Multiple female directors found a home at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures in the 1970s and early ‘80s, with Stephanie Rothman and Barbara Peeters delivering popular hits on the drive-in circuit. Corman’s foray into the popular slasher subgenre led to this debut feature for award-winning AFI grad Amy Holden Jones, who had been an assistant for Martin Scorsese and here got to shoot a script (originally entitled Don’t Open the Door) by none other than feminist writer Rita Mae Brown of Rubyfruit Jungle fame. Critics have spent decades parsing out the feminist merits (or lack thereof) in this film, which skewers many of the slasher conventions and delivers a table-turning finale that sets it apart from the usual fare. Due to budgetary limitations, the film was a family affair with Jones’ husband, Michael Chapman, handling some of the cinematography duties and her brother, Ralph, delivering the infectious Casio synthesizer score which actually earned a vinyl release. The entire film was shot around Corman’s “lumber yard” headquarters in Venice, California. The film’s success led to a pair of extremely idiosyncratic sequels and inspired another Corman slasher series, Sorority House Massacre, while Jones went on to direct the acclaimed Love Letters (1983), write such Hollywood films as Beethoven (1992) and Indecent Proposal (1993) and create the TV series The Resident.
by Nathaniel Thompson