It is prom night and six high school friends decide to ditch their after prom party and instead head to Nelson's (Drew Shotwell) uncles house to have their own private party (as the uncle is away on business). It soon is found out to be a terrible idea as the place is the base of a local serial killer who doesn't take kindly to intruders...
Escamilla describes Party Night as his love letter to the slasher films of the 80's and this is really obvious to see. The attention to detail and the way the plot plays out, even parts of the directing all echo films of that era. This is an old school slasher set in modern day and it feels so fun as a result. Early on there is a near fourth wall breaking moment in which the cast discover some old slasher VHS tapes, wistful music starts playing as the boys joyously explain just what made films of that time so great, this felt like an in film explanation of just why Party Night was created. This love for the genre shines throughout with references to Halloween, Friday 13th, The Mutilator and many others through both what characters say and the things that occur.
Going on with the tropes of the slasher genre there was a kill room that shows up, I was very happy to see that used, while a sequence that reminded me a lot of a similar moment in Scream had an unaware character watching a horror film and complaining about how silly the characters were acting (meta of course in that they them-self were a character in a horror film and end up acting no better). The camera work is solid throughout, of special mention were the shaky cams used during chase sequences, with the sound though there were a few occasions I found it hard to hear dialogue, while some of the fight scenes lacked impact.
It was cool to see Escamilla in a cameo early on, something I hope he continues to do in his future movies, aside from the very beginning though it is just the six strong group of friends and their killer. The acting is something I had been worried about, I had set my expectations low but honestly it is not the worst acting I have seen at all, often times it can be pretty good, especially with Shotwell who had a charismatic screen presence that made him stand out. The friends are believable as a unit, helped in part by how the plot goes, the concept of them all splitting up to go to college gave this last party of theirs a bitter sweet twinge to it. The characters fall into stereotypical types (such as Tommie Vegas who plays the flirt and Billy Brannigan as the jock character) but this is a homage and multi-layered characters is not what were featured back then. It is credit that despite being often seen typical characters they still inject likeability into their roles for the most part. The killer seemed to be decent enough but my one complaint about him is that he didn't seem to get much screen time, he looks the part at least wearing some sort of sack over his head and armed with a huge knife/machete. He is a swift and brutal killer so he usually appears, does his job then disappears until the next victim is up but did leave me wanting more.
In line with being a homage to eighties slashers all the special effects are physical ones, there were no CGI effects which was a really cool thing to see. Party Night does not shy away on blood, if anything it is the other way around with too much blood, every victim oozes out pints of the stuff but is so entertaining to watch. For the main part death is by machete, I never got tired of seeing the great looking wounds these caused. A few other methods are also used, one involving a kitchen utensil actually made me shout out in joy, it was a highlight in terms of kills. Unfortunately there was a key moment in Party Night that called for a particular special effect which the film could not deliver leading to a feeling of disappointment. I know the budget was not the highest but I found that part to be a let down, especially with how good the effects had been up to that point.
The script is appropriately cheesy, something I'm sure was purposeful, in particular I loved how dismissive some of the characters were about the high number of missing girls reported in the area, actually made me laugh out loud at the conversation they have about it. I liked how it wasn't a typical slasher setting in that sure the group had planned to party but they actually have a lame time even before the killer shows up. There is no rampant sex, drugs and alcohol with idiots deserving to die (ok, maybe a little bit of that), instead there is lots of arguments, and people feeling like maybe they should have gone to the after prom party after all. I found it so easy to relate to in terms of my experience of hanging out with friends when I was that age.
I wanted to enjoy Party Night and I really did, I found this such a fun throwback that made me realise that I do actually miss old school slashers a lot. Escamilla's appreciation of the genre shines through constantly, while the special effects rarely disappoint. I may not be giving this a rating but I am going to give it a recommendation as biased feelings aside I do think this is a legitimately entertaining film. Check out the teaser trailer below...