Sorority House Mothers Gone Wild
Jeffrey Ellis | Richardson, Texas United States | 07/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Out of the seemingly endless amount of slasher films released in the early 1980s, The House on Sorority Row stands out as a superior example of the genre. The graduating seniors of Theta Chi want to have one final party before leaving college and facing the real world. There's just one problem. Their rather puritanical house mother, Mrs. Slater, absolutely forbids them to engage in any activites involving booze, premaritial relations, drugs, or anything else that made college so much fun circa 1983. So, logically enough, the girls react by pulling a prank that has the unintentional result of apparently killing the old witch. Unfortunately, Mrs. Slater has the bad manners to die just as the party's about to get started. What's a group of up-and-coming sorority girls to do? Well, they basically end up dumping Mrs. Slater in the house's filthy pool and then go on to attend perhaps the most uncomfortable party of their lives. However, as the party gets going, they discover that Mrs. Slater's body is no longer in the pool. And, as the night progresses, the girls start to disappear one by one as an unseen stalker makes its way through the sorority house, armed only with Slater's surprisingly sharp cane...
Needless to say, a plot description doesn't really do this film justice. However, slasher films -- on the whole -- are probably the most predictable of genres. The mark of good slasher film is that it holds the audience's interest even though that audience already knows pretty much everything that's going to happen. And this is a task that the House on Sorority Row easily accomplishes. On the whole, the entire cast gives performances that are a cut above what one usually expects from this type of film. If the victims are all pretty much types, the actresses playing them are all likeable and have a rather endearing chemistry. Though most of them are clearly too old to be just now graduating college, they are believable as a group who have been friends for four years. In its own way, The House on Sorority Row almost becomes Diner with an all female cast and a slasher subplot. All the girls do well but standout performances are given by Kate McNiel (who is probably one of the best of the so-called "final girls" in slasher film history), Harley Kozack, and especially Eileen Davidson. As Vicki, the instigator of the prank, Davidson is probably one of the most likeable "bad girls" ever. Her growing exasperation at just how difficult it can be to cover up one simple accidental homicide borders on being both hilarious and oddly touching.
The House on Sorority Row was directed by Mark Rosman and it is his sure touch that elevates this film above its genre. The he was a protegee of Brian DePalma is obvious from watching the film's smoothly executed set pieces which manage to create a level of suspense absent from most other slasher films. Towards the end of the film, McNiel must face the killer while under the influence of a sedative and Rosman shoots these scenes from her point of view in a psychedelic style that threatens to actually give a good name to psychedelic styles. All in all, Rosman creates a sadly underrated thriller with The House on Sorority Row."
Pi Theta was different than other sorority houses...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/17/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Something's not right here...the back of the case for the Elite Entertainment release of The House on Sorority Row (1983) states the aspect ratio is 1.85:1, enhanced for 16 X 9 TV's and yet, as the film started, I found myself watching a full screen version of a film called `he House on Sorority Ro' (I'm assuming it was the same film as listed on the DVD case, only presented in full screen format, and being as such, the title didn't fit on the screen). I looked for some way to possibly adjust the picture on the menu screen, but there was no option for this available. Is this a case of false or mistaken advertising? I'll assume the latter over the former, as I'm a trusting sort...anyway...the film is written and directed by Mark Rosman (The Force, The Invader) in his silver screen debut and stars Kate McNeil (Monkey Shines, Sudden Death) and Eileen Davidson (Goin' All the Way). Also appearing is Harley Jane Kozak (The Amy Fisher Story) and Lois Kelso Hunt (Head of State).
As the film begins, we see a date of June 19th, 1961 appear on the screen, and we must be in a flashback as the picture has a heavy, blue tinge and looks like someone smeared Vaseline on the camera lens (in order to create a hazy, foggy look of things since past...the date would have been sufficient). Fast forward into the present (the early 80's being the present) and we see girls in a sorority house packing their things, preparing to leave for the summer. One of the sisters, named Vicki (Davidson) convinces a small group, including Katie (McNeil), to stick around for a week or so, as Vicki's planning a party, sort of a graduating class blow out. The housemother, Mrs. Slater (Hunt), learns of impending shindig and quickly nips it in the bud, but Vicki, who won't be deterred, rallies the girls to play a prank on Mrs. Slater who has been a pain in the collective rear ends of the girls for quite awhile (not only that, but she did a number on Vicki's waterbed while Vicki and her boyfriend were getting their humpty on). The prank goes off badly as Mrs. Slater's has a chest grabber, and the frightened girls quickly dispose of her body in the funkified swimming pool out back (they had to do something as their party was starting shortly). The party (disco ball and all) begins, and so does the killing, heralded by the impaling of a drunken nerd in a wooden area outside the house. The girls soon begin to get picked off one by one (impalement being the method of choice), their bodies hidden, while the rest assume they went off somewhere or something. Who's doing the nastiness? Could it be the waterlogged Mrs. Slater, whose body has since vanished from the bottom of the pool? Turns out she had some secrets of her own...
