Originally entitled “The Shower” when I reviewed it at Spooky Movie Festival 2014, this off-kilter outbreak thriller from first-time feature writer/director Alex Drummond comes across with the type of sardonic humor that treads the line between comedy and horror (more often catering to the former). A more than serviceable genre crossover in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead”, “The Crazies” and “Desperate Housewives”, this imperfect but perfectly fun little thriller proves even more entertaining upon second viewing. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and distinguished career for Drummond, who understands the importance of creating likable, identifiable characters, even when they’re not all exactly Mensa candidates. But what’s a horror movie without some glaring lapses in judgement?
“Killer Party” is a Hollywood roast, a microcosm of Tinseltown’s 99% clawing to get a foot in the door. When couple Nick and Mary (Kurt Ela and Rachael Drummond) are thrown a baby shower by their obnoxious talent agent friend Joanne (Suzanne Sena), it seems like the worst they’ll need to endure is a few hours in the company of some industry stereotypes (Evan Gamble and Katerina Mikailenko), a staunch conservative who’s in full-on campaign mode for City Council (a very Ed Helms-y Adam Karell), and Joanne’s perpetually shirtless personal trainer/boy-toy Zach (Paul Natonek). Walking clichés themselves, Nick is an unemployed waiter/screenwriter who once sold a script for $2,000 and Nora is an aspiring actress who plans to work her waitress job until her water breaks. The two are nonetheless content with one another amidst the kooky artificiality of their environment.
But things go wildly awry. Just as Drummond sets the film up with a “Swingers” kind of vibe that illustrates how thoroughly inglorious life is for most of the Hollywood set, the director besieges them with a mysterious plague that turns people into bloodthirsty, wise cracking lunatics. Among the first to go are the clown (who exactly he’s there to entertain I’m not certain), a couple of the neighbors, Natonek’s fairly well-intentioned meathead, and Dave (Drew Benda), a guy who once played a doctor in a TV commercial. With authorities ordering people back to their homes, the remaining members of the group have no choice but to hold their ground on the home front.
Though it seems like it could go the super campy route at any time, “Killer Party” maintains a reasonable level of dramatic integrity throughout, thanks to Kurt Ela, Rachael Drummond and a surprisingly arresting performance from Rob Norton as a father who fears he won’t be able to protect his wife (Alexandra Fatovich) and child from the mounting threat.
Not the outright gorefest it could have been (save some entrails from a disembowelment and some well-delivered blows from a golf club) nor very predictable, this is one of those rare horror films that actually earns our suspension of disbelief in order to have its less-than-feasible fun. Why don’t these bloodthirsty psychopaths attempt to smash any of the windows? For that matter, why is nobody trying to board them up? Is she really going to kiss that guy after he’s been bitten? Haven’t they seen “Night of the Living Dead” for God’s sake?
No matter. “Killer Party” has a lot of surprises up its sleeve and a fantastic cast that effectively manage Drummond’s tricky balance between real life and absurdity. Its mood is summed up well by Joanne’s under-appreciated but tough-as-nails assistant Beth (Stephanie Tobey) after saving lovelorn bartender/actor Tommy (Andy Hoff) from an infected assailant: “It’s not that I derive joy from killing, I’m just glad to be of assistance”. Just don’t expect a particularly scary clown in this one — actor Tony Rago is terrific as the ill-fated jester, but he’s about as creepy as Bill Murray in “Quick Change”.
“Killer Party” is now available on most VOD platforms.
— M. Parsons