Horror snobs shall roll their eyes at the prospective desecration of yet another 1980s slasher, but rest assured that, in this instance, the upgrade barely resembles the original. Sorority Row is supposedly a remake of the 1983 slasher, The House on Sorority Row, but is actually based upon the Seven Sisters screenplay by Mark Rosman. Not that this matters any at all within a film that relegates Carrie Fisher to a thankless cameo as sorority mother Mrs. Crenshaw, who is both heavily armed but possesses embarrassingly bad shotgun aim. The only way Fisher could possibly be more humiliated is if she were forced to wear cinnamon rolls on each side of her head.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Sorority Row revolves around a Theta Pi sorority prank gone wild, which resulted in a bad, bad thing. The sisters involved in this tomfoolery are the prototypical bitchy blonde, Jessica (Leah Pipes); the prototypical bitchy Asian, Claire (Jamie Chung); the slutty, alcoholic Chugs (Margo Harshman); the resident dork, Ellie (Rumer “The Screamer” Willis); and the so-called moral compass, Cassidy (Briana Evigan). Finally, we have the soon-to-be-quite-dead Megan (Audrina Patridge), who wants revenge on her cheating (ex-)boyfriend, Garrett (Matt O’Leary). Conveniently, dude still wants to get laid, so, at a sorority house party, the sisters pretend to help Garrett out by handing him some roofies, which are really vitamin B-12. The plan is to get back at Garrett by faking Megan’s death, and, after the victim pukes and “dies,” the five sisters and the panicking boy decide to head out to the middle of nowhere and dump the body. Unfortunately, before the joke is revealed, ex-boyfriend impales Megan with a tire iron, at which point she thrashes, bleeds, gurgles, and dies… again. The sisters sort of argue whether to call the police but decide to invoke Theta Pi’s motto: “Trust, respect, honor, solidarity, and secrecy.” So, Megan’s lifeless body is thrown down an abandoned mine shaft, and the sisters resolve to never speak of the matter again. They rationalize this move under the guise of getting on with their lives.
The story then fast forwards to graduation because, you know, a police investigation would be a total killjoy to the screenwriter’s nonexistent point. As expected, our characters are now predictably reprehensible and unlikable. Jessica and Claire are even more bitchy but relatively unaffected; Chugs is drowning her guilt with copious amounts of alcohol and prescription drugs; Ellie is slowly losing her shit; and Cassidy has distanced herself from Delta Pi but is obliged to go through the motions of spring ceremonies. Nearly all of the sisters are dating some vaguely good-natured prepster that looks exactly like every other sorority boyfriend, so when weird shit starts happening, all of the boyfriends are ready for their red herring entrances. Before then, at one of those self-congratulatory, end-of-year sorority luncheons, the ghost of Megan appears within the guests. This supposed vengeful spirit is actually none other than Megan’s creepy younger sister, Maggie (Caroline D’Amore, who very much resembles Danica McKellar but without those bitchin’ math skills), who is presented as a dead ringer for Megan, but the two don’t look even remotely alike. Perhaps Maggie intends to avenge her sister’s honor, or maybe it’s all just a ruse to get a Winnie Cooper lookalike to flutter about in her bra and panties. Regardless, Maggie becomes merely one of many suspects when a cloaked figure appears at the sorority’s “party of the year” and methodically begins eliminating those sisters who are linked to Megan’s death. The weapon of choice, naturally, is a tire iron, but it’s been “pimped out” like some sort of ninjitsu wet dream spiked with phallic throwing knives. And it’s on, bitches, until the fire-fighting finale—trust me, I’m spoiling nothing with that detail—and the remaining characters chase each other for a good fifteen minutes without suffering an inkling of smoke exposure.
The brightest spot in this film, relatively speaking, is the deliciously bitchy Leah Pipes, who may even have a future outside the slasher genre. Otherwise, performances are borderline adequate throughout, but for Briana Evigan, whose blatant apathy makes for a nonexistent moral center. Of course, the big question is whether Rumer Willis embarrassed herself. It seems rather unfair to even consider her parentage, but, if that’s how she entered the game, that’s how she’s gotta play it. As such, Willis has firmly settled into the “she’s not bad” category, which means that we’ll never see the end of her enduring mediocrity. As much as I hate to qualify the unwarranted inclusion of celebrity offspring, Willis did exactly what was expected of her, which was to sob and scream throughout the entire movie. Oddly, I do believe that Ellie is the only character that screams at all, which becomes a lame sort of running joke as the movie progresses.
Overall, Sorority Row is only superficially a slasher movie. The script makes vague stabs at humor by inserting countless one-liners into the second and third acts, but the movie doesn’t achieve the correct tone for a horror comedy. Similarly, gore and blood alone don’t make for scares when a director relies on crude shocks and little suspense to keep those nunchucks spinning. Too many ancillary characters are introduced and seemingly disposed of, so when the identity of the killer is finally revealed, it’s entirely laughable for lack of motive. Then again, this result may have been different if we gave a shit about any of the characters, but we don’t identify with their shallow interpretation of life, nor do we care enough about them to distance ourselves from their plight and root for the killer. As such, the only thing left that could possibly hold our interest would be some varied and inventive kill scenes, yet there is precisely one death that evokes the elusive, spontaneous, “Whoa!” Of course, this kill will overtly encourage boxed-wine enthusiasm, so weigh your options, folks, and save it for a rental.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was actually meaning to try boxed wine and can be found at agentbedhead.com.