The House On Sorority Row (1983)

DVD Cover (Liberation Entertainment)
Genres: Horror, Slasher Film
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Mark Rosman Mark Rosman
Kate McNeil Kate McNeil
Eileen Davidson Eileen Davidson
Janis Ward Janis Ward
Robin Meloy Robin Meloy
Harley Jane Kozak Harley Jane Kozak
Movie Connections:
The House On Sorority Row
> The House On Sorority Row (1983)
> Sorority Row (2009)

6.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: January 06, 2010
For the most part, I hate remakes. I hate the idea of a studio picking up the rights to a classic film or franchise and completely shitting on it in their search for a quick buck and that all-important teen audience. Now, with that said, I'm not completely against the idea of remakes. Some of them have actually been pretty good, and there are plenty of movies out there that could stand a fresh coat of paint and a few tweaks. Prom Night was the perfect example of this as it was a mediocre movie with decent name value and an intriguing plot. Throw a few dollars at the remake, hand it off to a hungry young director, and you've got a winner... but unfortunately, that's not how it worked out. I know I'm a little late to this party, but I really hope that the deserved remake of House on Sorority Row fared a little better.

The story starts out much like any other eighties horror flick: a group of young ladies want to have a party. Granted, they're sorority girls and they're just about to enter the real world, but a party is a party, and nobody partied like those lovable scamps of the eighties. There's just one problem standing in their way: they don't have the money to hold the party at a decent venue, and their head mother - a bitter old woman named Mrs. Dorothy Slater (played by Lois Kelso Hunt and dubbed over by Barbara Harris) - will not let them hold it in their sorority house. Devastated, the girls - Katherine (Kate McNeil), Vicki (Eileen Davidson), Jeanie (Robin Meloy), Diane (Harley Jane Kozak), Liz (Janis Ward), Morgan (Jodi Draigie), and Stevie (Ellen Dorsher) - decide to play a prank on poor Mrs. Slater. Unfortunately, this "harmless" prank ends up with Slater dead and floating in the grungy sorority house pool.

These lovely little lasses immediately phone up the local police, who promptly turn up, investigate the scene, rule it an accident, and they all have a spot of tea before the credits roll. Wait... this is a fucking eighties horror flick, and there's a goddamned party to be had. The girls decide to hide the body and carry on with their extravagant party, and this is where the story really kicks off. It seems that there is a killer loose on the premises, and it also seems as though said killer is targeting the ladies responsible for that little mishap by the pool. Who could it be, and who will survive?

I'd be lying if I said that House on Sorority Row was a horrible movie, but by the same token, I'd be fibbing if I said that it was a classic in the genre. As a huge fan of cheesy eighties slashers, it doesn't take much to impress me: throw in some scantily-clad women, a shower scene or two, a killer with a laughable story, and let the blood and high ratings flow. This particular film tries to be a little smarter than the usual crop of slasher sleaze, but it only succeeds in being more of the same... more of the same, that is, minus the things that made those films so enjoyable to begin with.

Let me elaborate. The storyline here is perfectly acceptable: it's not exactly the Citizen Kane of slashers, but it is also better than a decent chunk of the other movies in the genre. There's an accident, people start dying, there are red herrings aplenty, and yes, there's even a sex scene or two before we reach the "shocking" conclusion. Again, this isn't high art, but it's far from the worst that I've seen. A problem arises when we discover that the huge chunk of running time between "accident" and "conclusion" is just too dull to thrill the audience and at the same time too timid to be enjoyable in a trashy fun kind of way.

You see, the story plays out in the same way as many others before and after it: somebody dies, the survivors hunt for clues and try to avoid being the next addition to the body count, somebody else dies, repeat as needed. This is no different from many other films that I enjoy, but unless this is your first dip into the horror genre, you're not going to find a refreshing take on the subject here. Unfortunately, the gore is almost completely absent, and I don't mean that the body count is low or it's done mostly off-screen: a woman will have her neck ripped open, and not a drop of blood will emerge. Another person will be stabbed through the eye, and you guessed it, no blood to be seen. I'm not saying that a horror film has to be gory to be effective, but you can't half-ass the kills like that.

So, there's an adequate storyline here - not great, not horrible, but average enough. The effects man was on vacation for most of the film, with the exception of a few scenes (likely the scenes that the distributor asked them to insert in post production). The two saving graces of the film came in the form of the ending and the acting. The ending was actually handled rather well, and there's one particular moment during the final showdown that was downright excellent. I can't say much about it without spoiling it for new viewers, but you'll likely know what I mean when you see it. As for the acting, I enjoyed these ladies in their respective roles. None of them were robbed of any awards for breathtaking performances, but to say that they were merely average would be an understatement. They made me get more involved in the storyline than I would have otherwise, and that went a long way in keeping me interested.

Still, House on Sorority Row is a film that should only be viewed by hardcore slasher fans. It's not an underlooked classic by any means, but you may enjoy this one to a certain extent if you just can't get enough of these movies. If you're not one of the aforementioned fans, you'd be well-advised to steer clear and find something that is either a little more thrilling or something that is a little gorier depending on which of those traits you prefer from a quality slasher flick. 5/10.
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