For the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, Rich Tarbell and Brian Wimer have created a series of charming and nostalgic narrative photographs. The series, “Slumber Party Massacre,” is essentially a remake of the 1982 film of the same name. Tarbell and Wimer have obviously altered the story and how we view it by shooting photographs rather than film. This approach offers a unique vision of the slasher movies and their formulaic pivotal moments. It allows viewers to take some time to relish every detail, from the subtle foreshadowing, to the stunning climax, and all the gore and screaming that transpires in between.
The photographs are highly detailed glossy metal prints which are hung in a small floating gallery under the Market Street Garage. The images themselves are very striking and the printing method gives them a refurbished vintage feel. As you enter the gallery space, the narrative unfolds from left to right. It is also interesting to note how the photographs are dated by the 1980′s period objects which populate them. In the series you will find a wired landline telephone, an Ouija board, and a small television with a twist knob for the channels.
The way the images are constructed is varied and versatile. Some photographs are composed like still frames of film. An example of this is the image shot from the killer’s perspective. In it we see one gloved hand holding a trowel and a bloody heart held in the other. This is a technique often used in horror films to give a strong sense of point of view, as well as to preserve the mystery of the killer’s identity. Alternately, some frames are composed more like traditional photographs. For example, the first image in the series contains a lot of information that is conveyed through the composition. This image takes time to examine, and would function very differently with moving parts. However, all the images function to further the narrative by the most effective means available, drawing from the crude and campy implementations of the film genre itself.
The screenplay for the original 1982 film Slumber Party Massacre, written by the American feminist author Rita Mae Brown, was intended to be a parody of the genre. The producers shot the film as a straight genre piece instead. Nonetheless, the film retained elements of comedy and philosophy which were uncommon to its era. Although the photographs are difficult to analyze as one would a film, it seems as though Tarbell and Wimer have picked up on these subtle notes and carried them over to their reworked script. The photographs depict a predominantly female cast who live up to the standard of Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street-not merely surviving by accident or relying upon external forces for salvation. Instead, the photographs depict a female instigated and female resolved murderous rampage, with many male and female casualties along the way. Tarbell and Wimer have also made the interesting decision (spoiler alert) to make the killer one of the slumber party participants. This is not a unique strategy in slasher films, but an interesting one considering the feminist undertones.
Despite possessing such a concrete narrative, a few of the photographs still manage to stand out as beautiful works independent of the series. In particular the first and last images are strikingly well composed, and distort time like a skilled painting.
In addition, we would be amiss not to mention the forethought taken in planning the opening reception for the show as well. Culinary themes run throughout the photos and it really put a smile on our faces to see the props from the photo-shoot offered up as refreshments. After all, who doesn’t want to eat pizza and popcorn and candy while enjoying a bunch of campy-fun, horror-filled photographs brimming with pizza and popcorn and candy? (We really giggled at the electric carving knife placed with a certain nonchalance among the pizza boxes!)
As a whole, the series is very nostalgic, lighthearted, and visually enjoyable. It is well worth a visit.
“Slumber Party Massacre” by Rich Tarbell and Brian Wimer is on display as an official Community Exhibit of the internationally renowned LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. The show will be displayed alongside the “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll, Volume 2″ exhibit by Rich Tarbell. Both exhibits can be viewed from June 12-21 at Pop-Up Galleries 106 & 110 on the first floor of the Market Street Parking Garage.
~Aaron Miller and Rose Guterbock