Monday, September 1, 2008

Review: It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Adrienne Fischer, Oliver Lucach, Danielle Nortum, Darcy Wood
Written & Directed By: Tony Wash
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Tony Wash, creator of It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To could have took the traditional and seemingly logical approach by purely being a film. Instead, it picks up on the fact that technology is changing. There is more of a market for interactive media. Although watching a film can be thought provoking, emotion, and has the ability to have such an effect on the viewer. A lot of films aren’t able to achieve this from weaknesses in one area or another whether it be the story, characters, dialogue, or just not completely the execution. Not only does It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I want to do well in all of these areas but it dares to use a merging form that is most likely reflective upon what the future of movies may be like soon through a “choose your own adventure game”. The story is set up and you are shown the movie. Then you are able to make a choice between actions the characters take and watch your choice in action in a pivotal moment that could very well lead to someone’s death.

Sara (Fischer) is disappointed that none of her friends have seemed to remember her birthday. Being her 18th birthday she imagined it being a bit more special. After sitting at home for most of the evening, her mom finally gives her an invitation to her own party. It turns out that her friends haven’t forgot about it at all, but are planning quite a night for her. Given Sara’s love for horror movies and her birthday being on Halloween, they decide the perfect party would be at a haunted house. Luckily, her friend, Travis (Lucach) has access to a house that is on the market and the owner’s will be out of town all weekend. So they set up the house with booby traps, gore, and plenty of scares for a creepy night.

To set the mood he even tells the story of the people who owned this house before. One day in the ‘30s a man named Jacob Burkitt painted the windows and locked his wife and all of his kids inside. The only time any of them ever left was once a week when the oldest son was sent to go get groceries. The townspeople got used to their way of life soon enough. However, soon the son wasn’t at the store buying groceries. It took a month before the sheriff checked on the house. When he did, he found the entire family dead. Jacob attacked his wife, as he sawed her to pieces. When his daughter approached him, watching him in this vicious state, he left his wife and brutally beat his daughter with a meat cleaver. One by one he killed every one in his family, including himself. He even took the time to separate and sort the body parts and made piles of them. All of the heads were taken and placed on dinner plates on the table while Jacob’s was at the head of the table, dead surrounded by the family he had just killed.

Sara’s friends don’t appreciate this story very much and get mad at some of the corpses that correlate with the story, even though Travis really didn’t put them there. Travis gets bruised by a paranormal nail and becomes injured. As green puss starts squirting out of his arm he begins to turn in to a demon and soon goes after his friends. When some of them end up dead, most of the girls don’t want to believe this. When Sara finally manages to get inside to her party, her and her friend realize that what is happening is no Halloween prank. Some of their friends have died and if they don’t get out of their immediately than they will be next. Not to mention it is only a matter of time before lots of people will be looking for a party and will only find a massacre.

Adrienne Fischer does an excellent job as the lead, Sara. I was pleasantly surprised since this is really her first role. She is able to give us someone extremely realistic and likeable, which can be very rare in movies period let alone a lot of horror films actresses aren’t always given that much to work with since they are often there for sex appeal and in the end to die. From the beginning we get to know Sara, so we actually care about her. I really appreciated that Tony Wash made her character in particular, along with her friend that she is walking home from school with in the beginning, actually real and smart. Sure, Sara wants to have a good time, but we are shown that she has more to her than that. She talks about school, scholarships, college, and the future with her friend. This does a couple things. First of all, it adds some layers to her character. We see that she has a good head on her shoulders, showing that she deserves to have a good time without the threat of death lingering over her. Secondly, it tells us that she has worked hard and has a real future in front of her, making her possible death all the more terrifying and unfortunate.

Oliver Lucach did pretty well as Travis who was a pretty big horror fan himself. You can tell he had a lot of fun with the role and a lot of his inner fan came out in his performance. Lucach remained creepy and mischievous, thrilled to be setting the mood of the haunted house Halloween party, and was dragged in to truly committing when Travis was taken by the spirits of the house. Some of the girls including Danielle Nortum and Darcy Wood, came off as more ditzy and less well rounded and in comparison to Sara. The better scenes were the ones when they were being attacked as they played the part of the damsels in distress better than when they were just talking and getting mad at Travis. Luckily, these were minor characters and some of the better performances made up for this. Also, there was a fun cameo by Tom Savini as the electrician of the house that unleashed the evil spirits.

The look and style to It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To is impressive for a film with such a low budget. The credits roll with a comic book style, introducing everyone involved with the film and in between the comic strips we are shown parts of the story, automatically giving us some back story and setting us up for the film in an artistic way. This comic style continues between scenes, bringing us to the next shot. Through out a lot of moments in the film, particularly in the transitions between the shots, we are given a great soundtrack. It is very energetic, playing wonderfully with the comic style and overall fun of the entire film. Even aside from these shots, there are some bright and neon flashes particularly in green. This sparks some of the transformations and unleashing evil that is coming out.

There are a lot of mentions of popular horror films. Sara is given a life size cardboard Jason Voorhees saying ‘Happy Birthday Sara‘. Her mother mentions her preference for Freddy Krueger. Sara’s room is filled with horror movies and posters including The Shining. Sara’s friends are planning to set up a prank in reference to the blood scene at the end of Carrie, mentioning that it is her favorite film. Sara dresses up like Elvira for the party. It is clear that both her and Travis have horror pumping through their blood and their love for it never dies. This adds to the fun and also makes us able to relate to them more. Also, it added smarts to it especially since Sara has seen so many horror movies and knew all of the clichés and things that the victims always did wrong and how the villains were thinking.

It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To’s story reminded me a lot of Stupid Teenagers Must Die. They both take place having a party in an old haunted house where a man murdered his whole family and then himself. In both cases the created images of Halloween tricks and the real evil spirits that are bringing evil to the teens in the house get blurred. However, It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To took this simple story and made a far better film around it. This is because it actually gives us some good main characters and actors who are equipped to play them. Not to mention that Stupid Teenagers must Die tried to pose as an intelligent film making fun of clichés, but in the process became even more stupid and clichéd than the films it was attempting to critique.

Wash was very smart about the script and overall look and feel for It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To. He gave us a good back story, although it was simple. It could have been more horrific if the story would come back to it, elaborated on it, and revealed more about Jacob who brutally killed his family. What made him do this could have brought out some powerful themes. Tony Wash took a different approach than this and that is fine since it is not a suspense or mystery. It is clear that more than anything Wash just wanted to have fun with the movie. The back story in the movie did all that it needed to do: it gave a reason for ghosts to be haunting the house so a safe horror atmosphere could turn to real horrors. It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To has some great gore and death scenes especially for the budget it has to work with. From the very beginning of the movie we are shown brutal death scenes. There is a ton of blood and we are shown detached hands held by the killer, eye balls stringed out of the sockets, saws, knives, nails, and people dragged to their death. Many of the deaths are shown slowly stabbing the victims doubled with the music, made it seem drawn out and therefore made us feel more of the pain inducement that the character is experiencing. At another point we are shown someone’s skin completely burning and deteriorating as they scream in pain.

In It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To we are given a movie that we can care for and be engaged in especially by making us part of it particularly through the game feature that enhances the fun. It is obvious this film was made for the horror fans and by horror fans. It is not a film to think of too seriously or put too much thought in to it. It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To looks better than a lot of high budgeted films, yet it remains to be simple and just has fun with itself, giving us characters we care about who are realistic, some very gruesome gore, and involves us in this horror adventure film.

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