Sunday, April 8, 2012

#601. The House on Sorority Row (1983)

Directed By: Mark Rosman

Starring: Kate McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Janis Ward

Tag line: "Seven graduates of sorority sisters stalked as they hold a guilty secret"

Trivia:  The opening black and white sequence was tinted blue by the distributor

An '80s slasher movie with plenty of atmosphere and loads of suspense, The House on Sorority Row tells the story of seven college graduates, one bitchy house mother, and a prank that goes very, very wrong. 

The sisters of the Pi Theta sorority are planning a final shindig to close out the year. But when the miserable Ms. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) informs them that they can't use her house for their party, Vicki (Eileen Davidson) suggests they pull a practical joke on the old girl, one centering on a gun filled with blanks and a seldom-used swimming pool. Of course, things don't go according to plan, leading to a night of bloodshed the few survivors won't soon forget. 

Ms. Slater is the heavy of the film, and in a pre-title flashback, we see what it was that set her on her unpleasant path. The date was June 19, 1961, and a very pregnant Ms. Slater is about to deliver a baby. But there are complications, and though the doctor (Christopher Lawrence) does everything he can, things don’t turn out so well (her crying out “no” right after the delivery is the film’s first chilling moment). 

This tragedy left Ms. Slater a bitter woman, and she takes her anger out on the young girls in the sorority. In one scene, Ms. Slater is looking at pictures hanging on her bedroom wall, a showcase of the various graduating classes that resided at the house over the years. What we assume to be a scene of fond reminiscence descends into darkness when she rips each and every picture off the wall, then tosses them into the fire. Ms. Slater’s mean streak reaches its zenith when she bursts in on Vicki and her boyfriend (Michael Sergio) as they’re having sex on Vicki’s waterbed (Ms. Slater's cane comes crashing down, ripping the bed to shreds). Despite her past hardships, it’s tough to feel any sympathy for Ms. Slater, whose nasty demeanor makes her the perfect villain, perhaps even the perfect killer? 

That’s the set-up, but this is an 80’s slasher film, and in the ‘80s, it was all about the kills, right? Well, The House on Sorority Row has its share of those as well. The first victim, a drunk frat boy (Ken Myers), gets the butt end of Ms. Slater’s cane shoved through his neck (not a particularly convincing effect, despite all the blood). Of the seven Pi Theta sisters, the first to meet her end is Stevie (Ellen Dorsher), who encounters the killer in the basement. Her stabbing - two to the gut and one to the face - is seen only by way of shadows cast on the wall, but the worst, and bloodiest, is still to come, including a decapitated head found floating in the most unlikely of places! 

Some fans might find the 1st half of the film slow, yet I didn’t have a problem with the pace at which director Mark Rosman set things up, and though a few of its effects fall short of the mark, The House on Sorority Hill remains a very entertaining slasher flick.


Anonymous said...

Just watched this the other day and thought I'd chip in. The characters really make this work for me. The direction is fine, the story OK, but the women sell it. I return for those character beats. Not a bad soundtrack either. I rolled my eyes at 4 out of 5 Doctors the first time through but now I even dig their Devo does The Knack thing that get going on. Also without getting spoilerific, I think the ending stacks up pretty good with Halloween or Black Christmas.

DVD Infatuation said...

latenighter: Thanks for the comment! I appreciate you sharing your take on the film.

And I do agree with you: the characters in this movie were very strong, and the ending is effective (I think your comparison to BLACJ CHRISTMAS is especially astute, seeing as how the attic played such a key part in this movie).

As for 4 out of 5 Doctors, they were a neat throwback to my youth (though painfully dated now).

Thanks again for the comment, and for stopping by!

Authorfan said...

LOVE this film. 'Nough said.