murder party | jeremy saulnier | chris sharp | kate porterfield | tess porterfield lovell | comedy | drama | thriller | united states | art | macon blair | stacy rock | skei saulnier | paul goldblatt | william lacey | sandy barnett | bill tangradi | sampson saulnier
Film: Murder Party
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Chris Sharp, Kate Porterfield and Tess Porterfield Lovell
This was a movie that I was turned on to as I saw one of the writer/director’s later films Green Room. I really dug what we had going on there, so through podcasts I learned about this one and added it to my list. I did come in relatively blind to just see what this was all about and thankfully, it is streaming on Netlix. The synopsis is a random invitation to a Halloween party leads a man into the hands of a rogue collective intent on murdering him for the sake of their art, sparking a bloodbath of mishap, mayhem and hilarity.
The movie kicks off establishing that it is Halloween. We have Christopher S. Hawley (Chris Sharp) renting a few horror VHS tapes before heading home. On his way he finds an invitation moving down the sidewalk in the wind. He picks it up and opens it, learning that he’s been invited to something called ‘Murder Party’. He takes it home with him. It is there he discovers that his jack-o-lantern has been smashed. He goes inside to settle in for the night. There’s a funny scene where he goes to his chair to watch a movie and his cat, Sir Lancelot (Puff Snooty), won’t get down. I like this being an intriguing way to establish that his cat doesn’t respect him so people in life probably don’t either.
Chris then decides to go this party. We learn this through him baking pumpkin bread with raisins from his smashed jack-o-lantern and then building a costume out of a cardboard box, which he makes into a sweet knight costume. He then heads out.
Things then take a turn though when he arrives. In the room is Macon (Macon Blair) who has a werewolf mask, Lexi (Stacy Rock) who is doing cocaine, Sky (Skei Saulnier), Paul (Paul Goldblatt) who is a vampire and Bill (William Lacey) who has the best costume as one of the Baseball Furies from The Warriors. They’re shocked that someone shows up and they tie up Chris. This is a legit murder party and they’re going to kill this unsuspecting guy.
The reason being is that Alexander (Sandy Barnett) is coming. He is a rich guy with a grant and all of these people are artists. They want that money as it could be life changing for them. Paul is a photographer and Bill is a painter. The movie really establishes what their mediums are while Lexi does movies that are art-based. Sky doesn’t want to do this now that they have Chris, but things take a turn though when she eats some of the bread he brought and she has an allergic reaction, hitting her head which kills her. This group of people is pretentious and their secrets come out when Alexander and his drug dealer, Zycho (Bill Tangradi) shows up. It has some lethal results as buttons are pushed. They’re not used to what their doing, so it is also bumbling and comedy follows.
As I lead this off, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I do have to give Saulnier credit. He didn’t waste any time in introducing us to the characters or getting into what is going on here. I think a lot of that is the movie only runs 79 minutes and he really doesn’t waste any of that time. It can be tough when you don’t have a lot of characters like we do here, but all of them get fleshed out and I can tell you something about each one.
What makes this even better, none of these people are really killers. Sky is accidentally killed and the group really panics on what to do. They could just call the police, but you can’t as there’s a bunch of drugs and they have Chris tied up, as what happens to Sky is an accident. They all really want this grant, so they can’t do anything that could scare off Alexander. He’s a real jerk though and I love the reveal of his character. I don’t think it is anything that is too shocking, especially with how he acts. It is just interesting though that they all fell for it.
Chris is also an interesting character for me. He really is tied up and gagged for most of the movie. Seeing what these people are saying they’re going to do to him, his fear is growing where his fight or flight reflexes eventually come into effect. I like that when he gets his chance though, it is very realistic. The movie doesn’t make him into this badass who just mows through everyone and I like it. I also like two of the characters in this collective are pushed to the edge until they break. What each does is different, but again quite believable.
I’ve already said that I thought the pacing was good here so the other thing I want to bring up would be that even when it slows in the middle to establish more of the characters, there are subtle things going on. The comedy here is pretty subtle as well so it really doesn’t hurt like many tend to do for me. This movie does get wild when Chris gets free and where it ends up. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that, but I will say I dug it. Pretty much every character has a reveal or growth and I can get down with that as well.
The acting really drives this movie though as the story isn’t complex. If anything, it is all of the characters’ stories are complex. Sharp does really well at being this bumbling guy that I felt bad for. He doesn’t really have any friends, his cat doesn’t respect him and due to his loneliness he went to this party, where he’s going to be killed and no one is going to even really know. What makes it great though is the change that comes over his character and where it ends up. Blair was really good as the artist that is in love with Lexi, but she’s not interested and he’s just trying to impress her. What happens to him in the end was interesting for sure. Rock is extremely pretentious, but there’s something about her that I found attractive. Goldblatt is a bit obviously and also a bisexual which plays into something interesting in the movie. Lacey was one of my favorite characters as he’s not very engaged until the climax and I love where his breaking point takes him. Barnett is another interesting character along with his drug dealer Tangradi. Also shout-out to Hellhammer who is portrayed by Sampson Saulnier as a cute dog in a skeleton outfit.
That will take me next to the effects here. Something I give a lot of praise for Saulnier is the use of practical ones. Now some of this could actually be due to budgetary reasons, so if that is the case then, I’m glad he’s working within those constraints. This movie doesn’t use a lot of them as a good portion of it is hidden so there’s that. These people aren’t actually killers so they’re working up to what they’re trying to do. I thought through good cinematography, it is hidden and what is shown looked real. This includes something that happens at the end to Macon that looked really good and the climax I was on board with. The blood looks real with color and consistency for sure.
Now with that said, I ended up really digging this movie. It doesn’t have the most complex story, but it is character driven and I think they’re all pretty fleshed out with things that we see or through interactions with each other. It has a low runtime, which I think definitely helps. I thought the performances bring their characters to life. I would say there’s not a lot in the way of effects, but it didn’t necessarily need them as what we got looks good. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out, but it fit for what was needed and it never took me out of the movie. I would rate that this is above average and I could see the beginnings of what I like about this director for sure.
My Rating: 7 out of 10