I think Sorority Row is the type of slasher movie people will look back on years from now as a campy cult-classic. And I mean that as a compliment. The movie has the right mixture of suspense, horror, cheesy genre staples, and quippy one-liners, making it a lot of fun to watch. It’s like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Mean Girls mixed together. I went into this movie skeptical and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s not genius cinema, but for a slasher movie, Sorority Row is really well done.
Sorority Row starts with a raging Greek party and a prank gone terribly, terribly wrong. Theta Pi sisters Chugs (Margo Harshman), Claire (Jamie Chung), Jessica (Leah Pipes), and Megan (Audrina Partridge) have created a prank in which Megan’s ex-boyfriend, Garrett (Matt O’Leary), thinks he’s accidentally killed her with a date-rape drug. Fellow seniors Ellie (Rumer Willis) and Cassidy (Briana Evigan) get pulled into the prank as the group drives off to the woods to dispose of the body. Before they can reveal the big “gotcha” to Garrett, however, he panics and kills Megan for real. Their stupid prank has become their reality and the sisters decide to hide the body. Months later, on graduation night, their secret comes back to haunt them in the most brutal way, as someone in a hooded graduation gown begins killing the Theta sisters one-by-one.
Sorority Row is a suspense-filled whodunit that kept my best friend and me guessing until the big reveal in the end. These sorority girls seem to have made so many enemies, there’s no shortage of people to suspect. Horror movies seem to try to come up with the most bizarre and poetic (I use that word with qualms) ways of killing people they can. While Sorority Row engages in that convention of its genre, the movie does a finer job of keeping the audience on edge. Often, when it seems like something is going to happen, nothing does. The movie plays with what we’ve come to expect of slasher movies to keep us scared while maintaining a relatively low body count.
This movie also has a sense of humor, which is where the Mean Girls comparison factors in. The sorority sisters seem to be more frenemies than friends. They’d do anything for each other, but the one-liners they aim at each other are as cutting as anything else in the movie. Queen Bee Jessica is kind of like a sociopathic Regina George. She’s frightening but fun to watch in action because her decisions are outrageously selfish and usually backed up with a scathing wit. While Sorority Row includes a large helping of the misogynistic elements common to slasher movies (think gratuitous nudity and some negative stereotypes about women), the sense of humor and the sisterly solidarity definitely seem to be geared toward a female audience.
I don’t think the movie would have been nearly as fun to watch if it weren’t for the performances of its leading actresses. Is it just me, or is a lot of acting in horror films just awful? That’s not the case in Sorority Row. Again, I’m reminded of Mean Girls. The characters are somewhat larger-than-life, but they’re well played by Harshman, Chung, Pipes, Willis, and Evigan. Each character has her own persona and role in the group and each actress plays the part well without being overly stereotypical or clichéd. The ensemble works really nicely together, which was essential for the effectiveness of the plot.
I feel like I’m going to have to eat my words from my last review about Quentin Tarantino. So I’ll speak briefly to the violence in Sorority Row. While the violence is certainly bothering, this film is a slasher movie and it still isn’t as gory as Tarantino’s work. In fact, this movie is actually less violent than many other movies of the genre, as it relies heavily on suspense rather than straight-up horror for its fear factor (or maybe I was just covering my eyes). Further, Sorority Row has plenty of humorous moments, but the humor is not tied closely to the violence, which is what really disturbed me about Inglourious Basterds. While I stand by my opinion of that film, I’ll acknowledge that I was maybe a little mean to Mr. Tarantino.
Sorority Row was directed by Stewart Hendler, written by Josh Stolbert and Peter Goldfinger, based on the screenplay Seven Sisters by Mark Rosman. A remake of The House on Sorority Row (1983), it runs 110 minutes and is rated R for strong bloody violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and partying.
* * */5