It’s Halloween in New York City. The kids (and adults) are out in full-force wearing costumes and trick-or-treating. A black envelope submits to the will of the wind and glides down a street until it is picked up and opened by Christopher Hawley. Christopher Hawley is a lonely man with a selfish Maine Coon named Sir Lancelot who refuses to relinquish his chair. The invitation is admittance to an event called a “Murder Party,” somewhere in Brooklyn. It looks like Williamsburg, which doesn’t require the backdrop of a Halloween horror movie to frighten me. Christopher makes a clever costume out of an old cardboard box and takes the train to Brooklyn. In a system of ominous warehouses, he finds the location of the party.
He enters and is quickly subdued and bound by the celebrants, who are costumed in splashes of iconography. One of the participants is made up like Pris from Blade Runner. Another is a Baseball Fury from The Warriors. Yet another is a zombie cheerleader. Of course the idea is to kill someone at the “Murder Party” for the thrill of it, which recalls Hitchcock’s Rope but with a no-budget charm to the whole mad affair. It goes to hell pretty quickly because Christopher brought fresh-baked pumpkin bread with non-organic raisins in it which causes the zombie cheerleader to have an allergic reaction. She collapses and impales her head on a rusty pipe, which kills her. Her body is put into a trunk before the rest of the participants arrive.
With Christopher forced to watch, the celebrants are injected with truth serum and play truth or dare, revealing interesting (and sometimes disgusting) stories about themselves. Christopher reveals he’s a parking enforcement officer for the NYPD, and that he told no one he was attending the party. It also sounds like he won’t be particularly missed should he be killed. It becomes clear early on that the attendees are riddled with New York-style neuroses in addition to their psychopathic tendencies (they are artists, after all). If you’ve lived in this city as long as I have, it’s difficult to hold on to your sanity. The “Murder Party” is a pretense for a piece of performance art the celebrants are producing in the hope of acquiring a grant.
These art students become aware their ringleader has set them all up to die so he can sell their art because, in his words, “Art isn’t worth anything until you’re dead.” I have to admit I was expecting something completely different than what I watched. I deliberately picked a title so ridiculous-sounding that I assumed the movie had to be stupid, just to round out the titles I chose for this series of articles. This is a well-made, graphically-violent farce (reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt) made for no money but expertly shot and acted. The Steadicam shots are a bit overused, but it’s a refreshing change of pace from the herky-jerky handheld camerawork that seems to be dominating movies these days.
Murder Party can be seen on Netflix.