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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Murder Party

Murder Party
2007 - Magnet (Magnolia)

As much as I love horror movies, it's all too rare to find something completely original. Even the best spook shows rely heavily on convention, especially those on the low-budget indie side of the spectrum. That's why discovering something as refreshingly unexpected as Murder Party is cause for celebration. This is buried treasure here, folks. An independent gem that defies expectation and thrills you with its wit, exuberance and the sheer fun of low-budget filmmaking.

Chris Sharp stars as a solitary parking violations officer who stumbles across an invitation to a "Murder Party" on Halloween. Unable to persuade his cat, Sir Lancelot, to move from his favorite chair, Chris bakes up some pumpkin bread, whips together a homemade suit of armor out of cardboard, and heads out to the party.

Turns out the invitation was meant to be taken literally. The murder party is being thrown by five artists who tie Chris to a chair and plan to kill him in the name of art. They've been put up to it by an ultra-pretentious art snob named Alexander (Sandy Barnett) who has promised a huge grant to whoever comes up with the most artistically transcendent way of doing Chris in.

Murder Party is the first feature from The Lab of Madness, a group of friends (including writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, star/co-producer Sharp, and others, most of whom pulled double duty both in front of and behind the camera) that has been making short films together since high school. That bond comes through on screen. Across the board, the performances in Murder Party are leagues better than in most movies of this type. There are plenty of extended dialogue scenes that could have been torturous. Here, they're tight, funny and clever.

I'm a sucker for art world satires anyway but even so, Murder Party nails the pretensions and insecurities of its characters perfectly. Saulnier's script is intelligent and hilarious. I laughed out loud repeatedly during this movie, which frankly shocked me. And despite the low budget, the makeup effects (designed by Paul Goldblatt, who also co-stars as Paul the photographer) are pretty exceptional. They must have gone through a tanker truck of fake blood on this picture.

Murder Party is the first release from Magnet, a new division of Magnolia Home Entertainment specializing in cutting-edge genre filmmaking. The DVD looks pretty good, though not spectacular. Audio is slightly more robust, with both 5.1 and 2.0 options provided. The extras, on the other hand, are tons o' fun. Lab of Madness guys Saulnier, Sharp and co-star Macon Blair contribute a funny and enthusiastic audio commentary. Extreme Truth: The Making of Murder Party runs almost 30 minutes and contains footage from some of those high school videos the Lab of Madness made back in the day. It's a fun and informative featurette. The disc also contains outtakes, instructions for making your own cardboard suit of armor, the complete art installation video glimpsed in the movie, and even a recipe for pumpkin bread. All the extras are worth checking out and are done with the same level of enthusiasm as the movie itself, although I probably won't be baking any pumpkin bread since I don't really like raisins (admittedly, not to the same level as one of the characters in the movie).

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest was intended to be an exhibition, not a competition. Hopefully there has been no wagering. If it were a contest, the award for Best Discovery would go to Murder Party. This is a fantastic little movie and if you're a fan of the stuff I've been writing about this month, you should seek it out. It's one of the best of Oktoberfest.

Film Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/A

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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