Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The House on Sorority Row (1983)

Slashers come and slashers go but few make as much as an impression as The House on Sorority Row did on me. A title I had seen for many years in the video stores but never got around to renting finally found it’s way on my shelf via ebay. I ask myself one question; why did it take so long for me to see this?

The House on Sorority Row was released in 1983 during the initial boom of the slasher genre and seems to follow the basic formula that almost all of these films were built upon. House starts out with a flashback filmed in the standard “dreamlike” cinematography that we all have come accustomed to, featuring a traumatic childbirth where a woman’s baby is stillborn. Fast forward 20 years to the present day… well 1983 present day. We are introduced to six sorority sisters who live under the strict house rules of Mrs. Slater (pssst….the lady in the flashback who gave birth). They are planning a graduation party but these plans are poo pooed by the house mother Mrs. Slater. It seems that the woman always closes the house every June 19th. This date happens to coincide with the birth of her dead son. Mrs. Slater also seems to have some mental issues as well as we are made aware of by her physician, Dr. Beck.

The girls decide to prank old Mrs. Slater but the prank goes awry and Slater is accidentally shot….or drowned. I’m not sure since the prank included a gun that shot blanks. The scene where Mrs. Slater falls into the pool after the gun goes off wasn’t filmed as well as it could have been and really is my only beef with this movie. The girls decide to hide Mrs. Slater’s body in the dirty swimming pool and go ahead with plans for the graduation party. The party goes as planned but all the girls are worried that the body will be found. When a partygoer decided to take a dare and dip in the pool, the girls discover that the body is missing. They dare not mention a word to anyone and thus their demise begins.

One by one, they are picked off by some unseen killer. Many are killed by the cane of old Mrs. Slater, giving the impression to the viewer that Slater is not dead at all but alive and well and taking revenge. When Mrs. Slater’s body is found, the girls decide to bury in at a nearby graveyard. Still though, they are all still being stalked and slashed by someone who knows their secret. In the last reel of the film, Katey (the good girl who didn’t want to go through with the prank or the hiding of the body) discovers that Slater had a son named Eric. This son didn’t die at childbirth but was horribly malformed both psychically and mentally, a result of some experimental drugs used by Dr. Beck during Slater’s pregnancy. 
Katey.....the final girl.

In the final reel the son is revealed and kills Dr. Beck. He also goes after Katey (the final girl played by Kate McNeil) to enact the revenge that is due. Katey is able to flee into the attic where all of Eric’s childhood toys are hidden. It seems Mrs. Slater kept Eric in the attic for 20 years. Katey finally stabs Eric several times and sends him falling out of the attic door and to the floor below. In the final shot, when all seems to be over, Eric’s eyes suddenly open……..and the screen goes black.

The House on Sorority Row is completely open for a sequel but thankfully they left this little low budget gem alone. This film delivers on all fronts. It runs at a nice pace and never stalls. It delivers some nice kills that contain just enough blood letting to satisfy most of the gore hounds. There is one great shot of a decapitated head in a toilet that is so well executed, it should be inducted into some type of slasher hall of fame. A simple shot yet it delivers the goods! The characters are also well played out which is something that a majority of these slasher films always tend to lack in. The House on Sorority Row is a very fun and entertaining classic of the genre.

The movie was released to DVD through Elite Entertainment in 2000 but is out of print. It was re-released in 2003 as well and is also out print. You can find it on ebay but be prepared to spend some cash on it. In 2009, director Stewart Hendler remade the film under the title Sorority Row and starred Carrie Fisher as the house mother. Yes, Princess Leia was in the remake. I wonder if she contemplated wearing that bikini from Return of the Jedi?