Chainsaw Massacre never lost its allure. This is hands down one of my all-time favorite horror movies and the talented Tobe Hooper created a nightmarish world laden with some seriously twisted imagery which seemed so much gorier to me back then, but actually doesn't show all that much. The political subtext, which didn't make sense to me upon initial viewings, makes the movie even more disturbing -- particularly after having watched it at an early age and knowing that it's still ingrained in my psyche all these years later. This was another flick based on a "true story" and while Hooper did look to Ed Gein for inspiration, the events detailed within were not verbatim. Being a city kid, TCM was extra disturbing to me because it was a horror film that greatly contributed to my early concept of small town life -- the places where people actually owned things like chainsaws and lived in houses, not walk-up apartments (no room for meat hooks there).

Slumber Party Challenge: play 5 rounds of Truth or Dare (+7 points if you shamelessly make out with your pillow and breathlessly call it Franklin)

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Prom Night isn't a terrible horror flick but Prom Night II is its weird and slutty cousin. Mary Lou Maloney was a total badass and she starts the film off with a bang -- literally, when a bomb sets fire to her prom dress and she goes up in flames. Her boyfriend Billy did the deed because Mary Lou made out with another boy at the prom. What else do you expect from a girl who confesses to a priest that she loves being a sinner? Fast forward thirty years later and Mary Lou possesses a high school student named Vicki after she finds ML's old prom digs and takes off with them. Vicki used to be a nice girl, but spends the film doing things like seductively stroking a rocking horse (the horse's tongue licking her is so perfectly disturbing), making out with her father (he totally goes for it) and killing people (sometimes topless & watch for the locker scene!). The film is actually quite dark and trades the slasher-esque angle for something eerie and more supernatural -- it almost has a Twin Peaks kind of vibe to it. Plus, it's always fun to watch bitchy high school girls tear each other apart.

Slumber Party Challenge: Freeze 3 pairs of panties (+6 points if you get yours frozen, wear them anyway and play it cool)

CATEGORIES Features, Horror