Netflix UK film review: Murder Party
Sheer bloody mayhem7
Ivan Radford | On 14, Jan 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Stacy Rock, Skei Saulnier, Paul Goldblatt, William Lacey, Sandy Barnett, Bill Tangradi
Watch Murder Party online in the UK: Netflix UK
Halloween parties. You either love them or you hate them. But Macon, who has no plans of his own one 31st October, finds an invitation in the street and decides to attend. Murder Party, reads the piece of paper, which seems harmless enough. And so he bakes some pumpkin bread, leaves the cat (Sir Lancelot) in the living room, and heads over to the warehouse nearby. The bad news? This Murder Party is exactly that: a Murder Party. With actual murder.
It’s a charming simple idea for a horror movie, even more so when you realise that it’s the directorial debut of Jeremy Saulnier. Currently found helming the opening episodes of True Detective Season 3, the filmmaker has since given us the brutal chills of Green Room, and this micro-budget indie serves as a fun, fascinating glimpse of the starting point for both. Green Room announced the director as the master of an intense brand of horror, and while Murder Party is notably lighter in tone, it’s no less gory – take away this guy’s money and he still has an inventively messy eye for violence that leaves an impression.
The red stuff, not entirely unlike Green Room, takes its sweet time in arriving, and Saulnier has fun making us wait for Bad Things to happen. That’s primarily for comic effect, as Macon finds himself welcomed to the party not be a group of intimidating figures but by a bunch of preening artistes. They’re gathered to impress Alexander, a patron who has promised a substantial sum of grant money to the student who can impress him the most. Whether he has it or not (probably not) is largely irrelevant – it’s all the excuse these kids need to Make Art in the most transgressive, pretentious way possible.
It’s a daft conceit to fuel a spate of killing, but that absurdity only makes their pompous attitudes all the more amusingly daft. And yet Saulnier still takes the time to tease out their individual eccentricities and neuroses – something that he achieves through a knowing, nifty set piece involving a game of truth and date with some sodium pentothal. The fact that all of this is happening while Macon is sporting a terrible cardboard knight’s outfit (all the others are wearing knowing pop culture referencing costumes, as if to announce their vanity to the room) only makes it all the more entertaining.
And then, well, things become entertaining in a highly different, as one act leads to another, creating a snowball of homicidal accidents and intentions. It’s a shift in atmosphee that Saulnier manages with timing and control – the same command of mood that made him such a natural True Detective director. The cast, led by Macon Blair (who has gone on to collaborate with Saulnier and also direct his own impressive thriller, I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore), sink their teeth into the escalating chaos with the energy of friends excited to be making a movie together – and that enthusiasm carries us all the way through the demented, blood-splashing finale. The result is a surprising, silly outburst of creativity and genre skill, one that still stands up over a decade later.
Murder Party is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.