The House on Sorority Row has about as much going for it as it does against it...the biggest issue for me was the predictability factor. Ten minutes into the movie I knew whom the killer was going to be, which of the core group of girls (and I use the term `girls' lightly as most appear to be in their mid 20's) was going to buy the farm, and which would survive (let me put it this way...who's more likely to get it before the end, goodie goodie Katie, or bad girl Vicki?). Knowing the identity of the killer normally wouldn't be a big deal (see John Carpenter's Halloween), but when the film really pushes the whole `mystery killer' element throughout it just seems silly and a waste of time. Given this was an inexpensively made independent film, I'm certainly willing to give it some slack, but they should have thrown a little money into the special effects as the film features some pretty lame effects in terms of prosthetics. There's one scene where a girl is getting attacked, and her hand gets stabbed, or should I say an incredibly fake hand that is supposed to be hers gets stabbed...it was very pasty and didn't match the girls skin tone at all. The gory bits are pretty far and few between, and what there is tends to lack any real shock effect as it's often minimized by a lack of blood and quick cutting (except for the head in the toilet scene...that was pretty good). The overall acting is decent, and that's surprising as most of the cast never appeared in a film before (or again). So I've griped about a lot of things so far...what did I like about this film? Well, I'm glad you asked...I thought the direction was very adequate, and Rosman did very well creating tension during a number of the scenes, which was no small task given the predictability factor I mentioned earlier. I also thought the original music, composed by Richard Band (Re-Animator), was quite good and very suitable for the film. Others have mentioned the better than average production values, so I will too...some things to watch out for...the girls find a body (it's supposed to be Mrs. Slater, but its all wrapped up) and shuttle it around, trying to dispose of it, giving me flashbacks of Weekend at Bernie's...check out the three guys in their tidy whiteys headed for the pool (which the clarity of the water often varied, from thick and greenish to reasonably clear...nice continuity there)...did we really need that scene? And then there's the craptacular 80's band at the party, called 4 Out of 5 Doctors (for real) and their lead singer whom I couldn't place until I realized he was a male version of the character of Pinky Tuscadero from the 70's TV show Happy Days. Oh, in case you're wondering, there are a couple brief scenes of nekkidness. And then there's the ending...gee, didn't see that coming...
The picture on this DVD is very clean, and the colors are fairly sharp. The audio isn't as good, often sounding a bit flat, but it will get you through. The only special feature available is a rough looking theatrical trailer for the film.
zooni | long beach ,ca | 04/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For some reason, me and my best friend in high school were completely obsessed with this movie. Between us both, we watched it at least 20 times. We even memorized the dialogue, the awful awful dialogue. We still quote lines from it on rare occasion. Being a horror movie fan, I appreciate "House" on various levels. For one, it has an interesting storyline that's original and intriguing. It's not just a mindless slasher where you could care less who gets the axe. Another thing, it's gory and doesn't hold back on the blood and guts. It shows most of the carnage you expect to see when watching a horror movie. Nowadays, filmakers edit out all the good stuff and totally dissapoint me. (Typical example: "I Know What You Did Last Summer"...lame!). "House On Sorrority Row" is in the classic horror flicks of the 80's category, along with the early "Friday the 13ths" and a slew of others. I think this would make an awesome remake, if they stayed true to the story and included good special effects. This movie is 10 times better than most of the horror crap released today. I can't wait to watch the DVD, I'm shocked they actually released it, thanks!!!"
Better than average
D. Collins | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is not like the Sorority House Massacre series or the Slumber Party Massacre series. This movie is excellent. The photography, lighting, acting, story line and score are above average for this type of movie. Elite Entertainment did an excellent digital transfer on this DVD. This movie rates extremely high in my Horror collection. Glad I own it."