Friday, October 31, 2014

Murder Party

What a strange, strange movie Murder Party (2007) is. I really don't know how to begin to describe it. There's some shockingly graphic violence involving fire, an ax, a chainsaw, and other weapons and tools we find in a host of slasher movies, but the killers and victims hardly seem to notice at times, either because they're drugged out of their minds or too self-absorbed in their own pretensions to notice. It's inventive, it's funny, it's shocking, and it's original. It really has to be seen to be believed if not necessarily understood.

It's Halloween in Brooklyn, and Christopher (Chris Sharp) finds an invitation to a "Murder Party." Donning a cardboard suit of armor and bringing with him a batch of raisin pumpkin bread, he goes to the party and ends up in a dumpy, isolated warehouse where a weird bunch of costumed artists are gathered. Before he realizes it, Chris is tied up and told he will be killed, his death to be a true artistic masterpiece. What follows is a night of drug use, revelations, depravity, death, and lunacy.

Christopher is the only normal person in this entire movie. He seems like a nice guy, if a little dumb. I mean what kind of "dildo," to use the movie's terminology (take a shot every time you hear the word, and you might get alcohol poisoning), gets an invitation to something called a "Murder Party," an invitation that he didn't receive from anyone he knew, and decides to go to it? Still, he's not a pretentious artist type as his intended killers are, and he doesn't try to hurt anyone, except in self-defense.

These would-be, artistic murderers are really something. One's dressed as Daryl Hannah's character from Blade Runner, another looks like one of the Baseball Furies from The Warriors, one's dressed as a werewolf, and another as a vampire. They're amazed anyone was stupid enough to answer one of their invitations. Their first attempt to kill Chris, an ax to the back of the head, fails when the ax gets caught on a light cable. After they tie him up, Chris can only watch in bewildered horror as they casually discuss killing him, in between their bouts of drugs use, discussions about art, and their attempts to please Alexander, a patron who claims to have $300,000 worth of grants to bestow. Their nonchalance about casual murder is a source of much of the movie's humor.

The plot has a lot of twist and turns. Suffice to say, it's fortuitous for Chris that he brought the pumpkin bread and put non-organic raisons in it, leading to an unexpectedly bloody death. Chris also doesn't face a unified front; his tormentors distrust and eventually turn on each other once they learn the truth about each other's motives. One character accidentally sets himself on fire, and most of the others don't seem to notice or care, and the ones who do respond aren't too urgent about it. Another, who has spent the entire time sitting on the floor playing a video game, snaps and starts taking an ax to some of the others.

The laughs stem from the weird behavior of these insufferable, pretentious people, but the violence is graphic and unexpected. This is a very wet movie. Heads split open, limbs are lopped off, and flesh gets cooked. But even with these deaths, there's humor, mainly from how unexpected they are; some are complete accidents, and sometimes, the reactions are funny. One character gets shot in the head multiple times, and he still insists on finishing a photo he's trying to take. Talk about dedication to your craft.

Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Murder Party is a kooky, low-budget comic thriller. It's quirky and you never know where it's going. It's so rare to find a movie that is genuinely unpredictable. It's not for everyone's tastes, but genre fans should get a kick out of it.

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