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Sorority Row (2009)

  Tags: Audrina Patridge, Briana Evigan, Carrie Fisher, house on sorority row, Jamie Chung, killer, re-imagining, reboot, revenge, Rumer Willis, slasher, sorority row, Stewart Hendler, Summit Entertainment

Your rating: None Average: 7.7 (19 votes)
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Stewart Hendler
101 minutes
Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, Julian Morris, Audrina Patridge, Leah Pipes, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher, Jamie Chung, Caroline D'Amore

Have you seen any of the trailers or TV spots for the remake of The House on Sorority Row, simply called Sorority Row?  Good, you have.  Then it should come as no surprise that the latest addition to my beloved slasher subgenre is EXACTLY what you expect it to be.  Sorority Row treads familiar territory,  but it has more in common with the slasher boom of the late 90s than the 1983 gem that inspired it.  Except with more boobies…lots of more boobies.

Much like the My Bloody Valentine remake from earlier this year, Sorority Row sees a welcomed returned to the costumed, who done it slash fests that populated the 80s and made a comeback in the late 90s.  And that might be its biggest flaw.  It’s ten years too late.  While Valentine had the 3D gimmick to get people into the seats, there’s nothing really special or noteworthy about Sorority Row that makes it stand out (aside from the really ridiculously good looking cast.)  It’s not that it’s a badly made movie, just typical material.  I’m also not sure who Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the Twilight juggernaut, was marketing the film to.  It clearly aimed it at young teens, but they’re not old enough to see it. 

Ten years plus back when Scream revived the slasher, movie theatres were much more lenient on letting young teens in.  I remember my parents buying the tickets and not being questioned by the theatre once when walking in with my friends.  Not the case anymore since during my viewing of the film had teens being dragged out by the theatre manager. Because of this I’m not surprised about its underperformance at the box office.

In paint by numbers fashion,  a sorority prank towards one of the slutty sisters’ cheating boyfriend goes awry when said slutty sister, Megan, winds up dead with a tire iron shoved through her chest.  Not the first time she’s had a stiff rod shoved into her, I can assure you, but the first time the moans and cries are real.  So what is a group of lingerie clad girls to do?  Shove that bitch down a mine shaft.  Duh.  This is when the stock characters become fully developed.  The bitch (Jessica), the nerd (Ellie), the floozy (Chugs), the retard (Claire), and the good girl who wants to do the right thing (Cassidy).  The characters are saved thanks to strong dialogue from writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Gold finger (Rob Zombie can take a lesson on writing young females from these guys) and shockingly charismatic acting from the young, nubile cast.  We cut to months later when the girls’ graduation celebration is interrupted by texts messages from their purposively dead friend.

While Cassidy, played by Briana Evigan, is our lead final girl, it’s Leah Pipes as the HBIC Jessica who steals the movie.  She plays it not only as a bitch, but a bitch with a dark and cynical sense of humor.  Also notable is Rumer Willis as nerd Ellie.  She continuously walks the thin line between lovable and annoying, but is capable enough not to lean over to annoyance.  And for any lovers of shitty yet addictive reality TV, Audrina Patridge as the ill fated Megan is hardly in the movie long enough to judge her performance, but she does look damn good in white lace.  And yes, it’s none other than Carrie Fisher as the shot gun toting house mother.  And yes, she steals every scene she’s in.  Unfortunately her scenes are far too few.  While the house mother in the original was essentially the lead for the first act of the movie, the character in this film is sorely missed for the majority of the running time.

Sorority Row comes to us courtesy of director Stewart Hendler and this dude is no bullshit.  The film has a contagious energy that never lets up from the opening party, to the fiery finale.  While the original film took it’s time to establish the prank and the reasons behind it, this one just grabs you from the get go and doesn’t let go.  The third act is oozing with tension, something most horror directors today seem to always overlook.  His staging of the deaths scenes was interesting as some of them were deliciously bloody, while others were silhouetted or off screen.  There’s a large body count so it worked to leave a few of the deaths to the viewer’s imagination.  It’s a more polished and prettier movie than, say, Halloween II, so an onslaught of unbelievably brutal deaths would have felt out of place.

Where Sorority Row hits rough road is the lack of development with some plot points and characters.  Megan’s sister shows up and is a very plausible suspect, but then she disappears for almost the entire movie, save for a few scenes at the end.  Megan’s boyfriend who was the target of the prank is also MIA for most of the film, only to show up for one more scene.  The writers did a fairly admirable job at giving most of the characters purpose within the world, but these two felt like afterthoughts in the game. 

As for the reveal of the killer, it’s pretty easy to guess the identity by the end solely by deduction.  Which is fine.  I’ve seen WAY too many slasher films to not be able to figure it out.  It’s their motives that are complete and utter horse shit.  And while there’s a wink to the original’s murder weapon hidden in this film, I was sad to not see a cameo of the infamous harlequin clown costume from the original that filled my childhood with more nightmares than Pennywise ever could. 

Sorority Row is exactly what you expect it to be; A typical slasher film that plays by the rules.  Only this time it’s well acted, thanks to all the lovely leading ladies, with believable dialogue and an electric directing style.  While it’s a wicked fun watch for die hard slasher fans like myself and better than it has any business being, there’s just nothing innovative or original about its narrative to push it out of the set mold.

Posted on September 17, 2009 - 3:10am | Johnny D