Executive Producer Danishka Esterhazy on The Importance of Women In ‘Slumber Party Massacre’

Here's our exclusive interview with Executive Producer Danishka Esterhazy. Where we talk about her inspirations directing the remake of The Slumber Party Massacre. 

A fun rework of a slasher classic for the SYFY network, Slumber Party Massacre is a movie that really takes on preconceived notions of horror, embracing a women-centric approach. We talk with executive producer Danishka Esterhazy about fun moments in the making of the movie, but also, how brilliant of a job The Slumber Party Massacre creatively flips the script on Slash movie expectations.

A director who advocates for more women in filmmaking, Danishka Esterhazy has served as executive producer of SYFY’s Surreal Estate and previously directed another SYFY horror movie in The Banana Splits movie. The director shared with us different inspirations and even talked about THAT sequence in the movie.

You can follow more coverage over at TheWorkprint podcast. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play. 

One of the best things about the Slumber Party Massacre was its focus on its women characters. Can you tell us how important this was in your filmmaking process?

“Telling women’s stories is important to me on every project. It’s why I became a filmmaker. To try and bring that voice to films. I’ve always been a fan of the genre — I love horror and science fiction and fantasy — but growing up as a young girl as a fan of those kinds of stories, I didn’t see a lot of women characters in those movies, or those books, and really wanted to see more women in those stories. Because you know, as a fan, I felt left out, and when I became a director, I felt that was something I can contribute. It’s something that’s always been first when I sign on for a project: who are the women characters, what are we saying about women, who are the women involved creatively? This project isn’t just a legacy project from the first horror franchise written and directed by women — But it also had a great woman screenwriter attached in Suzane Keilly, someone who’ve I’ve been a fan of and wanted to work with for a while. You put those things together and for me, it’s been a dream project.”

What were your challenges in doing this for television format and how much more of the film exists that you may have had to remove?

“It was probably easier than people think. This was my second horror movie for SYFY. I made The Banana Splits movie, which was also horror and rated-R and had a lot of gore and a lot of violence. For this film, I was aiming for primetime streaming, so we had to adjust it for the TV audience. There was even some pixelated nudity so we can reach a wider audience. But we didn’t cut any scenes and I didn’t have to change the vision. It’s a slightly safer film, but not very different from my original vision. It’s a bit of a challenge given that we had to remake a film known for its… excessive nudity. I couldn’t do the nudity of the original but was happy to do that on another project.”

Were there any particular influences from the original movies that inspired parts of the remake?

“So many, especially from the first film which I know really well. The characters that inspired our characters. My favorite character from the original movie is Courtney, the younger sister, who I just absolutely love. She has a very dry wit and she’s very much her own woman even though she’s the youngest character. I know when originally talking with Suzanne, our screenwriter, we thought that maybe this should be a story about the little sister’s point of view. Though we ultimately didn’t in the end, Alex definitely became a callback to my favorite character from the original film. And then there are the death sequences, directly inspired from kill sequences from the original, some are shot for shot, then there’s also some we created. Suzanne writes some amazing horror movies so she had creative ideas that we wanted to make original and put our stamp on. It was a total blend between lots of easter eggs and callbacks plus our own opportunity for creativity. Though nobody asks about the Goose lamp! Which is one of my favorite callbacks from the original. We couldn’t find one so had to make one from scratch! 

At any point, did you ever just look back and just laugh at the certain events that were happening?

All the time. We had so much fun. The script is hilarious. The laughter is hilarious. Sometimes we didn’t really expect it. There’s this one scene right in the movie, where Rob is chasing them in the fog, I can hear him ad-libbing in the woods: “I love you”. It was so ridiculous, hearing him screaming his love into the forest. We all laughed really hard. So yeah, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to make such a film and we all had a lot of fun doing it.

The twist of the middle of the movie, in flipping the script almost entirely of what’s expected of the slasher genre. Can you tell us what inspired you to make this decision?

Early on we knew that we wanted to play with preconceptions of this story. As much as we wanted it to be an interesting story with new characters, we also wanted to be commenting on expectations of the horror genre. One of our first ideas was, why don’t we start up the movie a little brightly lit, cheezy, and make it seem like we’re going to do the original with no changes. Sort of getting people into that expectation, but as the movie progresses, we’ll learn more about the chatters and see audiences second guess themselves. Maybe I don’t understand the situation? Maybe they have more depths and meta layers of the horror genre. In a way, there’s a lot of red herrings in the film, you kind of want people to lower their expectations! Have fun but like not really think anything new is going to happen so hopefully, the midpoint is when we surprise and shake things up and really get into the more layered part of the story.

100% And the Pillow fight particularly made me bawling out laughing. It was brilliant.

Thank you, we had a lot of fun shooting that and there were feathers everywhere!

Can we talk about the significance of the mother-daughter relationship? Why did you personally feel so entwined about that message and where did you channel it in from your personal life?

The relationship between the mothers and daughters in this story is very key and they say so much.  I don’t know if it’s because if I have a difficult relationship with my mother, but I also wanted to talk about intergenerational trauma and also internalized misogyny. The way we force gender rules on ourselves and our own children. So yeah, I really wanted to talk about those themes and thread them in there. The actors and I talked about those things constantly — I think they brought so many layers into their performances.  

And that was it. Special thanks to the SYFY network, Danishka Esterhazy, and Big Gold Belt Media. Slumber Party Massacre aired last night but you can likely rewatch it through Halloween month.

Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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