The House on Sorority Row

July 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm (7 Heads, House on Sorority Row) (, , , , )

The House on Sorority Row – 1983 – United States

While The House on Sorority Row may be rife with slasher clichés and logical inconsistencies (aren’t they all?), grim tone and clever (occasionally beautiful) production keep it interesting. Lacking the exploitative titillating nonsense usually undermining any sorority flick, Sorority Row has thrills even for jaded viewers.

Sorority Row opens with a moody blue monotone, soft focus flashback that ends in a violent reverberant scream. During this, you’ll deduce that the old housemother keeps a disfigured insane man-child locked in the attic. In present day, sorority sisters plan a ludicrous prank to threaten the housemother with a gun, which goes south and she’s shot accidentally. The moment the handgun appears it’s obvious what’ll go down, but it’s a testament to this flick’s skillful direction that it’s still a tense scene (accentuated by wavering handheld camerawork). The sisters hide the murder, but someone knows and the girls are singly beaten/stabbed to death with the housemother’s cane. Set during a single night, the pacing is frantic, with a nervous intensity belying the obvious premise.

Despite hackneyed plot, Sorority Row holds interest with inventive camerawork, editing, and lighting. Well-composed extreme close-ups make mundanity visually engaging and minutiae important. Frequent montages and a compendium of other editing techniques are effective, especially a surreal hallucination scene where figures flicker in and out. Shadowy lighting, saturated with strange vibrant colors heightens the anxious mood. There’s even a strobe lit bit and a Hitchcock Vertigo zoom.

Still, prepare to wade the typical gamut of throwaway girls-killed-in-negligees slasher material, but some scenes thrill despite “been there, done that”.  There’s expertly crafted dark cellar and steamy bathroom murders, a nice severed head in a toilet effect, and the killer as a chilling clown silently stalking.  In the most striking scene, a couple screwing in a waterbed is attacked. The bed is slashed open and the couple struggles as the bed fills into a pool.

John Stanley’s Creature Features movie guide somewhat fairly rates The House on Sorority Row 1 of 5. True, it never transcends genre expectations, but considering the numerous dreary slasher flicks, full of tedious T&A and endless chases, Sorority Row glows with an eye for detail, tight pacing, and stylish production.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Made with slasher expertise and love, you can do worse.


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