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The House on Sorority Row (1983)

  Tags: 80's, 80's Slashers, killler, Mark Rosman, slasher, sorority, sorority row

Your rating: None Average: 6.2 (5 votes)
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Mark Rosman
91 minutes
Kathryn McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Janis Zido, Robin Meloy, Harley Kozak, Jodi Draigie, Ellen Dorsher

If there’s one argument that can be made in favor of the recent, never ending excretion of inferior Hollywood remakes, it’s that at least it brings renewed interest to the original lost gems of yesteryear.  Despite technically being a financial a success, The House on Sorority Row was released at the height of the slasher craze in 1983 to minimal excitement and soon became just another brick in the wall of mindless garbage.  But then something happened once it hit video shelves.  It became apparent that, unlike many of the entertainingly cheesy carbon copy dead teenagers, this one actually had some merit behind it.

Low and behold, with the impending DVD release of the remake merely a month away, here comes a brand spankin’ new special edition of the original classic.  Don’t let the sleazy artwork of the scantily clad co-ed with a face that says “I just fell of the I-want-to-suck-your-dick-tree and hit every branch on the way down” fool you.  One might think this is nothing more than another installment of the grodey Sorority House Massacre series.  But Writer/Director Mark Rosman has infused his little brain child here with enough visually competent moments to overcome the sometimes problematic script.

The girls of Theta Pi are planning to throw a graduation dance in their Sorority House at the end of the semester.  Unfortunately for them, their house mother, Mrs. Slater, has strict rules of when they’re to vacate the premises for the summer.  This ain’t any ol’ house mother however.  Bitch wields a cane and slashes into waterbeds when scheming floozies fornicate with total chester looking townies underneath her roof.  Said scheming floozie, aka Vicki, convinces her sisters to play a prank on the house mother that, in true slasher nature, goes horribly wrong.  With Mrs. Slater dead in the water, literally, the girls go through with their party, only to be dispatched one by one.

The story itself is obviously nothing different than any other given slasher film from the era, but what sets this apart is the execution of the material.  Make no mistakes, however.  Sorority Row has more in common with the likes of Black Christmas than the blood soaked Friday the 13th rip offs.  It takes plenty of time to set the story up and before the suspenseful, near bloodless deaths take center stage.  Rosman fills the screen with rich, saturated colors, creating an unexpected look.  He knows how to create some really stylish shots and I’m glad to see that he’s still getting work today, but I would love to see him return to the genre.

Aside from the palette, the other stand out element is the score.  Richard Band composed some epic, sweeping music that may feel out of place, but somehow works as a whole in setting the film apart.  While the killer is in shadows for the majority of the film, during the finale he wears one helluva creepy clown costume.  Now I’m the kind of kid that slept with a chucky doll while growing up, but nothing petrifies me more than fucking clowns….damn you clowns!

The acting is nothing to write home about (since when the hell do any of us watch 80s slashers expecting anything else), but it is above average for the subgenre.  Eileen Davidson steals the movie as Vicki, much like Leah Pipes did playing the similar role in the remake. Lois Kelso Hunt plays the part of the house mother and, while her voice was apparently dubbed over for not being sinister enough, she has quite the intimidating presence.  I almost wish there were more scenes of her tormenting the girls.  The directing is strong enough to create a compelling, successful ending, but the abrupt final shot is far too unsatisfying.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the new DVD for a look at the original, more conclusive ending.

The House on Sorority Row is a stylish, well crafted slasher from the early 80s heyday that’s able to rise above its clichéd material.  While it’s by no means overtly bloody or violent, it’s shooting style and impressive score are able to set it apart from the flood of similar films of the time.

Posted on January 27, 2010 - 10:07am | Johnny D