I've lost count on the amount of slasher movies in which the events that take place are a chain reaction to someone dying or getting disfigured. "Friday the 13th" did it, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" did it, "The Prowler" did it, "The Burning" did it-you get the point. These events usually occur due to lazy teens, revenge or a prank gone wrong. The third option is where Mark Rosman's directorial debut, "The House on Sorority Row" went.
The gals at Theta Pi are sick and tired of their demented, cruel and pretty much insane sorority mom Dorothy Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt), so they decide to pull a bit of a prank on her. Well, said prank doesn't go over so well, and by that I mean they accidentally kill the broad. After trying to cover her death up via sinking her body to the bottom of the pool, things seem like they are going to be alright for the night's party. That is, until paranoia starts to mount, and someone starts knocking them off one by one.
There are two notable problems in "House on Sorority Row." First is the final shot, which just rang false for me and felt kinda pointless. The bigger problem though, is that it doesn't go far enough in depicting how decadent fraternity life can be. Apart from welcome topless nudity and some drinking and smoking, little of this feels like life at a sorority. Plus, the party they eventually throw feels positively PG rated, which is kind of a cheat.
Apart from those complaints, this is a pretty impressive slasher movie. While there's some choice kills, it's not as gory as one might expect it to be. In fact, director Rosman (a De Palma protege who's gone on to direct more teen friendly fair) decides to go more for character interaction and suspense, and what do ya know, he's not bad at it. He also has some choice visuals (eerie hallucinations for example) to throw in, and he proves himself to be a fine director to boot. The acting is also pretty good, with the likes of future soap opera star Eileen Davidson and Kate McNeil (who I swear looks like a cousin of mine) in particular stealing the show. Finally, there's a great score by Richard Band, which is filled with horn and violin flourishes and subtle harp, vocal and percussive touches that perfectly capture the mood of the film.
For fans of 80's slasher movies, "The House on Sorority Row" is a must see. For those who aren't fans of such movies-you might be surprised at the level of craft put into this little sleeper. Check it out.
This movie was a surprise hit for it's studio (it made $10, 604, 986 in the box office, and was a big hit on video.) On DVD, it was distributed twice by Elite Entertainment in a pretty bare bones disc (the only special feature was a trailer), though it was later released as a "25th Anniversary Edition" by Liberation Entertainment and more recently by Scorpion Releasing.
A remake (called "Sorority Row") was released in 2009. While not as good as the original, I did find it to be a fun little guilty pleasure.