Jeremy Saulnier’s debut feature is a far cry from the controlled genre meditations of Blue Ruin and Green Room but it still feels apiece with those movies. There’s a useless protagonist in the lead and sudden outbursts of violence drive the film’s pulse. It’s a lot funnier than Saulnier’s current work and is first and foremost a farcical comedy. I kept thinking about Peter Jackson’s early movies, namely Braindead as it shares that film’s penchant for excessive gore mixed with broad laughs and, like Lionel in Jackson’s movie, the protagonist of Murder Party makes it to the end of the film covered head to toe in blood and guts.
There’s still a sense that this is mostly an amateur work though. The filmmaking and acting is adept and shows promise but you can’t help but feel like the voice and talent aren’t quite in sync yet. The film gets a bit muddled and tiresome around the mid-point before finding focus and frenzy again for the bloody last act and for a barely-eighty minute flick that’s a problem. At times the whole thing just feels a bit clumsy and unrefined. The passion and energy of a bunch of buddies pulling together to make something keeps the whole thing afloat though. It wears it’s indie-filmmaker passion proudly and all in all is an admirable and enjoyable first swing of the bat. Plus, given the current hot streak Saulnier and star Macon Blair are on, Murder Party is even more of a curiosity. Fans who want to know where the earliest seeds for Blue Ruin and Green Room were planted need look no further. It all leads back to this.