Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sorority Row

Slasher movies. They have been the dominant form of “horror” movie for the past thirty years or so, ever since Halloween demonstrated you could make a lot of money on a movie that could be made for peanuts. All you needed was a mask, a knife, and some young victims, and you were set. The slasher sub-genre has ebbed and flowed since Halloween, and has recently been in a periodic resurgence. Since I’m a fairly creepy person who blogs about horror, everyone assumes I’m an aficionado of the field, but that’s not really the case. Oh, I love the original Halloween, and here and there there’s been a decent flick, but they have mostly been repetitious gore fests, only worthwhile if you want to see young people skewered by a maniac. The only time I’ve felt that way was when I watched an episode of MTV’s Real World, and it didn’t happen there.

Hope springs eternal, and I keep trying them, which leads to the current topic of discussion, last year’s movie Sorority Row, a more-or-less remake of 1983’s The House on Sorority Row. A group of vapid sorority sisters learn that one of their sisters has been cheated on by her boyfriend. In a genius plan to teach him a lesson, they give the boyfriend some vitamins, tell him they are roofies, and get him to give them to the girl before sex. Then the girl will pretend to have a seizure and die, and that will show him. Unfortunately for these Master Planners, immediately after telling the lad the “body” will have to be dismembered before disposal, and all of them conveniently turn their backs and walk away. Boyfriend may be a cheater and a Rohypnol Rapist, but he doesn’t shirk from work, and launches into the dismemberment of the momentarily-still-living girl with gusto, using a tire iron. She doesn’t make it through the procedure.

This precipitates a genuine crisis, and, showing the kind of love the Greek system loves to express, they decide to dump the body, tell everyone she ran off, and forget about it. This works pretty well until graduation night, when a caped stranger starts killing the co-conspirators with a tire iron tricked out with a variety of weapons for no apparent reason than it looks cool and a movie killer is supposed to have a unique weapon. Who could be the killer, the dead girl returned from the grave or one of the extraneous characters? I don’t think you’re supposed to care, but unless this is your first one of these movies, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. People die right down to Final Girl, when the killer is unmasked, and gets his just reward. Or does he?

The first problem with the movie is the five girls are more stereotypes than actual characters. There’s the Queen Bitch, the Queen Bitch’s Toadie, The Slut, the Milquetoast, and the Good Girl, although the Good Girl isn’t that great. None of them show any real redeeming qualities, and when the slaughter starts, there’s no reason for the viewer to root against the killer. No one behaves in a logical manner, but rather to suit the needs of the plot. In the final third of the movie, the sense of humor that can elevate some of these films is suddenly discovered, and lifts it a bit, but you wish it was there all along.

Despite all this, the movie is very competently done for a film of this type. The producers certainly hit all the marks, with blood being spilled in a variety of ways, and every actress not among the principle cast getting naked at every opportunity. It certainly is miles above the recent remake of Prom Night, and several others of recent vintage. If you enjoy this sort of movie, you’ll probably like this one. It is exactly what it purports to be.

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