Director: Stewart Hendler
Year of release: 2009
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 97 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Sisters for life...And Death" and "The sisters of Theta-Pi are dying to keep a secret".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A loose remake of eighties classic The House on Sorority Row the story here runs along similar lines of a prank played by sorority sisters going disastrously wrong. Whereas before the joke was aimed at a house mother here five sorority girls work their friend and fellow Theta Pi member Megan to get one over on Megan’s cheating boyfriend Garret. The cruel ploy is designed to hoodwink Garret into thinking he’s caused Megan to die of an overdose after slipping her drugs designed to help him get her into bed. Pretending Megan is just in need of medical attention initially the jokers come to Garret aid in driving the pair to the hospital. Taking a turn for the worse mid journey Megan fakes her own death prompting the girls to pull over near an abandoned mine. Continuing the jape the sisters suggest dumping the body on site so that trouble won’t fall back on their sorority seeing that they supplied Garret with the drugs initially. Completely fooled and unaware it’s all a set up to torture him Garret winds up stabbing and killing Megan for real after the others stress the need to dismember the body.
Distraught and panicked the group question how to proceed with one sister Cassidy wanting to report everything to the police while queen bee Jessica urges the others to cover everything up and dump the body as they were pretending to do minutes before. Fearful of being tagged as murderers the group go along with Jessica’s suggestion dropping the corpse down a shaft after first wrapping it in Cassidy’s coat to ensure her silence.
Eight months later with the secret still under wraps Cassidy and the others are about to graduate and leave college behind. On the night of the graduation party however they learn that someone knows the truth of Megan’s demise and is looking to make them pay for it with their lives.
Good points: *Despite featuring whom initially seem unlikeable characters in the leads roles there are also some plus points to be found here as these unpleasant types quickly become fun to watch. Specifically I’m referring to bitchy head girl and shameless social climber Jessica. She was undoubtedly a really fun character, the kind who though ever entertaining was someone I was looking forward to see receiving her come-uppance.
Similar to Jessica was Mickey who probably deserves a mention as well as a fun and sleazy figure.
Chugs was another one that although not a particularly nice person I enjoyed watching. As a character cast in the slutty role she was not at all as stereotypical as these characters often are bringing a more attitude driven performance with a more spiky edge than what I’m accustomed to seeing. If anything I actually may have enjoyed her more than Jessica.
Elsewhere final girl Cassidy was decent with a solid effort being made with her to ensure the viewer sees her as the most moral of the group with the strongest feelings of guilt and remorse.
A pleasant surprise as well was the character of the house mother Mrs Crenshaw who turned out to be not at all what I was expecting. Playing a protective and brave character as she did it was a nice juxtaposition from the House on Sorority Row in which the house mother was just the opposite and rather a nasty piece of work.
*The deaths are of a mostly sterling quality which despite not exactly over flowing with special effects are largely effective enough to satisfy. It’s a film I’d say that leans a bit more on storytelling than gore which is a good thing but a couple stand out as being cool such as the bottle related kill. The special effects for the skeleton briefly seen at one point were also impressive.
*The killers guise of dark graduation robes and hood isn’t going to pull up any trees but it’s more than acceptable. Despite not featuring a mask it does at least enable the killer to blend in with the crowd around the time of the graduation with many students dressed in similar garb.
What’s more of a highlight than the killers appearance is the weapon used which is a modified tyre iron. Not only does this tie in and link the killer to the initial prank but it’s also very unique. It’s not something that’s been done before and it’s put to good use throughout the movie being used for most of the deaths.
*The whodunnit aspect of the story is handled swell enough with a number of suspicious faces possibly being behind it all. Some of these include Jessica’s posh boyfriend Kyle, Megan’s younger sister Maggie and even Megan herself possibly not dead as first believed but instead out for revenge.
Bad Points: *Big spoiler: The ending with the reveal of the killer is something the film sometimes gets criticised for and though it was partly satisfying for me I can concede that to truly accept it does require way too much suspension of disbelief. Andy claims he wanted to make things better for Cassidy by eliminating all those who were involved in or later found out about the Megan business so that it couldn’t come back to bite her later in life. It wasn’t very logical though as in doing this he would be putting himself at great risk and if caught he would be in far more trouble than Cassidy would be in if she were ever found out. It seemed a bit too much of a stretch for him to go to such extreme lengths for someone who (correctly as it turned out) didn’t fully trust him enough to confide the secret to him in the first place. (She did plan to tell him I know but hadn’t actually done so during the timeframe of the film).
*This leads me on to the second issue which also contains something of a spoiler. It was very strange to me that it was scripted for Ellie to be the one that had told Andy at some point about the Megan situation. It wasn’t implied that she and Andy were at all close so it made littles sense for her to have blabbed to him seeing that he was Cassidy’s guy. It would have been too likely that Andy would then have brought it up with Cassidy who then may have possibly suspected that something was going on between Ellie and her boyfriend due to her confiding in him.
I don’t know why they didn’t just make out Andy noticed the girls all driving off together on the night of the prank and decided to follow them out of curiosity and found out about it all that way. It would have been a more simple and logical explanation.
*In what’s a very minor bug bear in the early stages of the film (say the first ten minutes) pretty much all the characters come across badly. It doesn’t turn out to be too much of an issue with many of these characters later coming into their own and becoming very entertaining but maybe some viewers may be so turned off in the beginning that they switch off and decide not to continue any further.
Verdict: Being based on what is sometimes considered to be one of the most fondly remembered slashers of the golden age it goes without saying that Sorority Row is strong on story and I felt it definitely delivered an entertaining journey to match the classic original. It’s a tasty mix of old and new with things such as the party at the start bringing back memories of say Hell Night while at the same time featuring the more sassy spiky dialogue of Scream and the like. The characters are a bit of a problem at the start but they improve as it goes on and the killers costume and weapon are also effective.
When revealed at the end the killers motivation is a little weak and the actions taken far fetched and the film as a whole isn’t as suspenseful or scary as a lot of others.
These things aside though this in my book is a very enjoyable movie, a modern slasher with an old school vibe running through it. As such I find it to be one of the best of the slasher remakes.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Megan: Tyre iron through her chest (by Garret).
2) Therapist: Sharpened end of tyre iron thrown as projectile at his head.
3) Chugs: Bottle brutally shoved down her throat.
4) Shower girl: Stabbed under chin with sharp end of tyre iron.
5) Mickey: Stabbed with trye iron through a wall as he tries to escape down a dust chute.
6) Claire: Shot with a flare gun in the face/neck presumably though the death is off camera.
7) Mrs Crenshaw: Table pushed into her which causes her to be impaled on the sharpened trye iron embedded in the wall behind her.
8) Kyle: Sliced in the back of the head. Think this may have been with an axe though it’s not completely clear.
9) Jessica: Tyre iron blade thrust through her mouth.
10) Andy: Shot with a gun by Ellie which soon prompts him to fall through the floor of the burning sorority house.
Note: I’m not counting Garret seeing that it’s implied he survived in the final shot.