Director: Dominik Hartl
Starring: Elisabeth Wabitsch, Antonia Moretti, Marlon Boess, Markus Freistätter, Michael Glantschnig
Run Time: 92mins
Austria is not renowned for its horror films and what horror movie it is known for tend to be of more artsy bent such as “Funny Games” and “Goodnight, Mummy.” Not a tag you could put “Party Hard, Die Young” though as it falls squarely into familiar slasher territory.
However, while many aspects of the plot and characters will be familiar (perhaps overly-familiar) to slasher fans from the group irritating horny teens that are bumped off one by one to the revenge plot, there are nifty elements which refresh the old format.
The set-up is certainly simple enough as we meet a class of Austrian school-leavers who gone to X-Jam in Croatia for a week of partying, drinking and, they hope, sexual activity. The group is for the most part thinly sketched as you get the jock type, the joker, the queen bee, etc. The exceptions are the characters of Julia (Elisabeth Wabitsch), and Jessica (Antonia Moretti) who are individually better drawn plus their relationship as best friends is quickly established. Wabistch performance, in particular, standouts as you genuinely care about her characters fate in a way you so rarely do in this sub-genre.
Hartl also makes each kill in the movie feel consequential in a way that feels refreshing, and while the reveal behind what is motivating the murders is not new, there is a bit more emotional weight behind it than you may expect from the way things kick off. There is also a commendable attempted commentary on toxic masculinity which kind of works even if it is somewhat negated by the many leering shots of scantily clad young women in the opening half.
The fact the film shot on location at X-Jam while it was ongoing also gives proceedings a unique twist. Plus the location’s party-mad vibe lends a rare air of plausibility to the frequently used device of authority figures refusing to believe, until near the end, there is a killer on the loose despite mounting evidence.
The main innovation here, though is Hartl’s decent use of modern technology with shots being shown as YouTube clips or Instavideos or Snapchat’s popping up on the screen. All of which feels entirely natural in a film about young people but are devices still under-utilised in the horror genre as only a handful of horror flicks have exploited modern technology without it seeming clunky e.g., “Cam,” “Unfriended.”
Overall: An effective little slasher that punches above your standard slasher fare due to its fun use of technology, unique location, slick direction, and a sterling central performance from Wabistsch.
Party Hard, Die Young is now available on Shudder UK here