The newest Shudder Original Party Hard, Die Young could be best described as “I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Sorority Row“. It tries a bit too hard to live up to the slasher genre, instead of being just its own thing, which makes everything look too familiar and predictable one too many times. The only difference is, while being outside at a beautiful location, these kids are still on their phones. Finish ’em.
Party Hard, Die Young is an Austrian teen slasher drama about a group of careless classmates who go on a trip to celebrate their recent graduation at Croatia’s X-Jam, a music festival on one of the islands. Lots of drinking and partying is on the agenda, but after one of Julia’s friends goes missing after a fight on the dance floor, paranoia and fear take over from good old Molly and Lucy. As soon as she starts to receive cryptic photos from her missing friends’ phones, she realises the “greatest party of their lives” is nothing more than a nightmare they can’t escape from.
The high-school-drama isn’t anything new, but the setting is original as it takes place at a music festival. Bright flashing lights and sauna parties take the killings to newly explored environments in the genre, but the way some meet their destiny isn’t that refreshing. A lot of the slasher moments pass by within a minute, which doesn’t really help keeping up the level of suspense. And for fellow horror fans like me, the way our killer stomps around and finishes the students seems highly influenced by late ’90/’00s slasher- and torture porn-franchises Scream and Saw respectively. The gore is there, but without any suspense, it’s nothing more than a puddle of blood.
Elisabeth Wabitsch, who plays Julia, is the star of the film and well cast. She brings a certain innocent, yet scream queen kind of flair to the screen that none of the other supporting characters have. When thinking of the rest of the cast, it’s very textbook. Lots of cliches, no one really makes an effort to sell the part or look scared being chased by a masked killer.
The production design and imagery didn’t feel like a European film at all. The vibrant colours of the stage lights all over the island against the darkness (since most of the more interesting scenes in the film take place at night) bring a unique style to this movie, that I haven’t seen before. Fun fact and definitely noteworthy: director Dominik Hartl shot footage at X-Jam to mix it into the film’s aesthetic to have it feel as if these killings were really happening. As far as the pacing of the film goes, there is a sense of slowing down in the second half where it should actually keep your attention and go full speed ahead to the final act. This never happens and makes the whole thing implode into a meaningless pit of despair.
Party Hard, Die Young is nothing more than a teen-scream slasher film, and that’s okay. Austrian cinema meets Hollywood. Note to the director: stay true to your style, because you have a unique eye on European cinema. Stay seated while the credits roll, there’s a little extra wink to a certain death, at the start of the end credits.
Party Hard, Die Young is now available to stream on Shudder.
Review by Seth Eelen