Time: 79 Minutes
Chris Sharp as Christopher S. Hawley
Sandy Barnett as Alexander
Macon Blair as Macon
Paul Goldblatt as Paul
William Lacey as Bill
Stacy Rock as Lexi
Skei Saulnier as Sky
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
On Halloween Eve in Brooklyn, an average Joe loser named Chris (Chris Sharp) finds an invitation to a costume party. Arriving at the “party”, Chris discovers he’s fallen prey to the lethal trap set by deranged artists. As the night wears on, rivalries within the group flare up. A body count accrues, and Chris must take advantage of the ensuing chaos if he’s to survive the night.
I watched Green Room years ago, although I thought it was decent, I decided I was going to rewatch it. First of all though, I decided to go back and watch director Jeremy Saulnier’s prior films, then rewatch Green Room and then see his latest film, Hold the Dark. People really took notice of Jeremy Saulnier with his film before Green Room, Blue Ruin. However not many people know that 6 years before that, he directed his first movie Murder Party, a low budget horror comedy. Saulnier’s first feature film isn’t anywhere near the level of his following movies. Even on its own it doesn’t particularly stand out as a horror movie. However, it’s still pretty decent, and as a low budget horror comedy, it does work pretty well.
Murder Party is much more comedic compared to Saulnier’s later films. The whole part about the lead character being stuck in the murder party with deranged people starts like 10-15 minutes into the movie. However he’s just stuck there, while the ‘artists’ just sort of mess around, talk a lot and all that. Outside of the main plot, Murder Party also has a lot of satire on the art scene. Instead of it being a bunch of professional or serial killers carrying it out, it’s a bunch of crazy art people, which does make it stand apart from other similar movies. While Blue Ruin and Green Room might have moments of comedy (mostly dark comedy), the first half of Murder Party is really filled with comedy. Much of the dialogue (really between the antagonists) is really witty and comedic. The way the killers are written are a little too witty and comedic that you don’t really take them seriously, and this results in the first half not feeling tense at all, despite some of the things that happen. However I’m pretty sure this was deliberate, as in it wasn’t supposed to feel really scary and all that. The third act is when it actually starts becoming somewhat a horror/thriller. The main character stops being a background character and is in the forefront as he’s actually doing something. The pacing also picks up immensely. It’s a little more tense compared to the rest of the movie but you aren’t on the edge of your seat or anything. Murder Party is really short at an hour and 20 minutes and honestly that was probably the right length of the movie.
Chris Sharp is really the lead of the movie, who gets caught in this situation. We share a few scenes with him early on before he gets caught in the party but we don’t really learn much about him outside of him owning a cat and all that. He’s okay enough that we can hope that he gets out of the movie alive, but it’s in the obligatory way, in that people generally won’t want the main character to get killed. If anything we get to learn more about the killer characters, played by Macon Blair, Paul Goldblatt, William Lacey, Stacy Rock and Skei Saulnier, some of them are better than others, but they are good at being unstable artistic people who are crazy (though aren’t particularly scary, not that it was the goal). It is worth noting that Macon Blair would be appearing in Saulnier’s future films, and seemed to be in completely different roles every time.
It’s pretty clear watching Murder Party that this is Jeremy Saulnier’s first film. When you read the summary and knowing Saulnier was the guy who directed Green Room and then watching Murder Party, you might be a little let down. However it is worth noting that this was pretty much a student film. Chris Sharp, Macon Blair, Jeremy Saulnier and some of the cast of Murder Party filmed a lot of short movies together growing up. In the mid 2000s they started their first feature film together (this movie). Knowing that its an experimental film and also knowing the backstory of the movie,
it does make sense and it sort of works as that sort of movie. The cinematography (done by Saulnier) isn’t as great as his other movies but is simple and good enough that it works for the movie. The budget of the movie is around $200,000 and you can feel it, but they really make the most of that budget. The soundtrack isn’t really anything special, again feeling rather simple but it works well enough. There isn’t much violence and gore until like the last 25 minutes, and like Saulnier’s other films it is practical and brutal and all that. However the gore is much more of a B movie and bloody type rather than a brutally realistic and graphic sense.
Murder Party is by far the weakest of Jeremy Saulnier’s films, even judging it aside from the director’s other work, it’s not that great of a film and you do feel the low budget. So, I do think you should go into the movie as a low budget horror comedy, and as that, it is very impressive and reasonably entertaining. It is very rough around the edges and has some problems but it’s not bad for a first feature film. 6 years later though, Saulnier would really improve and fine tune his directing talent and would make much better movies starting with 2013’s Blue Ruin.