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January 30, 2011

The House on Sorority Row

(1983, Dir. by Mark Rosman.)

Aside from the big franchises, I never spent a lot of my younger years as a horror fan meddling with the slasher subgenre.  So, some movies that folks who love that stuff love - like, for example, 1983's The House on Sorority Row - have evaded me for most of my life.  I've been doing my best to catch up (I've even seen the film's pseudo-remake, 2009's awful-yet-captivatingly-watchable Sorority Row), and now that I've seen this, I can see why it has a reputation in what I've often found to be horror's silliest group of films.

Though it might be the most overused slasher tactic this side of "holiday/large social event that coincides with a tragedy", The House on Sorority Row's plot takes off when a prank goes wrong.  The result appears to be the death of the sorority's overbearing house mother, though a opening flashback to something like fifteen years earlier (there's that regurgitated slasher mindset again!) lets us know that there's more to said house mother than meets the eye.  Blah blah blah, then people start dying.

The plot of The House on Sorority Row takes a few drastic turns - there's something about an experimental drug and a potentially dead child and some other stuff - and I had a bit of trouble keeping up while in my vegetative "Oh, it's a slasher film, I don't need to engage brain functions" state.  The film takes some weird psycholgical turns in the final act - there's a fantastically cool sequence that I almost thought would lead to a dance number as our potential survivor girl faces the final challenge.  Bright colors saturate the darkness of the final act, and the lighting overcomes some of the hurdles you'd expect from a near thirty year old cheapie slasher.

The characters are your standard group of victims.  One is smarter and braver than the others, one is witchier (with a b) than the others, several are meek, some are skanky, one even has a perm.  They do normal horror victim things, like putting themselves in spots where they can be killed.  In other words, they're stupid young people who are played by aspiring not-as-young actresses who range in talent from middling to atrocious.  A couple members of the cast went on to good careers in daytime soap operas, which isn't surprising considering their tone here.  The film has a definite aura of overdramaticness.

And yet, it's all kind of charming because it's a slasher film that doesn't look like a boring slasher film.  A scene in which perm girl goes into the basement alone is framed wonderfully, and the final 15 minutes are as good as most slashers from the time period that I can think of.  Plus, that psychotic tripping out scene is something I could watch on repeat.  Is the House on Sorority Row a good piece of cinema? Of course not.  But I had fun with it, and can see myself popping it in again as late night entertainment in the future.  You might enjoy the same.


William Malmborg said...

Nice review. This movie evaded me for many years as well -- though knowledge of its title did not -- and once I finally saw it I really enjoyed it.

The Mike said...

Thanks, sir! I had very low expectations for this one (I've heard some who even prefer the remake, which I was not impressed with), but am glad I sought it out!