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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Murder Party’: The Brown Knight tries to survive a Halloween bash and artistic torturers

I was so inspired by Murder Party, the Halloween-themed flick I’m reviewing in this column that I even came up with a song…

Ain’t no party /

Like a Murder Party /

Cause a Murder Party /

Is a party with a murder

(repeat x3)

But before you get all hyped up that Murder Party is going to be like that one scene in the beginning of Blade where all the vampires are dancing around to techno music and then everybody gets 1,000 gallons of cherry syrup dumped on them, know this:

Nobody gets MURDERED for the first 55 minutes of the flick.

Yes, there’s a skull impalement, an immolation, aardvarking (x2), a man in bondage, the revelation of a fake garbonza, a huge disagreement about what kind of food to have at a murder party, pumpkin smashing and multiple accusations from people about the infringement of artistic integrity, but there are technically NO MURDERS until the last 25 minutes of the flick.

If you’re the arguing type, the first fatality does happen five seconds in when a jack-o-lantern gets mushed, but that’s only if you really want to get into picking the nits, but if that is the case, there are plenty of places to get into internet fights about this kind of stuff.

And you’ll probably also say, “Hey, if people are having absurd accidental deaths for a good part of the movie, then this is nothing but a Tucker & Dale vs. Evil knockoff.”

Wrong — this flick came out in 2007, three years before Tucker & Dale and, as I said before, there’s plenty of murder at the end of the flick, plus it takes place on either Halloween Eve or Halloween night, so it’s perfect seasonal viewing.

Written/directed by Jeremy Saulnier who went on to do a couple other really good features (Blue Ruin and Green Room) in the ensuing years, he and the collective known as The Lab of Madness collaborated on this feature with, as he admits in the DVD’s special features, zero money and a bunch of committed folks who volunteered their time to put the flick together — a truly DIY effort that examined what would make tortured artists become torturing artists.

The flick opens, but instead of the whole Forrest Gump feather thing, there’s an invitation in a black envelope getting blown down the sidewalk — Christopher S. Hawley (Chris Sharp), a dude with glasses and a beard who’s on pills, once took a dump in his own pants while serving as a groomsman and disrupted a model airplane convention after climbing up six flights of steps and whose favorite album is the Big Chill soundtrack and works for the NYPD parking enforcement district picks up said invitation to the “Murder Party.” (We don’t learn all the backstory of all this until he gets injected with Belarusian truth serum by the gonzo artists throwing the party).

Ben Nagy reviews 'Murder Party': The Brown Knight tries to survive a Halloween bash and artistic torturers 1
Christopher Hawley (Chris Sharp) encounters a rapper on the rapid while trying to get to the Murder Party. This was the least of his worries during the evening. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

After mourning his carved pumpkin by turning it into pumpkin-raisin bread, Chris pours himself a heaping bowl of candy corn, but instead of staying in to watch a triple feature of Scarewolf, Zombie vs. Unicorn’s Horn and Xanthachroid that he rented from the local video store on VHS, he decides to put himself out there, makes a cardboard suit of armor out of twine and duct tape and heads to the party.

Here’s a 15-year-old video on YouTube with instructions on how to make the costume straight from the man himself:

Chris Sharp (in character) shows us all how to be like Murder Party’s Brown Knight in this 15-year-old (and still poignant) video.

Chris then wanders 11 and a half minutes through the streets of New York to a warehouse containing Macon (Macon Blair), a guy in a werewolf mask playing darts with himself; Sky (Skei Saulnier), dressed as a zombie cheerleader; Bill (William Lacey), a guy dressed up like a combination of late Yankees Manager Billy Martin AND one of the baseball gang from The Warriors, who’s quietly fiddling on his phone — (if Jeremy Saulnier ever reads this review, please write in and let us know what exactly Bill was doing on this phone the whole time — was he playing a game? Watching the Yankees lose in the playoffs to Detroit?); Lexi (Stacy Rock), a woman dressed up like Priss from Blade Runner and Paul (Paul Goldblatt), a vampire with mutton chops.

Ben Nagy reviews 'Murder Party': The Brown Knight tries to survive a Halloween bash and artistic torturers 2
Gang’s all here: from left — Bill, Paul, Macon, captive Chris, Lexi, Alexander and Zycho (background right). (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Chris’s cardboard helmet doesn’t help much, and he gets conked on his head for his welcome and is tied to a chair since he’s going to be the guest of honor of the group who want to murder him in the name of art to impress the allegedly wealthy grant-dangler Alexander (Sandy Barnett), who shows up with his dog Hellhammer and a new best friend named Zsycho (who sells drugs out of the back of his parents’ pierogi shop).

That’s when the drugs come out and the party REALLY gets started.

Ben Nagy reviews 'Murder Party': The Brown Knight tries to survive a Halloween bash and artistic torturers 3

Best Summation of Chris’s Unfortunate Choice: Paul: “The invitation says ‘Murder Party’ if some jackass is dumb enough to come here, he deserves to die.”

Best Reason to Always Look Out for the Quiet Ones: Bill: “I didn’t sign up for a second-degree assault party.”

Ben Nagy reviews 'Murder Party': The Brown Knight tries to survive a Halloween bash and artistic torturers 4
Lexi and Macon applaud one of Alexander’s monologues on art. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Best Example of the Guy with the Cash Wielding the Power: Alexander: “I’m not going to lie to you, I really wanted you guys to challenge yourselves on this one,” and “Inspiration is shit unless you execute.” And “Don’t think of this dildo as a victim. Think of him as a collaborator.”

Best Reverse Psychology: Chris, instead of pleading for his life, explains why he doesn’t deserve to live: “I’m a Level 1 TEA, I make $26 and a half thousand dollars a year and all I do is write tickets and ruin people’s days. If I were to die, the world would be fine, no one would miss me. I didn’t even tell anyone I was coming  to your party.”

Best Wrinkle in the Stalk-and-Slash Sequence: This flick has the first time in a psycho chase scene where the person who’s being chased has to stop to go to the bathroom AND take his meds.

Best Expression of Motivation: Bill, who says, “F— this whole scene, everybody dies.”

Best Lament: Chris, who screams, “I just wanted to party!”

Quality stuff. There’s that intentional slow part in the middle where everybody just talks for a while, but the end effects more than make up for it. But, I assure you that the murders start 55 minutes in, including an axe massacre and a chainsaw through the head.

It’s been a while, but we finally got another one — four stars.

Check Murder Party out streaming on Fubo, Pluto and Plex or it’s out there on physical media as well.

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