My notes on Party Crasher (aka Haunting on Fraternity Row) This found footage horror film feels like a mash-up of Project X and Long Time Dead – it’s diverting enough, even in the 45 minutes devoted to standard frat party hijinx before the CGI soot demon gets loose, but the strictures of the format slightly hamper the character and plot developments that ought to make the finale more upsetting. There’s a reasonably clever set-up, in that the frat throwing its big luau has forced pledges to film everything to chronicle the epic binge – though, as is often the case, the strict rules of FF get blurred towards the end, a few moments quite effectively have characters who seem alone become aware of the guy filming their embarrassing or awkward behaviour.
Early on, a dropped barrel of beer crashes through a fake wall in the cellar and the guys discover a hidden room equipped with many, many lights (‘they were trying to make a room with no shadows’) and a chalice which gets knocked over to let out a demon that has been trapped there since a massacre in the house in the 1970s (a few strips of duct tape would really have helped here). Paranoid pothead Dougie (Ashton Moio) gets distracted from the good times in researching the old case – which, unbelievably, isn’t well known – while other sub-plots bubble on … nice guy Jason (Jacob Artist) shyly gets together with longtime crush Claire (Shanley Caswell), in what ought to be rote but is played and written rather well … ripped asshole Tanner (Jayson Blair) neglects his obvious soulmate Maggie (Molly Tarlov, doing great with a nothing role) in pursuit of a threesome which turns out very poorly thanks to demon intervention, while coping with an unexpected visit from his younger, stronger, even-more-of-a-douche brother (Chester Rushing), who gets talked into a bunny costume and becomes the first casualty of the eye-exploding djinn … and frat prezz Grant (Cameron Moulène) has issues with his awful princess girlfriend Liza (Claudia Lee), whose bigshot father he needs to give him a hedge fund job.
It’s actually an achievement that director Brant Sersen (Sanitorium), who co-wrote with Jeff Cahn, made me care about all these great-looking folks, though that means that the last act – littered with major casualties – feels a little rushed, as a lot of threads are tied off in the chaos. Yes, it’s full of obnoxious attitudes and the camera wielded by pledge Wiggles (Breon Pugh) ogles a lot of flesh – but the guys strut in Hawaiian outfits as if auditioning for a David DeCoteau movie just as much as the girls jiggle in bikinis (in Roger Corman terms, it does feature female breast nudity but nothing else), and the frat bro perviness is at least given a sorority equivalent as Maggie talks about guys the way they talk about girls (a footnote, the female equivalent of being cock-blocked is ‘beaver-dammed’). Plot stuff – including Claire’s one-time near-death experience, the workings of the demon summoning and caging, and the monster’s shadow MO, the hot ‘cleaning lady’ (Stephanie Honoré) who knows more than she lets on at first – is set out in byte-sized dialogue snatches. When the horrors come, most of the party goers have to flee the house, but we do get a lot of anonymous corpses as well as principles.
Aside from one creepy coital moment, involving a flexible temptress (Melissa Saint-Amand) whose eyeless head lolls out of view of the guy she’s straddling, it’s standard supernatural winds buffetting folks to death, though the eye-exploding bit (CGI) is mildly distinctive and there’s a decent payoff to the running joke about the pledge (Hawn Tran) who can’t remember the condition of his hazing that he can only turn left as he runs right and dies for it.