REVIEW: It's My Party and I'll DIE If I Want To (2015)
Short Synopsis: Join Sara and her friends as they celebrate her birthday in the reputedly haunted Burkitt manor. The evil within the house has awoken and has brought along some unwanted guests.
I’ll begin with a little background information about the film, all of which I learned from an exclusive introduction by director Tony Wash, which can be found on the Vultra release of this little gem. Mr Wash (writer, director) and a number of other individuals that became involved in It’s My Party… were studying practical effects on Tom Savini’s special make-up program at the time of the film’s production. It appears that the idea for it first came along after Wash and a few of his fellow students became frustrated by simply using photography to track their progress which he considered “kind of pointless.” On top of that, an obvious sense of enthusiasm and drive resulted in them wishing to test their abilities in a situation where the effects that they’d been learning to create could be recorded and used in a film.
In The words of Wash, this was ultimately the “medium that they were working towards being a part of.” The motivation to do this led to Wash writing a script for ‘It’s My Party And I’ll Die If I Want To,‘ whilst allowing people involved to develop their own characters. Giving the actors that freedom really paid off, and definitely helped to no end in creating a believability to the films characters, something not frequently seen in the horror genre.
The plan was to create something “in the vein of a 1980’s horror film,” similar to the likes of classics such as Night Of Demons, Creepshow and The Evil Dead. They’ve done well by any given standard, and more than succeeded in doing justice to the golden era of horror. It’s My Party totally blew me away while watching, and left me feeling truly fulfilled for quite some time after. It’s an incredibly well-balanced throwback to 70’s and 80’s horror films, with masses of charm and its heart set in exactly the right place.
Aside from a few minor annoyances, such as the use of cell phones, a modern radio/CD player, and the presence of newer vehicles which detracts from the classic 80’s vibe slightly, Party could easily pass for a genuine twenty- to thirty-year-old film. This can, and should be, largely attributed to the texture and aesthetics of the film. The decor in the Burkitt manor appears dated, and there’s a lovely, grainy look throughout the film; Something that I’ve missed seeing in modern horror films as they often suffer from over-editing, and become far too polished. This tends to result in a degradation of authenticity and utter lack of grittiness.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience this modern classic on a copy of the Vultra Video VHS release. So I’m sure that must’ve also heightened the quality of my viewing experience, and enhanced how it felt to watch. It’s plain to see that this film belongs on analog (media), and although I’m sure it’d still be amazing to watch on DVD, the VHS made it that bit more special. I found myself comparing it to Creepshow at times, which further supports the claim that this film genuinely feels like it was cultivated in the 80’s. The reason for this is largely due to the use of a comic book theme for switching between scenes. Which, again, is a typically 80s feature which fit into the film well.
Obviously the fact that Savini is closely associated with both films must’ve also had its bearing. Either he taught these guys how to do practical effects incredibly well, or they’re naturally very talented. I can honestly say that the effects in this film, with only a small number of exceptions, are absolutely amazing. Truly some of the best that I can recall seeing in indie or mainstream horror. Highlights include the crushing of a human head using a meat mallet, flesh peeling from a demon’s head and body and revealing gruesome detail including some skull, and consistently impressive, bloody, slashings. All the while proving very entertaining and without ever getting boring.
It’s common knowledge that low-budget independent horror tends to go hand-in-hand with some pretty mediocre acting and somewhat two-dimensional characters, but that’s generally to be expected when making films with a very limited budget. It’s my belief that these guys didn’t fit that stereotype at all. The acting was generally very impressive considering the nature of the film, and that this was their first experience filmmaking. The style of acting also fit well into the 80s vibe, and a special appearance from Tom Savini came as a total surprise that was very entertaining to see in an indie film like this. A really nice touch.
I may be totally wrong in my perception, but there appeared to be a great deal of control over this production, where all aspects were thought out and nothing seemed to feel out-of-place. Camera work was consistently impressive, and at times framed beautifully. The way in which the film had been edited had me in awe. The soundtrack was always jumping out at me as a vital asset to the film, with pieces of music selected that fit the mood really well. Over time, I’ve come to learn that the soundtracks of indie films can often suffer due to a diversity of music being unavailable. But fortunately, the soundtrack here was really great. Loud, thumping sound effects and scores of lightning were featured throughout the film, and although these effects are pretty unoriginal and a total cliché in haunted house flicks, they weren’t intolerable.
There is some pretty violent stuff in Party, which would be expected considering it was largely a film made to experiment FX, but isn’t included purely as a crutch to support the film. The skilled scriptwriting, great sense of direction, likeable characters, and all-round very good acting makes this a great quality film regardless of the inclusion of violence. A fair bit of blood, numerous severed limbs, and gore comparable to Braindead (aka Dead Alive) serves as a nice plus, though. The ending is also a great treat, and had me reminiscing about Bava’s Demons. Can’t recommend this film enough. To fans of indie horror and to those who prefer the classics, it’s bound to be very well received.